Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Blogger Deborah Raney: Doing Time

A writer friend mentioned recently that she was having trouble keeping track of the timeline for her novel. I've struggled with that, too, and it got me thinking about all the different ways I've tracked time in my novels.

Eighteen years ago when I wrote my first novel––a family saga spanning ten years––I taped eight sheets of paper together, drew horizontal lines in various colors to represent each character, and made hashmarks along the line for significant events in each character's life. That sounds so clever and wise until I tell you that I only created this timeline after an editor discovered, just before the book went to press, that I had some characters in college for most of the ten years––and they were still working on their bachelor's degrees. Oops. I quickly cobbled together the timeline and sorted things out in the nick of time.

In my next book, all the action took place in one year's time, so my timeline for that was a simple list down the lines of a legal pad. Easy.

I've never been good with anything number-related, but another writing friend's husband had put together an Excel spreadsheet that calculated all kinds of data about a novel, including timeline, page count, percentage left to write, and I-don't-remember-what-else. I used it for several books, then somehow hit a button that messed up the algorithm that calculated the numerics (I just made that algorithm thing up, but I pushed something wrong and that was the end of that).

My next book had a mystery thread running through it and I needed to do a bit more plotting than my usual seat-of-the-pants method to set up some red herrings, so I tried the index card method. Blue cards for my hero, pink for my heroine, and each card containing the date the scene took place and a sentence about the action. It actually worked pretty well, but like any plotting method I've ever tried, it took all the fun out of writing for me because I hate knowing the ending before I get there––whether reading or writing.

So with my next book––my tried and true women's fiction––I tried simply labeling each chapter and scene with a date. My intention was that those notations would be for my eyes only and I would delete them before the book was published, but I found those datelines caused me to "cheat" and not write decent set-ups for each new scene. I ended up having to go back through the entire book and weave in timeline cues for the reader. I love rewrite and editing, but that was not fun and I was terrified the book would be full of continuity glitches.

Christmas of that year we received several freebie calendars from local businesses. Since I keep all my calendar events on my computer and iPhone and only use one paper calendar, I didn't need any of the giveaway calendars, but as I was getting ready to toss them in the trash, I noticed that one of them had nice big sqares for each day. A light went on and I knew I'd discovered my perfect timeline tool.
For the last dozen or so books, I've kept my timeline on a discarded calendar. I never tell the reader the actual year of the calendar I'm referencing, but using a calendar this way has helped me avoid the pitfall of having a character go to church on Sunday morning and three days later gripe about how much he hates Monday mornings. (Yes, that's happened––but thanks to my sharp-eyed editors I don't think a timeline gaffe like that ever made it into a published book.)
Since I don't plot ahead, after I write a scene, I simply jot on the correct day's square something like: 5 p.m. –– Mitch and Shelley argue at the post office. Seeing those squares lined up Sunday-Saturday helps me organize my characters' lives the way I organize my own.
I did use the dateline-at-the-beginning-of-scene method in my newest series––with the dates in the actual book––and I think it worked well since those novels each had a thread of suspense, but I had to remind myself not to forget to use "markers" for the reader for time of day, day of week, season of year, weather, etc.
I've used the Scrivener software for several years now, and love the idea board, notecards, research options, and other features of the program, but I haven't really found it helpful for keeping timelines. My go-to method for keeping track of time continues to be the paper calendar method and I eagerly look forward to those hometown giveaway calendars every year.
How about you? Have you found a creative way to keep track of your novel's timeline?
Here are a few links you might find useful in creating the timeline that works best for you:



If you'd like to be entered in a drawing for Deb's trio of "Hanover Falls," please mention it in the comments section, then watch our Weekend Edition for the winner!

Deborah Raney dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. After a happy twenty-year detour as a stay-at-home mom, Deb penned her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, which won a Silver Angel Award and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then, her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, National Readers' Choice Award, as well as twice being finalists for the Christy Award. Deb teaches at writers' conferences across the country. She and her husband, Ken Raney, love small-town life in their native Kansas––the setting for many of Deb's novels. They have four children and four precious grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at


  1. I would LOVE to win. Just FYI ;).

    I'd also love to find a really good timeline program [free or cheap of course]. I'll have to look at those links later.

