January 06, 2009

Writing Tip 10: Make a Timeline, says LJ Sellers

Every author has their own way of working.

Some outline; some don't.

Some prefer note or index cards. I like to make a grid on a sheet with 5 boxes across and 4 down, where I can see major points per chapter at a glance.

LJ Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson mystery series, THE SEX CLUB (Spellbinder Press) and the upcoming SECRETS TO DIE FOR, says she likes to create a timeline to keep her work in progress in order

Writing Tip 10: Make a Timeline

Sellers says, "for every mystery/suspense story, I create a timeline of significant events, including day and hour.

"I draft it when I write the outline, then update it and fill it in as I write the novel.

"The timeline:

* helps me pace the story;

* helps me coordinate simultaneous events;

* keeps me from writing too many events into one day;

* saves me the embarrassment of having characters refer to events that
haven't happened yet."

--- THE SEX CLUB by LJ Sellers: When a bomb explodes at a birth control clinic and a young client turns up dead, Detective Jackson is assigned both cases. Could they be connected?

Kera, the nurse who discovers the girl’s Bible group is really a sexual free-for-all, thinks they are. But can Jackson uncover the killer’s identity in time to stop the slaughter?


  1. Great tip LJ. And it's easy to do. Something that's both easy and effective works best for me. Thanks!

  2. For some reason, Christine, it is difficult to find where to add a comment. I had to put my screen smaller so that the comment section would show up.

    I like your tip. I personally use 4x6 cards and put them on a story board, one card for each chapter.

  3. HI Katie, yes it seems confusing until you click the main headline and it gives the entry on a full page, with comments at the bottom. I haven't figured out how to make the comment section more prominent on the other view. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I tried but can't get the handle of index cards. Instead I have a file open while I write marking relevant things pertaining to my characters and plot.

    Nice post.

  5. Especially useful if you have a lot of irons in the fire. I find it helps propel me forward too. I use an Excel spreadsheet to lay everything out.

  6. Great writing tip. I still need the physical presence of cards, or notes, rather than a computer file. I also found it a little confusing where to leave a comment. Thanks, Lucia

  7. LJ, I like your concept of the time line with the boxes. I think I'll try it with my next book.

    I've used conventional time lines and that helps, but the boxes would help even more. thanks for the tip.

  8. Thanks for the tips -- I didn't outline for the chapter book I've got but I probably will outline (or try!) next time.


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