Tools of the trade: Aeon Timeline

As detailed on the official Aeon Timeline website, it is a tool for writers, project managers and legal practictioners to plan, visualise and analyse data.

Aeon Timeline
Participants and arcs in Aeon Timeline

I’ve always had problems recording and recalling dates and times for my story and characters, without losing my notes (and my shit), which is why Aeon timeline is such a fantastic bit of kit. For me it represents the missing piece of the puzzle. I can now record births, deaths, important story and world events and everything in between visually, all in one place and -I’m tempting fate here- without creating massive plotholes; or at the very least, having an easier way to root them out.

Alternative views in Aeon Timeline
There are several different views in Aeon that are useful depending on how you work.

One of the best features for me is that Aeon can link directly to Scrivener, another great writing tool, enabling you to drag across all of your chapters and plot them on a timeline. You can create “arcs” (e.g. a character arc) on the timeline, so everything can be compared, collapsed and exapnded fludily in one view. You can zoom into minutes and seconds and out to your heart’s content. You can jump between important story milestones in the form of shortcut buttons. Births/creation dates can be defined, and also assigned to locations and any other entity; so you can see how old anything is at any given time on your timeline.

Plotting tension in Aeon Timeline
Plotting tension in Aeon Timeline

I’m still learning the intracacies of the software, but I have it down for basic stories without crazy otherworldly calendars, although this is entirely possible and I’m sure there are plenty of comprehensive online tutorials out there if that’s what you need Aeon to do.

Managing entities in Aeon Timeline
Managing entities and birthdates in Aeon Timeline

Aeon Timeline is not free, but there is a 20 day trial period (link below). You don’t need to put in any card details to try it, so there’s no risk of forgetting and being hit with a sudden direct debit. At the time of writing a full copy is £42 ($54). It is a one-off fee and for my money, more than worth it for all of the time it has saved, and no-doubt will save going forwards.

Here are some ace videos that helped me get up and running with the basics of Aeon Timeline:

Setting up Aeon Timeline as a writer. This is a simple, practical and no-nonsense guide to getting set up, without going too bonkers or expansive!

A tutorial on synching Scrivener directly to Aeon so your chapters appear within it on your timeline.

If you’re not sold on Aeon Timeline or it seems a little too much like overkill, here’s a discussion around other timeline software.

Tools of the trade: Scrivener

Scrivener is a writing tool that allows you to organise your novel into chapters and scenes and format your manuscript for publishing (among a bunch of other stuff). It can be purchased out-right for either Windows or Mac, and for iOS there is an App for writing on the go, which will allow you to synch things up. For a more expansive explaination of what it can do, please see Apple Insider’s pretty rad article (and yes I’m bringing rad back).

I have a Mac, but unfortunately an Android phone so no app for me. However, there’s a workaround that involves synching to Dropbox as a middleman. It works pretty well, especially with a light wireless keyboard if you’re on the move (provided you don’t mind using it in conjunction with a small phone screen).

Check out Scrivener’s prices

See the Scrivener overview

I don’t work for these guys, and it’s always worth checking out the competition, so here’s a few alternatives you may want to try (and it looks like at least one of them is free, so may be a good place to start).

In time, I intend to join up the dots with these ‘tools of the trade’ blogs to present a bible of the tools and methods I use when tackling a novel-length (and indeed series-based) piece.

Of course, if you know any other great writing tools or tips, please give me a shout in the comments!

Brighton up

I’ve held Brighton in high regard since my first visit, many moons ago for a gig with a friend. It was an unprecedented barmy few days at the beginning of September, 2011. There was sunbathing and ice cream. We’d been to see Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra at Concorde 2 (on purpose) and also landed up seeing Carl Barat at The Prince Albert (by mistake). Both were brilliant.

Brighton Pier circa 2011
Brighton Pier circa 2011

Of course, it could well be that I’ve been there so little, but enjoyed my short breaks there so much, that I’ve created a blinkered view of the place. It could be because the likes of Nick Cave and Natasha Khan (of Bats For Lashes fame) have made it their home. It’s just that on the whole the people don’t seem to be jerks, the pubs are old but paradoxically serve stuff I can actually eat and drink, they often play music that isn’t a repetitive drone and yes, according to society I am probably already past it.

Several years on, much has changed. My favourite club night has gone (Stay Beautiful), as has the venue (RIP Sticky Mike’s). I’m a lot less bothered about clubbing, which is sort of a blessing as we arrive on Sunday night and all of the club nights I have any interest in, aren’t on. We sack off Brighton Pavilion for its expensive entry and no idea of what’s actually inside. Even the weather is against us – for our only full day, it is torrential. The place, however, feels fresh and full of life. Besides, rain means an exhilarating trek across the Palace Pier with some well-earned chips in the Palm Court and then onto a succession of gloriously oldy-worldy pubs including The Black Dove (gothy antique-shop chic), and the cheekiest little seasoning of satanism in the form of The Hope and Ruin and The Quadrant.

Beelzeburger: 666% Vegan
Beelzeburger: 666% Vegan

The fact that the landscape has changed does not effect my enjoyment of the place. I realise we’re only a few days into February and we’ve just had the yearly resolutions and Veganuary, but as a recent convert to “guilt-free” eating (and for a man who’s not long since shunned everything plant-based unless heavily processed into something unrecognisable and full of sugar) Brighton feels like it’s a big part of that movement. Without being a preachy bitch, seeing a bus with a “see me as someone, not something” ad beside a gorgeous little lamb ( and pubs and restaurants that are 100% vegan (Purezza and Beelzeburger) now speak to me. There’s also the graffiti adorning most walls and alleys and artwork abound depicting the unloved Gallaghers of the skies (AKA seagulls). Are you considered vermin by anyone who won’t look past their unguarded potato-based snacks? Head to Brighton and have your likeness painted!

Brighton Palace Pier. Storm? Still technicolour.
Brighton Palace Pier. Storm? Still technicolour.

We don’t go to any gay clubs this time, but it’s great to see the rainbow flags everywhere, and for someone who’s always feels like a bit of a freak (and despite unfortunately not being gay myself – to quote Troy McClure; “Gay? I wish!”) Brighton feels safe and inclusive.

By the time it comes to our actual reason for being in Brighton – to see Tears for Fears supported by Alison Moyet (both are absolutely fantastic) – we’ve almost forgotten we aren’t just here to relax and soak up Brighton’s ambience.

Morris and Jacques breakfast
Hearty avocado breakfast at Morris and Jacques

I love you Brighton, and I wish I could live with you, but where would the hens go, and where would I get the money and the job? I fear I may not see you for a little while, but for all your energy and inspiration I thank you. Let’s not leave it so long next time.

Alison Moyet’s loveletter to Brighton and the LGBTQ community that has embraced her.