The Hardest Thing About Writing A Story

Posted: 20th October 2012 by Rich Bullock in Craft, Scrivener, Technology

   Keeping the timeline of a story straight is always a challenge for me, especially when I have two or three main characters whose plots intertwine.

Today, I made a new Reference document in my writing application, Scrivener. I took screenshots of monthly calendars (I used the Grab application and the Calendar Widget on my Macintosh), and pasted in a whole year’s worth in a vertical column. Then, to the right, I can make text notes about what happens to each character on important dates. I think this will really help me figure out the sequence of events.


June 10 – Lena meets Alex Stone

June 14 – Teal arrives and hides



Obviously, it’s important whether the flow of the events makes sense logistically. It can’t be winter and freezing, then hot summer a couple of weeks later, but sometimes that’s how the scene content works out (especially if written out of order, like many writers do). Having a calendar as a visual is a great help to me as I coordinate characters to weather and holidays, and as they make references to “two weeks ago” or “on July 4th.”

Desperation Falls is proving particularly troubling at the beginning of the story as it leads into summer at Storm Lake. There are so many big moments and critical character overlaps. Why won’t these people cooperate!!?

A TECHIE NOTE FOR SCRIVENER USERS: I put the calendar doc in the Research folder, then placed an internal Scrivener link to it in the “Project Notes (General)” window on the lower right corner of the screen.

When I click the link, it opens the calendar doc in a separate window. Using the Command-~ (tilde) key combination, I can toggle between the main window and the calendar window.