Timelines and the Aeon

It finally arrived yesterday:  Aeon Timeline for Windows.  They mentioned in their email that they were sorry that it’d taken them longer than they’d imagined to write this version, but here it was, ready to go.  But it’s go time, and here it is.

So what have we got?  Let me see if my computer will let you see.

You always start out with a splash page asking ETstartyou what sort of timeline you need.  I’m not picky so I go with the standard BCE to AD, and I’m off.  What comes up is pretty standard, and you’ll notice that you tend to start near the beginning of your current year.  There are ways to get around that.  It has a little of the Scrivener feel, with the Inspector (even has the same name) set up on the right side of the screen, and a big “I” to toggle it on and off.

One of the things that’s extremely nice with the software is it’ll allow you to set up your own fantasy calendars.  This could work very well with my Transporting stories, which mostly take place on a world with a twenty-eight hour day, and a year that’s about three hundred and thirteen of those days long.  That’s my next thing that I’m going to spend time playing–

But for now, I wanted to see how it would look with an existing time line.  That was my play time yesterday.  And here’s what I found . . .

It looks a little like a standard timeline ETStart02when you start mucking about in the simple stuff.  Everything points to a time at the top, and if you look at the sliding bar at the bottom, you can sort of make out where things are located in time, so to speak.  At it’s simplest it’s kind of crazy looking, and if you’ve never worked with time lines a lot, it might not make sense.

The Inspector allows ETStart03you to open up a spot and change, or even add, information.  You can color code your events, you can add tags and then search for things in your timeline based upon those tags.  A nice feature is being able to see how long an event takes place; in this case, the scene lasts for forty-five minutes.  Aeon will set your event to the easiest thing to determine, so if you set an event to take a day and a half, it’ll tell you that event lasts for eighteen hours.  If you try to say it takes one and a half days, Aeon will adjust the time in the event to the nearest day,  I discovered this by trial and error; now you know.

But I need more detail, what can I do?  For that you have Arcs and Entities.  And they are so much fun.

Arcs allow you to segregate things based on ETStart04people and things.  Suddenly I’ve open things up a little, and now I have things that happen globally, and things that happen to individuals.  You can turn the arcs on and off as you like, so one can narrow information down even further.

Then you have Entities, and these can be anything–people, places, organizationsETStart05, whatever.  Straight up Entity Mode lets you see what happens to whom and where.  You can even decide if your entities were active participants in an event, or just an observer.  You’re now linking people to things, crime writers, and you know where things are happening and who was there.

And when I ETStart06turn it all on . . .

Right here you have the full monty, entities and personal histories if you so like.  It’s all scrollable and expandable, and tonight I’m going to see about drawing one timeline into another, because that’s how I roll.

It’s $40, but if you have the Scrivener winner’s code from last year (I did), it’s $24.  More fun, more craziness, more software for writing.

What more can a girl ask for?

Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.

All the Nasties

Good times are rolling.  How good are they?  Just look at how Happy Fluttershyhappy Fluttershy is, and you get an idea; I’m just about as happy as the pink-haired pony.  Trust me.  If I wasn’t, you’d know it because I’d tell you.

Things might not be perfect, but they are bearable.  This means I’ve sorta kicked all the crazy stuff that had been getting me down the last couple of weeks, and more or less moved on–and I’ve done that by getting my story in shape.  Which took a bit of work, but that’s nothing new.

Let me show you what I did.  You’ll like it.

Since I have this thing coming up in my story–you could call it a battle, but it’s more like an attack by crazy people who just wanna burn everything to hell and gone, and leave nothing standing when they’re finished.  I’d call them nihilist, but the moment I do that I gotta hear Walter go on about them, so lets just say they like chaos, and they don’t like the main group in my story.

So time lines . . . I needed one for my story, because I didn’t want to have to think about what action was going to occur while writing the scene.  It’s hard enough to write without thinking, “Oh, this is suppose to happen now,” or wondering what so-and-so is doing while I’m raising hell in another part of the story.

I worked up my first time line using Timeline software, Sigel Attack Timelinewhich is open source, so it can run on just about anything using Windows.  What you see is the final creation, where I put up normal events, then incidents that happened during the time indicated, and . . . well, I threw the weather in there because since this happens at a particular point in the past, I wanted to know conditions at that time, which I did by going to the Weather Underground website and finding the Airport Weather History.  From what I could figure out, it was a cool night, but it wasn’t raining.

It took a few hours of thinking and figuring out times, then writing down what happened to which characters, but as you can see, the lines were completed, and fates were sealed.  Now I knew what would happen to my characters, who would be heroes, and who would die horribly.