    Right now I do two things. I use Outlook and have a calendar for the series. I also print off the calendar because sometimes it's easier to just flip back and forth on paper. The paper calendar goes in my series bible/binder with my character sheets etc. It's usually way more than the actual book/series timeline but includes a few years before depending on how much of the pre-stuff I need to keep straight.

    I'm certainly open to suggestions though...

    Thanks, Deb!!!!

  2. This is very helpful, thank you. I mentioned a Write Your Own Novel software I few blogs back. I didn't mention it has a timeline with it. I'm not using that right now though. I like the paper calendar idea, it is simple and straight forward and handy. I would love to win your books!

  3. Deborah, thank you for explaining to me why I love being a pantser. Once I figure out the ending, my thrill to write until I get there to figure it out is gone. Thank you for that!

    Free is better then buy of course, but in late February and March, my local half-price books has the calendars for the current year that didn't sell for $1.00
    I stocked up on five that I liked the pictures and then figured out they would be great for using them to keep my novel's timeline. I haven't tried that method yet, because I still use the list and find the only real continuity issues that trip me up are the ones in backstory. Do you incorporate those into your calendar or keep those separately?

  4. What a great post, Deborah! I can get really confused, espcially after moving scenes around. Once I took a beginning scene and moved it further into the novel... So the season went Winter- Spring- Winter. Ugh.

    Love the calender idea. Maybe because I think it might be fun to write things down like I AM my characters! But no dental appointments 'cause this is MY fantasy world. :)

  5. I've used a calendar right along, Deb, and a timeline on my cork board, and an excel spreadsheet, .. you get the picture. obsessive plotter. If I can chart it or list it, I do.

    But no mistaking it, this is MONDAY MORNING and I wish you all a wonderful week.

    Thank you all the great links, too. I almost purchase Scrivener during NaNoWrimo but my computer was on the way out. I'm waiting for the next promotional sale.

    Do you feel that you wouldn't want to write without it now?

  6. I never kept track of a timeline until my editor noticed not much time was passing and Sunday was in the wrong place.

    Now I put the day of the week and the day of the story--day 1, day 2 etc. at the beginning of each scene and each chapter. It works for my editors, so it works for me. I also use an old calendar and start every book on Monday. Monday seems as good a day as any to start with.

    Sunday is the day that can trip me up. I tended to misplace it a lot!

  7. lol! I have NOT found a good way to keep track except by going through it carefully. I'll have to try the calendar thingy. Thanks for the tips!!

  8. I love this calendar idea! I have an old calendar just waiting for me to try this method out. Thanks for the advice!

  9. Hi Deborah, thanks also for the info. I love seeing how books are written.
    I hadn't thought of keeping track of the days.
    I would love to be entered.

  10. I used the calendar for my first mss. It was historical so I printed out a blank calendar and then searched out the proper week setup for the year I was writing. I also marked important historical events that happened so my characters wouldn't know something too soon or be clueless that a war had begun.

    I'd love to be in the drawing for the books.

    Thanks for visiting today, Deborah.

  11. I use Excel for my timelines. Then I also go on-line to find out about the rising and setting of the sun and the moon in the place I'm setting the story. I also make notes in ths history books that I've read of dates where it may have rained or any other weather events that I can point to.

    And I'm up for being entered.

  12. Hi Deb,
    I'm so amazed you posted this today. Last night I finished a scene. I went to the next chapter and started wondering where my "week" had gone. I couldn't remember if I was on Saturday or Sunday.
    So my goal this morning was to go through my WIP and figure out each day. I'm writing suspense and I think your calender idea will be perfect!
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    Please enter my name for your book. Thanks again.

  13. Good Morning, Deb,

    I haven't used anything as a timeline marker yet. The problem my editor catches, is during daytime hours. I never have enough time pass before something else happens. I always have to go back and add time transitions.

