One of my readers asked:
Hello. I’ve never heard of aeon timeline! What is it? How do you use it alongside scrivener? How does it benefit your writing?
Excellent questions, all.
What is Aeon Timeline?
Aeon Timeline is an application available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. The blurb from the developers’ website reads:
VISUAL TIMELINE SOFTWARE > The timeline tool for creative writing, project & case management
Writers > Designed for writers from its very inception, Aeon Timeline helps you plan, write and edit your story > …
It goes on to describe benefits to project managers and lawyers. To an extent, a writer (particularly a self-published writer) is also a project manager, and certainly lawyers can be writers, too! But I’ll focus on my use with Scrivener to write fiction.
How do you use it alongside Scrivener?
Aeon Timeline events can sync to a Scrivener project. In particular, “tags” in Aeon Timeline are “Keywords” in Scrivener documents, and Aeon Timeline colours are Scrivener document labels. Event names sync with Scrivener document titles, and event summaries sync with Scrivener synopses. For other event properties in Aeon Timeline, you have the option to create custom metadata in your Scrivener project, and sync those properties as well. These include start date, end date, event arc, and participants. (These are the event properties from the default Aeon Timeline fiction template that I use. There are more that I ignore.)
You can do it one of either two ways:
If you’re a pre-planner:
Start in Aeon Timeline. Develop your characters, set up story arcs, and work out your outline as timed events. Then, when you’re ready to start writing,
- Create your new project in Scrivener, save and close it.
- Go back to Aeon Timeline, and select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
- In the Sync pane that appears, under Warnings, right-click the events you want to have in Scrivener and add to Scrivener.
If you do minimal advance planning:
Start in Scrivener and build your structure in the way you’re most comfortable. If (or when) the timing of events begins to get confused in your mind, or you believe you’d benefit from seeing things laid out linearly with durations,
- Creat a new timeline in Aeon Timeline.
- Select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
How does it benefit your writing?
It depends on your working style. I know some people use it instead of outlining in order to see a graphic representation of their novel in chronological order as they plan, before they ever write a word of body text. Myself, well, as I’ve discussed, I’m not so much a detailed planner. But in general, it allows you to create characters, story arcs, and events (which can be imported from, and thereafter synced to, Scrivener.) I myself will use it once I get into the nitty gritty of writing, to keep track of such things as “OK, if this all started in early November, how long would this have taken? How about this next thing, here? No, wait… that’s a Sunday. That venue wouldn’t be open on a Sunday… so when did this have to start? What day will this next thing start?”
And so forth. Since at one level the stories I write are mysteries, timing of events becomes important. So here’s a timeline of a novella I’ve published:
It takes place over two weeks in June of 1880, in London. This image only includes the main storyline, with backstory and villain actions “offscreen” displayed in different arcs. I personally use labels in Scrivener for status (and don’t use the status metadata at all. But if you use it, it’s pretty easy to add an event property and sync it with Status in Scrivener.)
I had to think about such things as:
- How long would it take someone to cross a portion of London on foot in 1880?
- How about in a cab? (Often slower, due to traffic. Los Angeles is nothing new under the sun.)
- What time would servants be returning from their Sunday half-holiday?
Aeon Timeline is designed to make it easer to keep things like that straight. Afterwards, as I described above, the dates and times I decide on can be saved with the Scrivener documents to which they refer. So when I’m writing, I don’t make mistakes like having folks set out across the city in the morning, when it’s already afternoon…
It’s not for everyone—-I understand that. But if you think visually and want the duration of things clearly displayed, it’s a godsend.
One other thing I do is import the timeline into Scrivener’s research folder as an alias. That way I can view the timeline’s QuickLook in Scrivener, and click on the Edit button to launch it in Aeon Timeline.