As a genealogist I’m familiar with how helpful timelines are to keep track of each individual ancestor. By developing a timeline for each person, the researcher can quickly see where the holes are in that person’s life.
For example, you find your ancestor on the 1850 census, but then don’t find him again until the 1870 census. Where was he during those twenty years? Did the family relocate, travel abroad, did the census taker miss them or misspell their name so much it became unrecognizable? That is an important hole to fill in your ancestor’s life.
As I work through what I hope to be one of the last final edits in my first Caitlyn Jamison mystery, I realized writers need to utilize timelines as well.
I have read through this manuscript so many times, one would think I could recite it by heart. Not so. Thanks to my first readers, I have incorporated a lot more information, deleted chapters, combined chapters, added description, etc. As I read through the hard copy, I am reading slowly, inserting myself into the story in order to catch typos and inconsistencies.
I got to a part where I mention a senator and his supporters. I couldn’t remember whether the senator had died yet or not, and it was at that point I thought – aha – if I had developed a chapter timeline reference tool as the story developed, I could quickly answer that question.
When I first started this book several years ago, I did write up a short synopsis of each chapter as it was done. That’s a lot of work, and so I didn’t follow through when I redeveloped the characters and story line. I now know a timeline/chapter synopsis is worth the extra time it takes.