Most of my stories have had straightforward timelines, strictly chronological with few, if any, flashbacks or back story that could be confusing to the reader. The New Serfdom is a big step away from that simplicity, and it’s one of the reasons that the novel is still unfinished, almost a year since I wrote it during NaNo. A good deal of the plot depends on flashbacks, so I’ve been looking around for ways to get things under control. After all, if I can’t keep track of what’s going on, I can’t expect readers to.
National Novel Writing Month has an increasing number of sponsors, and starting last year, one of the more interesting ones was Aeon Timeline, being offered at a discount for NaNo participants and a higher discount for winners. It’s available for both Mac and Windows. I downloaded the trial, and since that was last year, I don’t remember any of the details, but it looked extremely well thought out. The trouble was that it was also quite complex, and I rarely have the patience to fool with a program that I can’t dive into without reading a manual just to understand the basics.
It’s probably a great program for anyone who usually writes complicated plots, but not for me. Even at the winner’s discount to $20.00, that’s too much spend on an app that I might use just once. Plus the time involved in learning it. You can check it out here. There’s a FAQ, videos, and a user’s manual.
When the NaNo forums reopened this month, the link to a web timeline was posted to the Resources forum. Tiki-Toki has a free version, and several premium upgrades for power users, businesses and teachers. I plan to sign up and try it out when NaNo is over and I can get back to New Serfdom. My main caveat about using it, even if it turns out to do exactly what I want, is that I don’t like to depend on cloud apps. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to know that my work isn’t going to disappear or be unavailable because a site has some kind of glitch or goes out of business, or my ISP is having a bad day.
Another option, and the one I’ll be working with for a while is a little mind mapping program put out by the brilliant Scrivener crew. I played around with it while it was in beta, and while it was extremely intuitive and flexible, I didn’t have any real use for it at the time. I downloaded the trial version the other day when my mind turned to the never-ending confusion of New Serfdom. Scapple isn’t designed for timelines, but I never let something like that stand in the way of my experiments, so I’m going to see if I can take advantage of its many features and use it that way. You can download a free trial that will last for 30 days of use. That means it will work for several months if you don’t use it every day. Price for both Mac and Windows is $14.95.