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Create Your Project Timelines for Free with a Project Timeline Maker

Project timelines are essential for any project. They help you keep track of deadlines, tasks, and milestones, and ensure that your project is completed on time. But creating a project timeline can be time-consuming and difficult. That’s why many businesses are turning to a project timeline maker to create their project timelines quickly and easily.

What is a Project Timeline Maker?

A project timeline maker is an online tool that helps you create project timelines quickly and easily. It allows you to input your tasks, deadlines, and milestones into the tool, and then it automatically generates a timeline for you. This saves you time and effort, as you don’t have to manually create the timeline yourself. Plus, many of these tools are free to use, so you don’t have to worry about spending money on expensive software.

Benefits of Using a Project Timeline Maker

Using a project timeline maker has many benefits. First, it saves you time and effort in creating the timeline yourself. Second, it makes it easier to keep track of tasks and deadlines as the tool will automatically update the timeline when changes are made. Third, it allows you to easily share the timeline with other team members or stakeholders so everyone is on the same page. Finally, many of these tools are free to use, so there’s no need to spend money on expensive software.

Creating a project timeline can be difficult and time-consuming. But with a project timeline maker, you can create your timelines quickly and easily – all for free. So if you’re looking for an easy way to manage your projects effectively, then consider using a project timeline maker today.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


novel writing timeline

novel writing timeline

How A Timeline Helps You Plot A Novel

In this post, we write about how a timeline helps you plot a novel .

Making Sense Of The World

History is neither simple nor linear, but when we show events in a timeline they seem to make sense. We see the results of cause and effect when we show sequences that exist in relationship to each other. We see patterns, turning points, and progressions.

One of the main reasons we read is to make sense of the world. A timeline suggests a past, present, and future.

Using one for plotting allows us to see a beginning, middle, and ending. Linking units of time to events allows writers to plot a book in a graphic way. We are able to see the book from the reader’s perspective. Is there a pattern? Does it make sense?

A timeline helps us choose what to include in our story. It also gives us a map to follow. It is the big picture of a novel – a place where we get the chance to see the overarching storylines and how they intersect.

Seven questions that will help create a timeline:

  • How old are your characters when the story begins?
  • Where are the characters in the story?
  • Why does the story start? What is the inciting moment ?
  • What are your main characters’ story goals ?
  • Who are their co-stars?
  • How old are your characters when the story ends ?
  • Where will it end?

Remember that a time-span has nothing to do with the length of a book. We can cover a lifetime in one paragraph. A week, a month, or a year could span an entire book.

A timeline helps us to include only events that are relevant to the plot in our novels.

Beginnings And Endings

  • We should never start our novel on the day our characters take their first breaths – unless that moment is important to the story. We are not writing our characters’ biographies. Try not to bore the reader with a factual re-telling of their first years.
  • A timeline can help us remove unnecessary backstory . We get to see how much information we tend to dump in the beginning of a book. It can be used as a tool to help us work through where we should start our stories. We can use this part of our timeline to help fill in a  character questionnaire .
  • Start at a point of crisis or change. The reader will immediately want to know what happened before and after that point. Start when the reason for writing the story begins. [Read  The Importance of Inciting Moments ]
  • Carry on by inserting the events needed to get us through the middle of the story to the end. We tell a story in (action) scenes  and (reaction) sequels . We usually have 60-80 of these in a novel. You can use these to create the events on your timeline. [Read  Why Writers Should Always Make a Scene ]
  • Stop when the main character reaches his or her story goal. [Read  The Sense Of An Ending ]


  • Create a timeline for your story.
  • Create separate timelines for your four main characters.
  • Make sure they all work together.

There are also online timeline tools you could try, including Timetoast , and Preceden .

Top Tip : Find out more about our  workbooks  and  online courses  in our  shop .

Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, read:

  • 10 Ways To Create Dangerously Nuanced Antagonists
  • 127 Prompts To Finish Before You Write About Yourself
  • 9 Free Online Grammar Resources You Can’t Ignore
  • P.S. It’s Time To Remove Those Adverbial Dialogue Tags
  • Plotting , Writing Tips from Amanda Patterson

4 thoughts on “How A Timeline Helps You Plot A Novel”

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Thanks, Amanda!

I use timeanddate.com to generate calendars for novels based in the past. Their website even has a moon phases area where you can enter a city and year in order to see the lunar events–great resource for timelines.

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Thank you, Kathy. I will explore your suggestion.

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Love this concept for my sequel. Far fewer rewrites and oops in the story line development. Key character histories intersected one another without conflict. A little preplanning and forethought helped me create a calendar for the story. I determined the exact day the story would start and I knew when it would end. The timeline guided the pace of the story far better than my previous “pantsed” story in the original book. Developing a roadmap keeps the story and the characters from straying too far from the story you intended. It’s like planning a vacation: You determine how many days you have to travel, your budget, and your ultimate vacation destination, but allow sufficient time and resources for unexpected side trips, as long as you the intended vacation destination remains in focus. Thanks! Love your insight.

Thank you, Mike. I like the planning a vacation analogy.

Comments are closed.

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A Guide to Writing Your Novel in One Year

You’ve probably heard the tales of people who spend their entire lives writing a novel. It seems so noble. Year after year, they churn out a chapter or two, carving out characters as real to them as family members. They work on an unpredictable schedule that’s dictated by mood or inspiration. Then, after years of slavish dedication at the altar of idea, the writer dies, and along with him, the unpublished, unfinished manuscript.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

You tell yourself that writing a novel takes time. That’s true. But it doesn’t take a lifetime. In fact, it may not even take a year. Some writers have completed entire books in as little as a month . Now, that sounds extreme because it is, but the idea behind it is brilliant:

Get it done, and get it done as fast as humanly possible.

Image Courtesy of Reactiongifs

I firmly believe that writing novels and peeling Band-aids have one thing in common: it’s best to do it quick! The longer you wait, the less likely you are to actually write your novel.

So, let’s get a move on. Here’s how to finally get your novel written in a realistic but fast-paced fashion.

Write your novel in one year with the help of these additional resources! Subscribe to receive this extra resource.

Download your bonus content:

Change the Way You Think of Writing

Step one: change how you think.

A lot of us have a hopelessly romantic view of writing. We think it should take years to complete, but that’s simply not the case. You don’t have to absorb some huge life lesson in order to write a novel with meaning. You don’t have to take a sabbatical from your job, travel halfway around the globe, and live in a monastery on the side of a mountain, either.

Writing, just like everything else, improves the more you do it. As a novelist, you don’t need to work from an exotic locale or have an open schedule in order to create a spellbinding story. You can work your regular 9 to 5 job and spin tales at night and on the weekend.

Writing is not mystical, and it doesn’t demand that you be inspired (more on that later). Novel writing, in particular, is about discipline. Having an idea is cheap, but seeing that idea to completion is extraordinary-- and something that most mere mortals won’t do. So, instead of thinking of your novel as your life’s work, frame it as one accomplishment out of many.

Understand it’s the First Draft

When I talk about writing a novel in one year, I actually mean that you’re writing the first draft. You simply want to get your ideas on the paper and out of your head. From there, you can start polishing and perfecting your prose.

Your first draft is a draft that no one else will see but you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make it perfect. Here’s why:

It won’t be perfect. In fact, it will be far from perfect.

There has never been a perfect first draft in the history of written literature. I don’t have hard statistics on that, but just trust me.

Misspellings, missing facts, unnecessary characters, scenes leading nowhere-- all of that belongs in the first draft. It’s when you return to edit that you truly create a story that you’re proud of.

Don’t Wait for Inspiration!

As I mentioned earlier, you should never, ever wait for inspiration to write. Here’s why:

You’ve already been inspired. You already have a story to tell.

