Helping to track the timeline of a story

scheduleWriting the first book of my Roma Nova stories, I found I needed to develop a tracking system not only of the action but also of its timing.  It’s so easy when engrossed in producing any story, let alone a thriller, to inadvertently get events in the wrong sequence or introduce a character to another you killed off three chapters before.

So I developed a grid (grandly called ‘structure analysis’) in MS Word which tracks timeline, summarises the scenes in each chapter and where I can note down the word count for each chapter. I expect it could also be developed equally well as an Excel spreadsheet. Entering the details after each day’s writing not only kept the grid up to date, but also made me re-examine the coherence of the plot.

If you’re a ‘planner’, then perhaps you’ve mapped out every scene in a logical order, and written a detailed outline, and you know everything that’s going to happen, and when. But if you write by the seat of your pants you’re a ‘pantser’ i.e. you write from the seat of your pants into the void, then this grid may help you keep track as your story develops. I found it invaluable when I was reviewing, editing and revising my first draft.

The glorious thing this grid does is to let plot holes jump out and poke you (figuratively) in the eye. You can then sort them out before they become embarrassing.

I’ve put an empty grid and a sample, part-filled grid on my files area. Please feel free to download and use them.

Happy writing!


Updated 2019:  Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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