Still alive. Still writing. I’m crawling ever forwards, typing up slightly mad notes on well-spilled on paper daubed on probably over a year ago. I have a really bad habit of writing notes EVERYWHERE, which is why I started blogging about things like Aeon timeline and Scrivener: basically I’m trying to teach myself good habits and share the wealth too. Improved wordcounts to come!
There’s a reason I’ve lost faith on what I’ve written in the past: I set out to achieve something and either I worry it’s too basic and it needs more stuff – more twists, more bad guys, more dynamics, etc etc or that characters need to be more real. Sometimes I get hung up on the old mantra of a single idea not begin a story (which is true) and so try to cram a load more in and overbake everything.
Being ruthless is a great thing so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone who isn’t already fictional, and if it doesnt work, you can put what you cut out back in or revert to an earlier draft (version control as the tech world calls it).
I felt like too much was happening in my story – especially given that I wanted to create a series, and although I wanted to throw the kitchen sink at establiahing my world and ideas; nothing felt flesh out enough and it began to feel like both myself and my characters were making zero decisions.
Some things, I realised, could be cut out entirely or explored in later entries. Suddenly, after a few more of these cuts I felt like the novel could breathe and had refreshed purpose. I could more easily define whaf it was about. In short, I felt at ease, and knew then that I was onto something.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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!