  14. Welcome to Seekerville, Deb. Congratulations on a fabulous career! Love your covers.

    I've messed up the timeline in one of my books. The line editor found it, thank goodness! I relate to your calendar method. I've used one of those large tear off desk calendar pads to help me keep track of the days. For some reason I didn't with one book. Perhaps because the story took place in a short span of time and I figured keeping tabs wouldn't be all that tough. But, I'd switched scenes around then didn't catch the problem. Very humbling.


  15. Deb -
    So glad to hear you're a pantser too, btw. Half the fun [maybe more ;)] is discovering what happens as I go. Once I get near the end I'll sometimes plot out the last few chapters but usually I discover as I go. Love that :).

    Mary Cline - do tell more about the program you use!!!

  16. Deb, I've loved each of your books that I've read. :) I haven't yet come up with a good method for keeping time lines for my stories, so I'm soaking all of this up! I love the idea of using an old calendar.

    So many other good ideas here. Thanks for sharing these. :)

  17. Good morning, Deb! Welcome back to Seekerville!

    I absolutely MUST have a calendar printed for each of my stories as it's much, much too easy when trying to establish a scene for the reader to goof up the day something happened, whether it is referring to "yesterday," "tomorrow" or a given day like "Monday."

    Timelines are way too easy to goof up, especially when your characters have day jobs. You have to make sure scenes don't take place outside the job setting on a weekday unless it's lunchtime, before or after work, or you've specifically told the reader they have the day off for whatever reason.

    I jot events on my calendar as I go along so that when I'm finished with the book I can go back through it and make sure everything happens in the right order and on the right day of the week. I've caught errors that in a general re-reading of the manuscript didn't jump out at me. The deliberate documentation of events as I write and then a review of the timelines at the end has been a life saver!

  18. I've created my own blank calendars in Word. It's just a table with those big squares. I have to write down when everything happens or I get so turned around in the timeline. Don't know why it's so hard, but it is! :)

    I'd love to read Deb's books so I'm in. I've heard good things about them.

    One other thing--I print out that fake calendar and write in the scenes by hand. I don't know why, but I prefer that and my writing log to be in paper form, not on the computer.

  19. Walt -- I print an on-line calendar with sunrise/sunset times and moon phases, too, for EVERY book. I don't want my loving couple gazing at a sunset that couldn't possibly be happening. Or one of them dashing out at dawn--that is still hours away.

    Time zones & seasons are tricky depending on the region--for instance, many don't know Arizona NEVER goes on Daylight Saving Time. The Navajo reservation in the northern part of the state DOES go on DST. But the Hopi reservation which sits in the middle of the Navajo one doesn't go on it. And in Texas and other especially "wide" states, going by a general estimate can be WAY off.

    Can't remember how to do a link in comments, but here'a cut & paste to my favorite calendar location. You pick a state, then a town in the area your story is set in. You can select the month and even the years.

  20. Welcome back to Seekerville.

    And you brought presents! Thank you for the timeline links!!!

  21. My goodness! And I thought I was an early riser! You Seekers make me look like a slacker! I'm barely off the treadmill and you're all up and talking writing already! It's wonderful to be back on Seekerville...I always have a great time here!

  22. CAROL -- I keep my WIP stuff in a binder, too. My calendars, synopsis, scene-storming ideas, research, etc. I can easily take it with me wherever I go in case I just want to quickly double-check something.

  23. Hi Deb,
    I took a calender and worked on my time line. Twice I needed to adjust the days I'd written. (I'm more SOP than planner.)
    Thirty-four minutes later, I'm ready to write.

  24. Glynna, I'm trying to get that site, but I can't seem to pull it up. Does it let you go back in time? The site I use lets me go back to 16th century Japan.

  25. DEB!!! Sooooo good to have you back on Seekerville, my friend, and your book covers are drop-dead GORGEOUS!!!

    And YOU are a genius with this discarded-calendar method of timeline!! I am SO impressed and think I may just try it as well.

