Timeline for a Shitty First Draft

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A weaker ending

In November, with the excuse and spur of NaNoWriMo, I was able to write 50,000 words for Luce in New Lundon (working title). In December and January I wrote another 25,000 words or so. That brought me to the end – kind of to the end – of my zero draft.

Only “kind of” because, as I approached the end, I discovered that the end I thought I was building towards was rather weaker then the ending I could vaguely perceive through the mist but couldn’t quite formulate. What to do? I decided to let the story rest a couple of weeks and then, in February, take another run at it from a different angle.

Which is what I’m doing now.

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline

I wrote the zero draft using Scrivener, the leading, dedicated novel writing software. My different angle involves me transferring the story – the essential elements of the story – to a new piece of software, Aeon Timeline.

Aeon Timeline wouldn’t be something for everyone. It feels rather complex. But in my novel I’m juggling six points of view and a complicated time structure, so it feels like a good match.


How complicated? I’m glad you asked!

Luce in New Lundon uses a modification of the five act structure and follows the events of one single day. The five acts neatly reflect the stages of the day – morning, afternoon, evening, night, and the early morning following. There’s a prologue and an epilogue that bracket the day. But then I’ve also got a sequence of six interludes – I’m calling them interludes – interspersed between the acts. These follow events over a longer period of about 12 years.

With six point of view characters (including my protagonist, Luce, and my antagonist, Fenon), and two significant sub-plots beside the main story, I need some way of ensuring characters and events don’t trip over themselves. For example, I don’t want to find Luce knowing something before Fenon has told her, or Fenon taking three times as long as Luce to walk the same route through the city with nothing to distract him.

Flesh and bones

As yet I’ve only got about half way through Act 1, plotting the events of the story in Aeon. But already I’ve saved myself from one slip and I’ve been able to add in one extra bit of sub-plot to Scene 3, so I’m happy. (Aeon has also helped me flesh out characters, for example by asking for their dates of birth.)

Yes, it takes a lot of time to transfer the details. Longer now that I think it will later in the month. I’m taking it slowly because I am learning-by-using the software. But it’s very satisfactory to complete, say, Fenon’s Timeline between 4.46 and 9.10 a.m., and the relevant Relationships panel, and then to open the Subway view and see, graphically, how different characters interact at different times.


I am travelling away from home at present. All my writing is taking place on my laptop (and in longhand in my notepad). That may also be slowing me down. But I’m happy to be able to work on the structure of the novel despite all distractions. I think, (I hope), when the time comes to re-write the zero draft and get it up to the level of first draft alpha, all this will stand me in good stead.

OK, that’s me for this week. Have you tried working with any good writers’ software? What would you recommend?

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