As I write this post, I can think of at least one story that I could turn into a novel right now. I’m willing to bet you’re the same way. My point is that inspiration has already visited you. Don’t expect for it to keep circling around. It won’t wake you up in the morning and tell you to write, and it definitely won’t sit there and keep you motivated as you write.

After the initial spark of inspiration (that may have occurred years ago), you’ll need good old-fashioned, steely determination to actually write your novel.

Copy the Greats


It’s time to crack open your favorite novels and determine what makes them so successful.

Hint: it’s not just the story.

As I mentioned earlier, ideas are cheap. Some of the best stories are obscured by horrible writing, and some mediocre stories are saved by sharp, witty writing.

You may be surprised to realize that some of your favorite novels have stunningly simple stories. It’s the presentation that’s complex and satisfying.

And that’s exactly what you’ll study: presentation. The mechanics and structure of the book. Grab five of your favorite novels, and answer the following questions:

  • How does the first chapter start off?
  • Does it go directly into action, or start with a little background?
  • What type of pacing does the author use?
  • How does the author introduce characters?
  • How are chapters structured?
  • When is the climax of the story?
  • How is the story resolved?

Be prepared to rip that book apart with analytical eyes-- and take notes. These notes will help you understand how to structure your own novel.

Have a Game Plan

Speaking of structure, do you have a plan for writing your novel?

I know this is a hotly debated topic with novelists. Should you outline or should you let the words flow?

Personally, I feel that you should have a plan, especially if you’re imposing a one-year deadline for yourself.

But if outlines make you itch, consider asking and answering these questions that I’ve borrowed from StoryFix before penning your novel:

  • What is your story’s hook?
  • What is the central theme of your story?
  • How does your story begin? What’s the hook?
  • Does your story have a twist? What is it?
  • What causes your protagonist to engage?
  • What stops your protagonist from reaching his/ her goal?
  • What is the secondary plot in your story?
  • How do you resolve the problems within your story?

I love those questions, don’t you? For a more detailed look and follow-up questions, definitely check out the entire supporting blog post on StoryFix here .

Give Yourself Strict, Frequent Deadlines

You need a hard deadline if you want to actually accomplish your goal of writing a novel in one year.

Don’t just say, by this time next year, I want my book to be done. That’s way too nebulous, and it doesn’t give your brain the right marching orders.

Instead, use language like, I will write 500 words every day or 5000 words every week. This gives you mini checkpoints that keep you from wandering too far from your goal.

Make it part of your daily routine to write. In fact, mark “500 words” on your daily schedule, right next to exercising and your doctor’s appointment. Penning it into your routine will make it much more likely for you to just do it.

Also, consider taking the 365-day book writing challenge . This challenge could not be simpler. Basically, you download the chart and start on day one. On the first day of the challenge, you’re tasked to write one word, the next day, two words, and so on. By the last day of the challenge, you’ll write 365 words and have written 66,795 words. write at least the number of words listed.


Image Courtesy of WordCounter.Net

Participate in NaNoWriMo

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? It’s short for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place every November. During NaNoWriMo, thousands of writers from around the world participate in writing a novel in 30 days. But even if it’s nowhere close to November, you can still challenge yourself to write as much possible in 30 days.

This can be the perfect jumpstart to your novel!

I know that at first blush, it may seem like a crazy huge number: 50,000 words by the end of 30 days. But, when you break it down into chunks, it’s only 1,667 words per day. Totally doable.

I highly recommend that you check out the resources section at NaNoWriMo , too.