    What I have been doing up to now is putting dates on my scene plotting sheet, which is where I have short blurbs per each scene about what I hope/plan each to be about. That way, when my copy editor catches something that's out of sync, I can check my plotting sheet to verify. PLUS, I also keep a very detailed birthday/anniversary sheet for the O'Connors since there are 15 of them to keep track of throughout six books!! YIKES, talk about confusing!!

    Anyway, thanks for the great tips, and I look forward to reading the new book!!


  26. YAY! It's Deb Rainey!!!
    Okay - I'm using the discarded calendar idea. That sounds perfect. I've been etching out stuff on a sheet of paper, and though it gets the job done, it can also be super-confusing!

    Btw, Deb - are you going to be in Black Mountain, NC in about 3 weeks :-)

  27. Regarding the sunrise/sunset calendar link I provided in an early comment -- there's also a tab (calendar) within that link where you can access major cities worldwide in case you're writing outside-the-U.S. stories.

  28. Hi Deb, Welcome to Seekerville. I really laughed when you said "I hit the button and that was the end of that" I have so done that too many times to admit to. smile

    Deb, you were one of the first people I met as a Christian writer and you were so helpful and kind to me as a newbie. You always have a special place in my heart. Love your books too. smile

    Great idea to use a calendar. I make a timeline but it ends up looking more like a calendar.

    Great idea Glynna to add the seasonal things like moon phases and times of sunsets and sunrises. So important.

  29. Walt -- I just checked and it only goes 1901 to 2099. :(

    Please share your link as that would really help historical writers here!

  30. Hi Deb, and thanks for stopping by Seekerville!

    I found I got lost pretty easily in my first book, and I'm much more of a plotter than a pantster. I made my own calendar and kept it handy so I could refer to it. The story is an historical, so I also added in things like when the full moon was and weather info (I need to find the websites where that info came from again).

    I'm looking forward to reading about all the different ideas!

    Now, off to follow those links....

  31. Hi Deb,

    Glad it's not just me who has trouble keep time straight! Looks like there's a lot of us out there!

    The book I'm working on now is set in early 1900's (I picked 1910). So I googled a calendar for 1910 and got a great site ( which gives the whole calendar, with moons, holidays, etc. Very helpful!

    Love to be in the draw. Your books look great!

    sb mason at sympatico dot ca

  32. Nancy, to answer your question about keeping track of the backstory timeline, I usually just jot those in a separate document. If it's important––like my heroine's birthday––then (even if she doesn't celebrate the birthday "onstage" in the book) I put her birthday in the correct calendar square so I'm aware she's a year older. But if it's something like, her parents were killed when she was 12, that doesn't really affect the timeline so it doesn't go on the calendar. (Though of course it affects her emotions and her personality.) Hope that makes sense.

  33. Good morning, Deb!

    Love the calendar idea. My mss takes place in the summer, to a 17 year old girl, so I'm deliberately vague in a few spots on time since summer always flew by so fast! But I know I'll need to pay closer attention to time in other works so I'll try this out.

    Love to win your books! Have a great day in Seekerville!

  34. Debra, I do love Scrivener, but I couldn't honestly say "I wouldn't want to write without it." I'm sure if I knew how to use more of its features I'd be more loyal to it, but that takes time and I just haven't made the time yet. Here are the features I DO love about it:
    • virtual bulletin board for character pics and traits
    • built-in browser for collecting research links and having them at my fingertips
    • scene cards I can rearrange over and over

    I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting right now. I don't actually work on my manuscript WITHIN Scrivener like a lot of my writer friends do. Maybe someday I'll learn to do that, but I work in Pages, and then just copy and paste a new version into Scrivener every week or two.

  35. Glynna, I have provided the link below. However, please note that this is an astrological/numerology type site. I would love to find something better but haven't so far. (Also, it's set for March 1588 in Osaka, but it can be changed.)

