Though I’ve yet to be published, I’ve written a great deal of manuscripts, all of which are still work in progresses. Characters and plots are always buzzing through my mind as a result of this, but to make matters even more confusing, all but one are linked in the same universe. It hadn’t been intentional – it just sort of… happened. A side character became interesting, or sequels just appeared out of thin air, or the new group of characters I was working with told me they existed in the same timeline and world.
So, when all of these plotlines started to cross over and interfere with one another, I knew I needed a way to keep them all straight. Random pieces of paper shoved into the pockets of my overflowed writing binder (my current plot-outlining method) just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
It was as this point my friend and fellow writer, Lyndsay, introduced me to the writing software, Aeon Timeline. Though there has been a second version of this software which has come out since I’ve purchased it (and I’ve yet to get personally), there are still so many features I find extremely helpful, and I think you will too. All of the features I’m writing about in this version are available in Version 2, though their set-up and details might vary slightly.
Aeon Timeline is first and foremost a timeline software designed to help keep whoever’s using it organized. For writers, this in unbelievably helpful because you have a place to keep track of all the events of your plot and information about your characters. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found my character doing two different events at the same time. Without Aeon Timeline, I might not have realized this error ever – or at least it would have taken much, much longer.
What I think I love the most about Aeon Timeline is the ability to have multiple story arcs within one document. In the picture above, all of the arcs are listed in the left-hand column. The arc titled Global is the default found in Timeline. All of the events which are found in this arc are able to be seen no matter which arc you’re focusing on at the time. In the case of a multi-story universe (like I have), using these arcs makes it possible for me to view every single one of my events together to make sure things coincide in each respective story. I can’t stress how much this has made my writing that much more accurate for dates. Now I know where all of my characters are (no matter the book they’re in) for every single event that ever happens in any of my novels. Currently, I’ve got my arcs set out for each set of main characters it follows since I’m working with a multi-story universe, but really you can break it down even further. If you have a book with lots of sub-plots, each of them can be assigned a particular arc and voila, everything is now organized.
Want to know something that’s even more awesome? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of years available to you in your timeline. It could be as short as two days, or as long as a thousand years, and Aeon Timeline can do it.
Another feature, though small, helps me out so much when I’m story-plotting. Aeon Timeline has a way of viewing the age characters will be at the time of events. You also have the option to choose whether each of your characters (called Entities in Timeline) are participants or observers of the event. In my example to the left, the coloured-in green circles means that particular character is a participant in the events, and the outlined white circle means they are the observer. This feature is a nifty little thing that helps keep your plot organized and structured properly.
The inspector function of Aeon Timeline is the one last feature I’m going to talk about here, though there are many others I know I could go on about for much longer. Basically, the inspector feature allows for you to see details on events. All you have to do to view it is click on an event in your timeline and then click on the little ‘i’ icon near the top right corner of the program. Once in inspector mode, you can view and/or edit the duration of the event (in a choice of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds), when it starts and when it ends, it’s title, label (the colour it appears in the timeline), what arc it’s in, as well as adding any notes you may need to remember about that event. When you’re working with a lot of plot points and characters like I do, having a tool like this to either make quick changes on the length of an event or add information reminding me of what happens here is quite convenient. The note function works well too for when you’re still in the plotting stages and maybe have just a few quick ideas you want to jot down about what’s going to happen in the scene when you’re writing it.
So there you have it. A couple of quick facts about Aeon Timeline, a wonderful software I recommend every writer gets their hands on. If you or anyone else you know has experienced other aspects about Aeon Timeline and wish to share your experience, please comment below. Or if any of you writers out there have Version 2, I’d love to hear about some of the new features available exclusively to it.
As always, keep writing everyone! And to those who have just started participating in the April Camp NaNoWriMo session, good luck and I hope the words are flowing wonderfully for you!
Until next time.