Some writers are plotters. Others are pantsers. There’s no right way to do it. There are pros and cons to plotting, and it’s up to you to decide what works best. Personally, I’m a plotter. Typically, my plotting consists of a basic outline and little else. It worked for two novels. But on my third, I was struggling. I spent ages trying to figure out why my story wouldn’t work before it hit me. I’d not sussed out the timeline, not properly. And once I had, it changed everything. As such, I’m sharing 5 ways that a timeline helps you write your novel.
Figuring out backstory
Not all backstory needs to be written. I would even go as far as to say most backstory doesn’t need to be written. But as a writer, it’s helpful to know where things started for your characters. It’s important to know what happened before the events of the first chapter. This way, you know what to include and what to omit. It also enables you to add depth to your characters, as undoubtedly their past has shaped them.
Avoiding plot holes
A number of things can cause plot holes, and time is definitely one of them. If your characters and their story are to be believable, then time must move in the way it should. Even if your fictional world has it’s own concept of time, you should adhere to the rules you set for it. Savvy readers are likely to pick up on things that don’t flow naturally.
Guiding you where to go next
Sometimes, you can’t quite figure out a scene or chapter. You get stuck, and the only way to fix it is to stop and come back later. If you know where to go next, you’ll keep writing. That way you’re still making progress, even if some chapters/scenes are unfinished. And it’s by writing, and discovering more about your book, that you’ll be able to fill in the blanks when you edit.
Keeping characters in sync
This was my huge downfall, and it took me so long to notice it, it’s embarrassing! I slowly worked out that the reason my story felt so disjointed was because the characters weren’t in sync. The day of the week would jump between characters, so there was a constant pull back and forwards. Given these characters are living in the same time frame, it made no sense for the date and time to change and change back again several times. Since keeping them in sync, the whole story works much better.
Writing dual timelines
For me, I find reading dual timelines extremely satisfying. Especially when they loop round to connect with one another. But keeping dual timelines isn’t always easy, and it can become confused in your work. If you’re using different time frames, such as past and present, or present and future, then create a timeline for each and run them alongside one another.
Do you plan a timeline for your story? Does it help? Please share your plotting tips below!