  36. Hi, Deb! I have used those little calendars too! I used them with my first couple of Medievals, and I used one when I was writing a "Southern" book set in Alabama. I wrote notes for myself about when the various flowers and trees were blooming in the spring so I could add those details to my story. I'm not terribly detail oriented, so I knew I would forget which flowers bloomed when if I didn't write it down. A paper calendar is my favorite way to keep up with timelines. But my last couple of novels have been really straightforward and take place over a short amount of time, just a few weeks, so I haven't seemed to need a timeline tool. I have also printed a calendar off the internet when I wanted a calendar from a certain year in history. I am a stickler for getting my historical facts right. :-)

  37. Hi Deb!
    This is such God timing for me. I promised myself I'd keep track of my timeline for my current novel that is almost completed and has a June 1st deadline. Did I do that? No.

    I don't know how it happens, maybe I get too caught up with life, and family, and job, etc. You know. Anyway, I'm going to have to go back and make sure I'm on track, again. I'm going to study this post carefully after work today.

  38. Jessica, DIBS on your very technical and perfect way to refer to this: "calendar thingy." LOL!

    Jackie, you go! So glad it's working for you!

    Sandra, thank you for your kind words. I don't have the world's best memory, but I can picture exactly where we were standing at the conference when we first met. : )

    Julie, anyone who calls me a genius is a friend for life, but then you already were. : ) Thanks for the cover compliment. I've been SO happy with all my covers from Howard, but this series especially.

    Pepper, alas, our daughter had the nerve to go and plan her wedding the same weekend as Blue Ridge so I have to miss this year! : ( But next year's conference is already on my calendar.

    For those of you writing historicals, you can always find your date on a perpetual calendar, then use a "matching" year on the site.

  39. Hi Deborah:

    All these comments by everyone are very helpful. I’m on a second draft of a romance that takes place over just ten days (plus one day -- nine months later) and time is still driving me crazy! I have to worry about hours, too. Can’t be too long or short between meals. And some days nothing happens?

    I think writing is just one long sequential series of new discoveries of problems you didn’t even know you had!

    Today I’m printing out a hard copy my WIP and drawing little clock faces along side paragraphs. I also don’t know what temperature it should be at 9,000 feet in July and when the sun rises and sets in the mountains. It would also help to know the phases of the moon.

    I’m a plotter. I don’t want to write an entire story only to discover at the end that I’ve closed so many options that the best I can do is have a ho-hum ending. I like to start by writing a ‘stand up and cheer I can’t wait to buy your next book’ ending first and then use that ending as motivation to finish the book. I write comedy so knowing the ending is no problem. I entertain myself by making the story as funny as possible as I write my way to the finish line. It’s a great test. If I don’t have a good time writing it, readers won’t have a good time reading it.

    I will try all the links and read everyone’s comments today. This post could not be more timely!


    P.S. Please enter me into the drawing for your books -- if I can get them on Kindle. (I can’t read the regular type in print books.)

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  40. Rose, you might do better with one of those daytimer-type calendars where every hour is accounted for. They go on sale at Barnes and Noble after the first of the year, too. (And if you can get on a mailing list with Daytimer or Dayrunner you might get free sample calendars...of course all your novels would have to be set in January. LOL!)

    Like Stephanie, I often make parts of my timeline more vague (usually because otherwise it seems like my couple is falling in love too fast!!) but my editors usually call me on that and want some kind of a way to mark time.

    Speaking of being vague, one reason I almost always set my novels in fictional towns and counties is because then I can get away with weather and sunrises/sunsets that didn't necessarily happen. We all know that one town can be having cats-and-dogs rain, while a town 8 miles up the road enjoys sunshine and balmy air. So fictional towns are da bomb in my book!

  41. I would love to win your books! I haven't read any of your books before so I would love to be "introduced" to you as a writer". I every much enjoy "meeting" new writers and adding them to my list! I enjoyed your post. Although I am "just a reader", I love learning about the process writers go through to write a book! It's fascinating!

  42. Timelines can really trip me up. I've got a bad habit of just writing along, about 1/2 the book done and all of a sudden I realize the couple are nearing marriage and they only met 12 hours ago......or two weeks. I'm not sure.

