Scrivener Series: Timelines & Outlines

Scrivener-LogoThis is the third installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

By now I’ve been writing up a storm in the universe of my novel. It’s still a very random storm but it’s starting to coalesce into something nice and terrifying, a molten doom planet of madness.

I’ve started writing actual scenes for the upcoming novel, maybe the one after that or the one after that, I’ve had tea with my antagonist, put my main character on a psychiatrist’s couch and the story is starting to sit on chest in the night, restricting my breath and stealing my nightmares.

It’s time to let all that awesome out in a focused direction.

Timelines

Every important character in my novels gets one, the antagonist, protagonist and recurring side characters with specific weighty roles to play. These can start at different points in the character’s history, Buddy Jenkins’ starts around about his birth but Helen Raymond’s outline starts when her mother first met Pan, while playing in the woods with Helen I.

When the timeline starts depends on the character and how important or convoluted their history actually is. I find putting it in the form of a timeline allows for the important points to be quickly roughed out so you know when they happened but keeps me from getting too hung up on ‘worthless’ backstory. Without pages upon pages from each character’s past already written out, I find it’s easier to drop the important information in little bites that are easier for the reader to digest and keep them interested, without getting the main story sidetracked with long bits of exposition that can really distract from the main plot.

Still, some characters you really need to work their backstories out in depth. Almost everyone in the Eldritch Elysium series has one hell of a convoluted past, and my Four Horsemen aren’t slouching either. Mitei’s history could probably cover a city mile, and Ananke’s is so twisty the Gordian Knot was probably less convoluted but–a person is the sum of everything that’s happened to them, filtered through the lenses of their personality, so all that information helps create more interesting characters and infinitely more interesting series.

Outlines

Slightly different from timelines though each character can get one of their own as well, depending on the needs of the series. The Four Horsemen series has alternating perspectives from all four lead characters and Leslie Roth, it helps–a lot–to have separate outlines for each character’s perspective within the novel.

Each outline focuses on what they’re doing in a scene, but also on what they’re thinking and feeling, whether it’s happening on camera or off. I find that this helps me to make sure I allow the characters to be themselves and don’t skew their actions just because I want such and such to happen by page 245.

Once I’ve got timelines for any new characters that need one, as well as outlines completed up to the end of the novel, I start incorporating the outlines into a single whole – which is often easier said than done. Individual outlines follow individual timelines that don’t necessarily lend themselves quickly to a single whole. Some scenes or chapters will need serious restructuring to get everything where it needs to go.

So the very first rewrite will likely happen before you’ve written the first chapter. Yippie!

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

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2 thoughts on “Scrivener Series: Timelines & Outlines

    • Scrivener has formatting options that make outlines easy within an existing document, I mostly just use the justify alignment along with the “list” function. They might have outline templates as a whole but since those don’t meet my particular purpose I’m not sure.

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