Additional Resources

Before you brave this incredible feat, here are a few resources to help you write your novel in one year:

  • Start It Already: How to Start Your Novel
  • 8 Unusual Ways to Boost Your Writing Productivity
  • How to Balance Your Day Job With Your Writing Passion

Enter your email for your FREE 7-Day Bootcamp and learn:

  • 5 Unconventional Techniques to help you finish your Draft
  • The Key to Getting Readers to Care About Your Characters
  • How to Master Dialogue, even if you’re a First-Time Writer
  • What You Need to Know to Hold Your Reader’s Interest

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Helping writers become bestselling authors

The Efficient Writer: Using Timelines to Organize Story Details

April 6, 2017 by ANGELA ACKERMAN

FACT: when we sit down to write a novel, most of us already have almost a book’s worth of notes tucked away in computer files, stored in writing apps, scribbled on notepads, or stuffed into the coffee-glazed ridges of our brain.

And honesty? This is my jam. I love the brainstorming stage because everything is still on the table.

This is my happy place. I put story puzzles pieces together, like what backstory events shaped my character and which important locations will tie into the story. It’s all about A leading to B , which leads to C .

novel writing timeline

I think about the ways characters are connected, make notes about the tasks they must complete, and hash out roadblocks I’ll put in the protagonist’s way. Creating a giant ball-pit of ideas? It’s glorious.

But then it’s time to actually write.

And my brain sort of goes, Oh crap .

It isn’t because I’m trying to pants my way into the story. I actually shifted from pantsing to plotting after seeing how much better my novels were when following story structure turning points. The Story Map and Scene Maps [ Formal and Informal ] tools give me what I need, so all good there.

My Problem? Searching so many notes for important information that keeps my worldbuilding consistent and supports the logic of my world.

Like, where did I list out the hierarchy of mages for the magical order the hero belongs to? Or what was the sequence of artifacts he had to find to build a weapon that will protect him from dark energy infiltrating the magic community? If I flub these up, readers will notice, so I have to make sure everything is consistent.

Trying to sift through notes for where I had jotted this information down was costing me time, and occasionally it pulled me out of the creative flow. Some information, I found, needed better organization.

novel writing timeline

Thankfully, we created Timelines at One Stop for Writers. Ironically when we built it, I was thinking of how it would help other writers with their story planning, not imagining how much this tool would also help me. But wow, does it ever work well to keep me organized!

(Okay, I have to show you. Excuse me while I geek out a bit.)

Most people think of timelines as a way to create a calendar of events that happen throughout a story…and they’d be right. It’s a handy way to plot time sensitive events , like the order of battles in a war that will put your character on the throne, or the clues your mystery sleuth discovers at crime scenes as he hunts for a serial killer:

novel writing timeline

But timelines can also be used for so much more, like charting a character’s backstory wounds to better understand why they fear Abandonment:

novel writing timeline

Or, as a way to crystallize a character’s motivation in your mind, drawing right from the Character Motivation Thesaurus entries:

novel writing timeline

Timelines are also great for grouping objects or places and the important details associated with them, especially when you’ll need to source this information throughout the story. This was my big problem!

Here it is helping me keep track of the special powers of sacred gemstones in one of my stories:

novel writing timeline

Maybe you plot using Save The Cat , or you’re a bit of a note card plotter like Michael Crichton and like to write down story events and then play around the order. Timelines work really great for this because all the boxes are “drag-able,” so you can test out different scenarios by moving things around:

novel writing timeline

Honestly, I could probably come up with a million ways to use this tool, but I think you get the gist. If you want to see more ideas of what can be tracked and organized using a timeline, there’s a list here . Between this and the Worldbuilding tool , planning story details and keeping it all organized has never been easier.

Want to give the timeline tool a whirl?

You can find it at One Stop for Writers, along with a ton of other writing resources. We have a FREE TRIAL, too!

Do you ever create timelines to help you keep your story organized? What types of things do you track? Let me know in the comments!

SaveSave Save


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers , a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.

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Reader Interactions

novel writing timeline

May 28, 2018 at 3:24 am

Hey Angela, what an awesome idea. In the stories that I’ve worked on, I’ve always had a feeling of a huge gap between the research and the first draft.

This software sums up the issues and provides a fantastic solution that will help me organize my ideas tremendously.