    Then I have to start hunting. Cifting back through the story for continuity. It would be SO MUCH SIMPLER to do it right the first time.

    Now, I create an excel spread sheet or, as I've come to think of it, A Pam Hillman Special, and I'll write down stuff as I make it up.

    The one I've got going now goes back into the characters pasts.
    His birthday and year
    Her birthday and year

    He grew up ... where.

    He spent from ___ to ___ in Andersonville Prison.

    Her parents died of ___ in 1854 when she was 12 years old.
    So this becomes a time line for the current story as well as a character chart and a storehouse for backstory details.
    And, of course I do all of this very, very consistantly....unless I forget.

  43. Vince, you said: I also don’t know what temperature it should be at 9,000 feet in July and when the sun rises and sets in the mountains. It would also help to know the phases of the moon.

    One thing I do that has really helped is to have a real town that serves as a prototype for my fictional one. That way I can have the weather icon for that town on my desktop, call the chamber of commerce or the library there and ask questions like, when do the lilacs usually bloom there? Do certain plants even grow there? Do you have wild turkeys in your part of the state? How soon do people start planting their gardens? How is snow removal handled? Do you cancel school when there's flooding? etc. etc. Questions whose answers would be different by state or even county. And I'm always surprised how willing people are to answer questions like that if you just tell them you're writing a novel set in their area. They seem genuinely pleased that the author is doing the research and striving to get it right.

  44. I once let Erica Vetsch read something I'd written...I think it was...yes...that novella ebook I had at Christmas with Robin Lee Hatcher. No one had seen it and I just wanted someone to read through it for me.
    One of her comments was (I can't remember exactly but) Christmas 1881 was on a Monday that year and you have it on a Saturday.
    It hadn't even occurred to me to check such a thing.

  45. i love your calendar idea. i also love the ideas all the commenters have as well. (gotta love the links!) i am presently more of a reader than writer - but i love learning from the writers of Seekerville!

    i would love to be in the running for getting to read your books. i love the fact that Seekerville introduces me to so many writers i otherwise might miss.

    nm8r67 at hotmail dot com

  46. In my historicals, I've never tried to keep up with the day of the week except for Sunday.

    I'm working on a contempary now and it has caused me more work because the herione has a job. Now everyday matters. The calendar idea is one that would work good for me. Simple.

    I'd love to win one of your books.


  47. Deb, thanks for being with us in Seekerville today! Thanks, too, for the great tip about using old calendars. I'm reaching for one right now and plan to use it with my current WIP.

    My stories take place over a short timeframe, often just an extended weekend, but I can still get tripped up. For the last book, I made a note of the date, day of the week and hour at the beginning of each scene--a tip I got from our own Cara.

    Thanks, Cara, it helped to keep me straight.

    Then my editor decided I should shift the book to earlier in the week so my cop hero wouldn't have to work on Sunday. :) Because I had "dated" my scenes, the changes were fairly simple.

    Deb, your covers are beautiful! Your stories are delightful to read! Visit us often, please! :)

  48. Will definitely be checking out these links. Thanks so much, Deb! So helpful. And please enter me.

  49. Deb, welcome! We're so glad you joined us!

    I'm glad to hear you use a paper calendar. That's what I've always found works best for me as well. I usually go print one but love your idea of using a real one! I have one right now that my mom just gave me. :)

  50. Hello, Deb,

    Okay I'm a touch bummed, no not you're here Deb is here. That's awesome.

    But I stopped in last night right after the post was up and wrote my comment. I was second in line then I come in today and it's gone.

    I'm getting a complex... LOL


    I recognize just a few of those keeping time ideas. I started using the calendar a while back. I print out one that matches the year. And sometimes just the week like I've seen others mentions
    Then I put my pertinent information on the correct block.

    Even then I find myself writing away and forget to log the information and have to go back.

    I guess I need to be more diligent on that account.

    One of my books, or series, is a time travel so it bounces back and forth through the years some. Calendars are wonderful for that.

