Manage Your Timeline with a Scrivener Calendar

scrivener logoIt’s an easy mistake to make.

You get so caught up in your story that you write a three-day week or you set your book during a particular month and forget to include some acknowledgement of a major holiday.

My current novel spans a few months and includes major plot points that take place on the full moon. I’m a visual person, so to help me organize my days I use a calendar. I write a brief description of events on the corresponding days on the calendar. An old calendar that you’ve saved or a discounted one bought at the start of the year, works just fine. You can also use Google Calendar on the web. Because I like to keep all my notes together with my outline, I create my calendar in Scrivener for Windows.

For those new to Scrivener, I’ll walk you through it:

  1. First create a new text document by right-clicking your cork board and selecting Add > New Text.
  2. Open your new text document (click on it in the Binder). Place your cursor in the text document then Format > Table > Insert Table.
  3. Place your cursor in the table then go to  Format > Table > Table Properties. This will open up the table properties window. Go to Rows & Columns and change it to 6×7.
  4. Type the days of the week in the cells in the top row.
  5. Go to File > Save as Template so that you can use this blank template again for future projects.
  6. Next include dates. For a reference for the dates, moon cycle etc I use the website sunrisesunset.com. From there, you can enter the place and then either go to the month you need or go through the search results to find something more specific. For instance, if you need the month to start on a Saturday or you are looking for a month with a blue moon (two full moons in one month). Seeing an example will help to make sure that you have the correct amount of days or have included enough distance between the moon phases.Also make sure to write any holidays that occur during the month in your calendar. This is important. I didn’t realize until I created a calendar for my novel, that the events of the story took place over Fourth of July weekend. When I caught this, I incorporated the holiday, making the narrative and the setting stronger.

Once your calendar is complete, you can fill in the details from your outline. When I first created my calendar, I also used color coded cells to highlight days that events take place. Unfortunately, there is a bug with the Windows version of Scrivener because the cell color doesn’t save. However, you can change the color of the text.

If you have Scrivener for Mac there are also some nifty things you can do with custom meta-data. Jamie Todd Rubin as a great post about this. Mac users can also sync their Scrivener with Aeon Timeline. Aeon is available for Windows without the synchronization but for my current project, I haven’t felt the need for a program this intricate and, like I said, I like to keep all of my notes in one place.

My novel takes place over the course of a few months so this method works great for me. As you can see by the screenshot of my calendar below, I don’t add much description to the calendar, only as much as I need to remind me of the event that takes place. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.

Now I want to hear from you. How do you manage your novel’s timeline? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to hit the follow button for more reviews and writing discussions.

screenshot

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12 thoughts on “Manage Your Timeline with a Scrivener Calendar”

  1. This is good stuff. Making a table in Word is an exercise in frustration. Worse, if you’re using LibreOffice or Open Office. I much prefer finding an old diary or journal and pencilling in events, or using it to find days of the week and holidays. I also insert in my text the actual date of the scene I’m writing, e.g., Monday, October 6, 1982, then reformat that date as hidden text. That helps me match up subplot scenes with the A-plot action and keeps me aware of where we are, timewise. Just don’t forget the text is there.

  2. I’ve been using Scrivener for 3 or 4 months; some times I like it, and some times I don’t. Making a calendar is a great idea! I wish I had thought of it a while back. I’ve already made one and have it partially filled in. Thanks!

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