Yet I was missing something . . .

What it was missing was the ability to write it up the way it needed to be written.  Even though I had a nice time line laid out for all my action, I’d still need to write this stuff.  That would mean setting up my story in Scrivener, and that meant moving the time line over–

So after a few hours of watching movies at home–something Attack Timeline ScrivenerI almost never do these days–I began the task of getting my information into Scrivener.  I started laying out my cards, but rather than look at it on the cork board, I went into outline form and began putting things into proper order with a date and time.  And when I was finished a few hours later–ta da!  My story was laid out as you see to your right.

I know some are saying, “Cassie, you’re crazy.  That’s a lot of crazy there,” but you couldn’t be more wrong.  Each entry is a scene, and when it comes time I write the scene within the confines of the point laid out–and I’m done.  I don’t need to worry if what I’m writing is in the proper order, because I already know.  I don’t even need to write things in order, because I know what happens in each of these plotted points:  I only need to write.

One thing the Scrivener time line did for me:  it made me realize that one character who was suppose to be involved in the action wasn’t.  When I’d put the first time line together I mentioned the character, and then never brought them up again.  Realizing this, I made certain I pointed out in my Scrivener time line that their fate was sealed–

Now that doesn’t sound good, does it?


Here were are, together again.  Not only you and I, but my characters and I as well.  The dark clouds have blown away, and there is sun on the horizon.

Well, sort of.  It’s cloudy here, we’re probably getting rain, and tomorrow is going to be humid as hell.  But things are better for me, ’cause I’ve sort of pushed the depression away and gotten back into my sort of normal swing.  I’m almost ready for Camp–

Except they still haven’t put me in a new cabin.  Doesn’t matter.  I’m going to do it even if I’m in a tent in the woods, and I’m running my laptop off a solar collector.  Right now it looks like I’ll be hangin’ with camping buddies off a Facebook page that will be hidden from the rest of the people who hang out there bitching about the kids on their lawns while posting pictures of cats.  That’s fine with me, ’cause one of the reasons I dropped out of my NaNo Cabin was due to a post in the cabin chat that more or less said, “Hai, ho U doin?  Wha U ritin?”  No, no.  If you’re writing a story, you don’t get to speak like one of your characters.

Yesterday was a time for thinking, a time for getting names for my little novella.  I needed a list of people who exist at my school during the time I’ve set up, and it was a rather easy thing to do with the Name Generator in Scrivener.  I made the names, plugged them into the right character cards, then I went through and figured out who were the good guys, and who were the bad.  That’s important, because there’s gonna be some nastiness going down, and I had to know who was on what side.

Oh, and I went and created a death list.  Because . . . well, people are going to die.  Badly.  I’ve already envisioned how a few people, instructors and students, are going to die, and they’re not going down easy.  It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be ugly.  Characters aren’t going to look as if they fell asleep:  they’re going to look as if they were mauled by a lioness.  Death isn’t gonna come creeping in on little cat feet like the fog:  it’s gonna kick down the door and make itself at home.

I’ve never really gotten this personal with handing out murder.  Should be fun.

The only thing I need now is–wait for it . . . a time line.  There are going to be things that happen, and they will happen in a certain order, and I need to know when.  Since I don’t want to think this all out while I’m writing, I’ll plot out this thing first in Timeline, then I’ll work it out on a Scrivener card.  Or, better yet . . . since Scrivener allows you to write at any level you like, I may just set up several scene cards under a folder, and write what is happening for that scene, then organize them in something that looks like a real story.  That will be a good way to lay out the action, and if I want to add or remove something, then it’s a matter of adding a card, or deleting one.  Hell, I can write scenes that I think I may want, and not bother to use them in the final edit.

Welcome to my world, it’s gonna be interesting.


Charting the Personal Timeline

Today is a busy day.  Not it’s going to be a busy day, but it’s busy.  I heard there is snow and ice on my route home, so tonight could be a little trick as I return to the wilds of northwest Indiana.  No big deal.  I’ll get home.

I’ll also be on the web speaking to my therapist, because I miss her and we have things to say to each other.  It’s been three months since I was on the couch, and our time together was some good stuff, and I’m looking to get back into a routine because, why not?  We all need a little routine in our lives.

Writing is a routine.  I didn’t get much done on Saturday, but Sunday I finished Chapter Five, got two of my main characters, Keith and Elektra (yeah, that’s really her name) together, and saw my muse vanish for the time being.  I ended up writing about twelve hundred and fifty words, and I have officially passed into the Country of Novella, where all the officials are corrupt, and are just looking for the right moment to throw your ass under the jail—usually after you don’t make your word count.

