Using a Calendar for Your Novel’s Timeline

I like to plan. I’m a planner. When I finally got the 8-foot cork board for my writing room, I decided I would do a scene outline. To do this, I wrote a snippet of every scene in my book, with the date and time listed on the top. For example:

May 19, 3:00 pm
Bob meets Doug at store.
Discovers Doug has lost his dog.

I pinned chapters numbers horizontally across the board then put each scene in the chapter where it occurs. Good. But not good enough. I decided I would do a calendar as well. In the past, I’ve used a separate Word document to organize the chapters by date. For example:

Chapter 1 – May 19
Chapter 2 – May 20

The problem with the Word document is that I can’t look at it at the same time as I am writing, plus I often forget to update it. I figured a calendar would be perfect. It would give me a quick visual cue of where I am in the book. So, if I’m writing something in chapter 4 and I need to refer to something in chapter 10, I know that’s a week away. In the case of my current book, I photocopied May and June from an empty 2010 calendar and filled in the scenes from there. So in the May 19 square it says Chapter 1 and if you look at the cork board under Chapter 1, you will see scenes A and B.

Sounds good right? Yeah, until I filled in the entire calendar and realized I was AN ENTIRE WEEK off! Yep. Lost a week. I thought the book ended on day X and it actually ends a week before day X.

So what have I learned? I’ve learned that I’m never writing again unless I have a visual calendar.

Category: On Writing