Do the Timelines In Your Novel Make Sense?

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By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

The timelines in my first novel didn’t work. The written analysis from my freelance editor pointed out dozens of timelines that weren’t realistic; for example, my main character travelled large distances in an absurdly short period of time, the setting (especially the weather) didn’t fit the time of year, and on and on.

We writers are usually so intent on getting the story down on paper that it’s easy to overlook these small details. But even though these problems may seem minor in the scheme of things, they will, if unaddressed, chip away at the quality of your novel.

Check Your Timelines Before You Submit Your Manuscript

It’s a good idea to check the timelines in your manuscript before you submit it to an editor, agent, and/or publisher. The following method works for me:

  1. Write an outline of your manuscript.
  2. Break the outline down into chapters.
  3. In the margin, write down the dates for each chapter (e.g., March to April 2017).
  4. Write your first draft, following the descriptions and dates in your outline.
  5. After you finish writing your first draft, write a second chapter by chapter outline of your manuscript, and include the timelines. Quite often, this outline will differ from the outline you created before you started writing your first draft. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the action fit into the timelines in this chapter? Are the physical details appropriate for the time period? (For example, would you expect to see flowers at this time of year?)
  6. If the timelines (and details) in your first draft don’t work, note the changes that you need to make in the margin of your second outline.
  7. After you’ve written your second, third, and fourth drafts, check your timelines again.

Once you’re happy with your timelines and polished your manuscript, it’s time to submit it.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from ( and Indigo Books and Music ( Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at


Author: kath1960

A lover of words who writes from the heart. Welcome to my site! I’m a refugee from the corporate world, a lover of books, dogs, and 1940’s/1950’s vintage clothing (not necessarily in that order!), a wife and a mom . . . and, oh yeah, a novelist! My first novel, a lighthearted romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, will be published by Moonshine Cove in April 2018.

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