Keeping Track of Time

When I’m writing a story, I try to maintain a consistent timeline. Even in science fiction, time progresses in a logical direction. The story can jump around, but the orderly passing of time should be maintained.

This may seem obvious, yet I have read novels where the author confused the passage of time in the story. Some things happened too soon and other events took too long or happened out of sequence. Also, when using flashbacks, there should be one central timeline that the flashback always comes back to. In some novels, I get confused as to what is a flashback and what is current time in the story.

Even minor scenes such as eating a meal or traveling between two places, the time it takes to eat is a set amount of time. And it takes a traveler a certain amount of time to travel between two places, even in science fiction. The author needs to fill in for the passage of time consistently. If not, there is no story. Just a series of unconnected scenes.

To help keep my timeline organized while writing a novel, at the beginning of each chapter I put the day of the week, month, and season when the chapter scenes occur. Keeping track of a story’s timeline this way helps me keep the timeline straight in my head while I write the next chapter.

There are probably other methods. Whichever is used, I think it is important for an author to maintain a consistent timeline, whether the story is over a few days or many years. It is easy to overlook this important step.

The world and the universe keep track of time. An author should, too

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