On Keeping Track of (Fictional) Time

Photo credit: FABIOLA MEDEIROS on Flickr
Invariably, when the time comes to revise a WIP, I eventually realize I need to figure out the timeline for the manuscript. Because, as of yet, I've neglected to keep track of passing days/nights/weeks while first drafting (even though, you know, in theory it would be a good idea). And so I have to meticulously go through the draft the look for markers of time and write it down, then see where I need to adjust things so it makes more sense.

So far, I’ve used three different methods for keeping track of time during the process of Going Back to Figure Time Out.

  • The list. This is as simple as it sounds. Usually in Evernote (which is where I take a lot of my notes in general) I’ll start with Day 1, write a brief summary of what happens with bullets that day, and continue until I’ve reached the end of the book. Oftentimes I’ll do this before organizing it into anything else (i.e. the calendar), or I’ll just use this list as is. 

  • The calendar. I did this once for Beyond the Red, mostly because the time system is different there (they have different ways of measuring days, weeks, months, etc.). If I remember correctly, I’m pretty sure I started with the list, then decided to create the calendar to help me see it more visually and also figure out other things. It also became important because I would have markers like “a week later” or “months” or something, and because they measure time differently, it got a little confusing for me to work it out just as the list.

    However, this could also be useful just in terms of keeping track of the days of the week and months, so it’s something I may very well use again in the future. 

  • Aeon Timeline. I only have a free trial of Aeon Timeline right now, but it was so useful with the one instance I used it that I may very well have to invest in the future. The cool thing about Aeon Timeline is you can set up your timeline with whatever markers you’d like—including totally made up measurements. I used it while revising my YA Fantasy just in terms of Day 1, etc. because I needed to keep track of a few threads, and the number of days I was spanning was way too high for me to do it in list form (like, well over a hundred days). This also made it easy for me to see a visual representation of elapsed time, and it did math for me. So. Definitely useful. 

So those are methods I’ve used to keep track of fictional time. In the future, I plan to attempt to be more careful about keeping track while drafting…but knowing my track record thus far, we’ll see how successfully (or not) that goes.

How do you keep track of fictional time in your WIPs?

Twitter-sized bites:
Struggling to keep track of passing time in your WIP? Author @Ava_Jae shares a few methods. (Click to tweet)  
How do you keep track of fictional time in your WIPs? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

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