So all my players are upon the stage, with only a couple of bit players remaining to show up now and then to move the story along.  I’m happy with the progression, even if I’m seeing a fifty day time line for writing the first draft, with fourteen days behind me.  It’s better than saying it’s going to take sixty days to write it, which may have been more real at the beginning when I had no idea how big the story would become—and with my counts down and analyzed, right now I’m on the cusp of a sixty-three thousand word story that could, realistically, end up being sixty-five to seventy thousand words.

I almost always set goals for myself when I’m writing.  A thousand words a day; sixty-five thousand words for a novel; four stories published in 2013.  I do the same thing in stories; there are always things that are going to happen, and they will happen when they happen, so I never worry if something doesn’t happen, because it happens in its own good time.

When I was laying out my timelines on Saturday, the notion hit me that I probably have more to write than I can ever write.  If I write a novel every ninety days, and spend another ninety days editing it while working on another novel or novella, then I could publish two to three novels a year—assuming I did it all the self-publishing route.  I know that, for one series, I could likely do twenty stories, and when you do the math, that’s almost seven years of steady work to get those all published.  Which means I’d be in my early sixties before that work is finished—

If I start now.

Oh, this is what is known as job security, right?  The fact that I have a ton of work, and maybe twenty years to get it done.

Living on the Time Line

Many, many things happened on 12 October, 2012—most of which I have no intention of discussing. Let us just say it is another of those life changing moments, the ones that test your fortitude, and force you to see if things are going in the correct direction.

In time I may speak of these things. Highly unlikely, however, because there is little to discuss. Time be time, mon, and once the past has zipped by, there’s nothing you can do to get it back.

And why would you want that, anyway? You can’t meddle in the basic fabric of the universe, can you? Onward, suckers.

I’ve given much thought to NaNo Novel, the 2012 Version. I’ve been doing that since Wednesday, actually, ever since I started blogging about getting the book in shape. I have but two chapters to do for my Halloween story—one which is about half written—and then nothing for November . . . save for The Crazy Train. Save for writing our butts off and hoping, against all hope, that what we produce doesn’t end up sounding like something one would scribble, in crayon, upon the walls of a padded cell. Unless, of course, that’s what you’re trying to write; then you’re doing it right.

I have location, people, creatures that go bump in the night. Now I’m getting the plot together. In thinking about what’s happening in the story, I realized that I would need to know when these events would occur. Normally, I scribble down a few notes in Scrivener, and use those as a guide to figure out what I’m going to write.

At the same time, I have this set up, the events leading to the moment when the main character step upon the stage, and the things that will lead then forward. So, yesterday, I began creating a timeline for my novel. I’m using software called Timeline, which is quick, simple, and easy. Doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but for what I need to do, it gets the job done.

This is the first time I’ve gotten into this level of detail with a story. To give you an idea, below is a screen shot of my timeline as of now:




It might not make sense to you at the moment, but I understand everything that’s happening. You might even notice that I have an event labeled, “Ramadan, 2013”. The story takes place in a country where Islam is the primary faith, and since I’m placing my story in the year 2013, I needed to know when Ramadan would be observed—even though it won’t play any importance in the story beyond a mention to one of the characters. A friend who is familiar with the characters said to me yesterday, “I knew you’d have to know when Ramadan happens in 2013.” Yes, that’s me: Mr. I Need To Know Things That Aren’t Even Used In Your Story.

There actually is a reason I needed to find those dates: if the story took place during the time frame of Ramadan, I’d need to have one of the characters fasting, and certain things would need to be done throughout the day. That would be a major screw up that no writer should have to live down.

Unless you’re the sort of writers who doesn’t give a shit, then it’s okay. I’m not that sort of writer.

Plan for the weekend is to finish the Halloween chapter, and continue building the timeline. Right now, I think Part One may come in about fourteen to eighteen thousand words, and if that’s the case, then a three-part story is going to come in short in terms of “winning” NaNo. Eighteen would get me over the line, but what I’m really shooting for is a sixty thousand words, because when it comes to getting your story published, most houses won’t look at anything under sixty thousand words. Just ask anyone who submitted they manuscript to Harper Voyager.

Do the math, and I need to write two thousand words a night. Not day, because I won’t have much time to write during the day, but night, because that’s then only free time I’ll have. Two thousand a night, about three hours of writing. Maybe four. Maybe I’ll write from 6 PM until 11 PM.

Doesn’t matter.

The novel gets written. Because that’s what writers do.