    For the book coming out tomorrow, When Shadows Fall, (Not too shameless a plug.) which spans months and the in sequels years, I used the calendar, and still went back and found I wrote the wrong year in a characters diary.

    Maybe I should use all the ideas for keeping track of time. Of course then I'd drive myself so bonkers I could never writer again.


    Tina P.

  51. Deb!!! So nice to see you in Seekerville today!

    I think I've tried just about all of those timeline systems. I'm a big fan of, too! It's especially handy for writing historicals because you can find the moon phases for each month of a particular year. It's also great if your characters travel and you need to know time zone differences.

    Then I usually create a "generic" calendar in Excel (often from a downloaded calendar template) and (like you) type in brief notes about each scene in the appropriate square.

    I'm also a big Scrivener fan and have written my last several books entirely in Scrivener! When I finish the draft, I export it in RTF format and then into a Word doc, where I do the final proofreading. I love the software for collecting research and character photos, but I'm sure there are a lot of features I have yet to learn about!

    Oh, and I just downloaded the LifeTrack app! Looks like fun!

  52. Wow, what great ideas, Deb. I hadn't figured out a system, so this was quite helpful. Buying a calendar for my book is a great idea I didn't think of.

    Please enter me in the book drawing.


  53. Yikes, that not-knowing-what-day-you're-characters-are-living in would scare the spit out of me.

    I love your suggestions, Deb. So glad to see you on Seekerville. :-))

  54. Wow I never worried about a timeline until my latest WIP - my intention was to write the entire novel through the heroine's journal entries - talk about confusing! I couldn't the timeline keep straight so I tossed out that idea, have revised so that the journal entries are actual scenes with dialogue and action OR if the particular scene is something internal I may have her actually write in the journal or update her blog :-)

    Great advice though!

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing for Deb's books

    Good luck & God's Blessings.

  55. Ha, Casey! Bet you're wondering how I could be on your blog AND Seekerville at the same time. Ah, the wonders of cyberspace. ;)

  56. I think I was born confused...

    And I mess up timelines and my daughter takes GREAT PRIDE (far too much, actually) in finding my mistakes and listing them...

    Or calling me... And saying things like, "So, how old was Rita when she had the kids because it would be DIFFICULT IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE for her to have three kids in 2.2 years...


    Not SCIENTIFICALLY impossible, right???? It might have been like a cloned baby or something, but no. She cuts me no slack.


    Deborah Raney, how nice to have you here in Seekerville!!! Thank you so much for being with us today and you have touched a note with a lot of us pantsers, I'm sure.

    Great advice. And sensible.

    I'm dropping off chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter chips in them... Oy, just had to rescue a 2 year old from his THIRD cookie...

    Not because he shouldn't have three cookies, but that's less for me!


  57. That's some good information. As a panster I've added timeline info with the chapter heading until the book is done. I'll check out these links, they sound great.

    Please add my name to the drawing!

  58. Thank you for these great ideas. I am going to try the calendar.
    I just found a website that has Historical Events and monthly calendars you can see from BC to present.

    Please enter me!
    lostie815 at hotmail dot com

  59. Please enter me in the contest! Thanks!


  60. Welcome Deb!!! Loved your post today, and it will go in my "Keeper File" for sure. This is something I've struggled with in writing but now plan to try your calendar method. I've used a long strip of paper for my timeline, but even with that I've gotten "off track." But using a calendar sounds like it just might work (for this former kindergarten teacher, LOL). ~ No need to enter me in the drawing, as I already have your books (you remain one of my VERY favorite authors!). Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo p.s. I think my cat Moses knows I'm writing to you, because he hopped up here beside my computer and is trying his best to help me type!

  61. I've totally bookmarked this post! My timeline is probably in shambles, as I've not paid much attention to it. I wrote, telling myself I'd worry about it in the edit stage. :/

    The calendar idea is brilliant! I'm definitely going to try it. Thanks for posting, Deborah!

