by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D. tags: writing - author - ulysses - nanowrimo - timeline - book
Today I announce, I am writing a book! Yes, I’ve written books in the past, but this is my first piece of fiction. I’ve been working on the plot, scenes, characters, themes and research since February 20th, 2017; a day I noted in my writing journal. I use Ulysses for macOS to write, manage, and journal about, my book. I am preparing for NaNoWriMo in November and the story is a geeky piece of genre prose. Announcement DONE; now the tip.
While fleshing out details of my plot, I developed a timeline of events in Ulysses. The purpose of my timeline is to understand the relationship between specific dates and how events affect my characters and story. Ulysses made the timeline creation process simple and fun.
First, create a Timeline group in Ulysses. My Timeline group is within another group that contains several other groups such as; Rough Outline, Manuscript, Management, Journal, Scenes, Research, etc. A calendar event icon becomes a visual group queue as shown in the image below:
The Timeline group contains timeline sheets, one sheet for each daily event in my story. Each sheet title follows a specific syntax. My first sheet in the group contains an annual calendar for a specific year (No, I am not divulging the year of my book). Here’s how I create that sheet.
I use the Time and Date site to create a plain text annual calendar. The plain text calendar is copied and dropped into a new sheet titled:
0000-00-00 | YYYY Calendar
I use the fixed width Source Code Pro font as my default editor font in Ulysses to ensures the calendar displays properly, as shown in the image below:
My Calendar sheet includes every month of the year stacked vertically. The Calendar sheet serves as a quick reference to the narrative year.
I create a sheet for each event and use the title syntax below (this matches the syntax for the Calendar sheet created earlier):
YYYY-MM-DD | Major Event
Title syntax explanation: Below better explains the syntax for those with questions:
YYYYis a year such as
MMis a numerical month designation such as
DDis a day of the month such as
|is a simple separator and is optional
Major Eventwith an event name
A sheet I create for the July 4th, 2017 Fireworks event in my book will have the title:
2017-07-03 | Fireworks
I then select the sort method to Sort by Title and A to Z as shown in the image below.
Quickly add new timeline sheets using
n, followed by the title. Ulysses will automatically place timeline sheets in chronological order as they are created. Watching sheets fly into location is part of the fun.
Consider the addition of other story elements you can place in timeline sheets. In my timeline sheets I add:
Here are a few tips that might be helpful as you create your timeline (some are simply useful Ulysses tips):
olet’s you search quickly for an event in a timeline, or if known, a specific time.
-HH-MMto the title syntax after the date. Now you can plot out your narrative to the minute!
0000-00-00for the date. This date ensures the calendar sheet will always be the first in the timeline. If you have another reference sheet you need at the top of the group, simply title it
I will not have all events from my book in this timeline before I begin writing in November. What I love about this technique is that as I discover new events in my narrative, I can quickly add them to the timeline and view their relationship to the story. As I write my first draft, this timeline will serve as an excellent guide along with my outline. It will likely become invaluable during the revision process as I tighten my story.
I hope other authors using Ulysses find this technique useful. If so, let me know in the comments below. I’d also be interested in your thoughts on how we can make this timeline even more useful.
Are you a literary agent or publisher looking for a motivated, experienced writer with an intriguing genre story? Why not get in touch with me now and learn more. First draft will be finished by December 2017 with an anticipated final draft ready by in the second quarter of 2018.