It makes so much more sense to layout the information as such and build visual around it than box everything and then attempt to fill the draft at the whims of the structure.

novel writing timeline

May 28, 2018 at 1:50 pm

I hope you find it helpful. i think with the right tools we can shave off so much of the learning curve because we learn to write fiction faster and stronger right out the gate. Thanks for leaving a comment! 🙂

novel writing timeline

April 10, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Great article. The software is similar to storyboards. From my background as an animator, when doing the timeline, I wrote out blurbs of the scenes on about 50 note cards with slight detail. And then tacked them to wall so the whole story was in front of me at once. This way I could get a sense of the pacing flow too. Most important for me was being able to switch scenes around if needed. Being able to do this physically with actual tactile paper made me think through the decisions with more depth, but that’s me. Thanks again and glad I discovered your site!

April 10, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Yes very similar. I like the ability to switch scenes around also. The first time I did it was with physical note cards, but this is so much handier. 🙂 But I do know what you mean about the tactile component–I feel that way about resource writing craft books. I am able to digest the teachings more by holding the book and marking a spot if need be, but it isn’t the same with an ecopy.

novel writing timeline

April 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

Timelines is definitely my preference! It helps everything, I think 🙂 Plotting, pacing, character arc, etc. I have software that—when I finally get to writing my novels—has a timeline feature 🙂

April 8, 2017 at 11:05 am

That’s perfect Donna! I definitely love the versatility of using them. 🙂

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 6:51 pm

I once created a sequence of action scenes where timing of events had to be accurate, often down to the second, for about 2 hours. I couldn’t have done that without a timeline.

April 6, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Holy cow–that sounds like a huge challenge–good for you!

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Just call me Graphic Organizer Girl! I not only use timelines but I save them. More than once I have been searching for a particular bit of information or data and find it on my lovely timeline. Oh, and I also date every single paper on which I write because you never know…

I’m so glad you shared this article; it’s very informative and helpful. May you have a very lovely day.

April 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Hi Sharon! I am like you–I keep everything. But this is why timelines I think is so vital for me–it will help me organize those details I just can’t lose track of. Happy you found the article helpful. 🙂

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 5:45 pm

This is fabulous, Angela. I can’t wait to use it!!

April 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm

I hope you find it as helpful as I have! The possibilities are endless. 🙂

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

I’ve been sold on Plotting! I’m trying my first story on plotting, organization of details, worldbuilding logic, etc. It takes time, but I think in the long run, and in the end, it’s worth it!

April 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm

I agree, it is so worth it. I am so glad I have evolved my writing to include more up front planning. 🙂

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Hi Angela. That does look like a cool tool. I’m all for inviting the left brain to the writing party.

I appreciate your devotion to the teaching of storytelling craft, and you may be interested to know that I’ve again mentioned you and Becca in my latest blog post . I suggest that you may be saving lives–and I mean it.

April 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm

I just finished the article–some very good food for thought. At least writers now have support and access to what they need–I can’t imagine how dark the dark days would have been for writers of the past. This is why we should celebrate them all, known or not, for following a passion that many around them didn’t understand or support. 😉

novel writing timeline

April 6, 2017 at 11:49 am

As an unapologetic plotter, I use timelines often. My current WIP involves two hi-tech government projects in two timelines. I think I’m going to parallel plot it, in which timelines are a necessity.

April 6, 2017 at 11:56 am

Unapologetic–I agree! There are just so many things to plan out when you write, and some novels are more complicated than others. If you mess something up (get the timeline of events wrong, mess in a detail, break the worldbuilding logic, etc.) the reader will be completely pulled out of the story. Hurray for us plotters and planners!

[…] It should have the facility to keep notes about your characters, events and track your story timeline. […]

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How to write a novel with dual timelines

Vanessa gebbie: 'your voice, your stories and how you tell them, are just as important as anyone else’s', steph vizard: 'competitions can be a great way to work to deadlines and serve as motivation to push your work forward', by ella berman, 1st oct 2020.