  62. I was just keeping track on a calendar. Thanks for all the helpful tips!

  63. I am not a writer....just a reader who loves your books!! Please enter me for this one!

  64. Love reading about other writers and their timeline issues :-). Thanks for the post -- and thanks everyone for sharing links.

    Nancy C

  65. I found this very interesting, even though I'm not a writer. I have read books where there have been mistakes in the time line. I'm glad you've figured out a method that works for you, Deb.
    I would love to win your Hanover Falls series of books. Thanks for the generous giveaway!


  66. Ruth, you grabbed my attention with your mention of chocolate chip/peanut butter chip cookies. Save one for me!

    Patti Jo, give Moses (and all your other kitties) a hug from me.

    Seekerville, thanks so much for letting me hang out with you today! I had a great time and so enjoyed hearing from you all.


  67. Thanks again for spending the day with us Deb!

  68. Hi Deb...
    I might've missed you! I tried to do a timeline with folding paper and taking one chapter at a time...but I think I like your idea a lot better! : ) I'm a visual person so I need something in front of me so I can see the big picture and the details when I need them.
    I would love a chance to get your books! I just tried for "After All" on another blog giveaway but didn't get it this time! Thanks for the great info!

  69. I don't think I have ever read an obvious time line glitches.

    I'd love to read HANOVER FALLS thank you.


  70. I loved this post. Deb, we've had contact occasionally through the years, first through ACFW, then you shared some info for my S.African Internet group.

    I would LOVE to be entered into the draw for your books, but I'll understand if the offer isn't open to S.Africa for postal reasons. :-)

    Blessings on your writing Deb. I LOVE your covers BTW!

    Shirl (shirley (at)shirleycorder (dot) com

  71. I enjoyed the post and would love to be entered into the drawing for Deborah's books. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  72. Shirley, so fun to see you here. Thanks for your comment.

    Stacey, I'm very visual too, so I think that's why the calendar works so well for me. It's the way I mark time in my real life, so makes sense that it would work for my characters.

    Again, thanks, everyone, for the great comments and links and ideas that you added to the discussion.

    Seekerville rocks!

  73. Just finished reading this post...excellent...deborah, i LOVE your novels...very much :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  74. Although i am an avid readaholic (and so not a writer) i enjoy reading how authors deal with the things they have to. All i know, is whatever you do, with a good editor to catch those things, it makes for awesome reads. i loved a Vow to Cherish, Deborah, and know i would love this trilogy. Please enter me for the draw, and thank you for the opportunity to win.

    marianne dot wanham at gmail dot com

  75. Everyone is so different. Programs never work for me. I bought snowflake method and never used it.
    Also, each story comes to me differently. The answer is never the same for me. What might work for one novel, doesn't work for another. I don't like to stay in a box. I use whatever works at the moment and for the novel I'm writing.

    Anna Labno

  76. All great applications, Deborah! I have Word and Scrivener. I have to admit I'm having a tough time converting to Scrivener. I need to take time to go through the videos. I'm terrible when it comes to learning how to use new software!

  77. Judy Gordon MorrowMay 1, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Deb, this was such a great follow-up after taking your wonderful classes at the Mount Hermon conference! Thank you for all the great tools you have given me and so many others. And your sweet spirit and gentle encouragement have endeared you to many, I know-- especially me!
    I would feel so honored to win your latest books; thanks for the opportunity!

  78. Crazy, but I never thought of something so simple as a paper calendar. Might have to give a try. Though Scrivener looks mighty tempting, too.

    P.S. I'd love a chance to win your books, Deb. :)

  79. I'm certain I've screwed up the timeline in my wip. Sometimes it's days off, sometimes months, sometimes a whole season.

    When I think of a great Christmas scene while the action is taking place in June, I have to consider whether the story should stretch that far or whether I'm in the wrong season to begin with or whether I'm trying to force fit something into the story.

    I'm bookmarking this post so I'll have the links for easy reference.

  80. Oh, this is some great advice!

    I'd love to be entered in the giveaway! Thank you! :)

  81. I would love to win! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks.

    Debbie Clark