Ella Berman  studied on one of our three-month  novel-writing courses in 2016. Her debut novel  The Comeback was published by Berkley in August this year and has been well-received – it was also selected as an August fiction pick for NBC's Today Show .

Read on to find out what tips and tricks Ella used to write this compelling novel with dual timelines set in the past and present. ..

As soon as I had the idea for The Comeback , I knew that I would be writing two timelines. There was a big split between Grace Hyde , the precocious teenager auditioning for her first movie role at school in North London, and Grace Turner , Hollywood actress gone off the rails, and shifting between the past and the present was my way of bridging this gap.

Dual timelines can be tricky to navigate but they can also do a lot of work – revealing an origin story, adding humanity to a character or emotional resonance to a plot, weaving together generations, even revealing a plot twist or the identity of a killer. Many of my favourite books involve timelines that shift between the past and the present, and it can add so much to a story when done well.

Here are seven things I learned about approaching dual timelines while writing The Comeback .

Don’t be afraid to ‘waste’ some words.

Unravel your character’s history in the way that works for you. The present version of Grace came to me nearly fully-formed – she is prickly, jaded, and has given up the burden of emotional labour and people-pleasing. I instantly wanted to find out more about her so, as strange as it may sound, one of the first things I did was let Grace talk to me. I wrote choppy snippets of dialogue and various unchronological scenes until I uncovered Grace’s past - the crux of the story. Not everything I wrote ended up going in the final book (or even in the first draft), but it all went on to shape the character of Grace. None of her back story was wasted.

Don’t reveal too much too soon.

A well-timed reveal is everything. Grace’s behaviour can be frustrating at the start of the book, but as her back story unravels, I hope that it becomes apparent why she is the way she is. I didn’t reveal anything too quickly as this isn’t how it works in real life - we have to work to get to know someone, peeling back the many layers they project first. I wanted the reader to feel intrigued by this person, maybe even protective of her, even before they knew what had happened to her. This is true of most books with a dual timeline – well-paced flashbacks should add tension and emotional resonance to the rest of the novel.

But equally, don’t go too slow.

Don’t underestimate the reader! There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what’s going to happen next, but having to wait three more chapters for it to (slowly, painfully) be revealed. Each flashback should reveal something new about the character or plot, otherwise the book could start to drag, and your reader may lose interest.

Don’t rely too much on exposition – ‘ show don’t tell’ .

It’s an overused adage (and one I occasionally ignore), however I think there can be a tendency to rush through scenes from the past in order to expose their relevance in the present storyline. When I was tackling a flashback scene, I found that, more often than not, I would frantically write a couple of paragraphs that described what had happened to Grace, without any real sense of time, place or dialogue. Once I slowed down, I was able to flesh out the scenes so that the reader feels as though they are there for the pivotal moments in Grace’s life, as opposed to just seeing them through the lens of her current perspective.

Make both timelines as riveting as each other.

This might seem obvious, but it’s so important for the past timeline to be just as compelling as the present timeline. The present timeline will often be inherently interesting in that the outcome isn’t determined yet, so we need the past to add something significant to the story. Each reveal should contain a gem that adds to the interpretation of events in the present, ideally in the exact right place. Don’t be repetitive.

Try to weave the timelines together as seamlessly as possible.

In the same way that flipping between POV’s can sometimes feel disjointed or abrupt, it’s important to make the transitions between timelines as natural and fluid as possible. In The Comeback, something in Grace’s present life would trigger a past memory. This both highlighted the intrusive nature of Grace’s memories as a result of her PTSD, but it also helped to make the story feel less fragmented. I found that even one leading sentence at the end of a chapter could help to signify that we were about to dip back into her past. The positioning of each timeline jump is a balancing act, and one that can take a few edits and read-throughs to nail. The important thing is to have the back story clear in your mind so that you can move the flashbacks around as you edit.

Don’t hang on to the past.

Bring the focus back to the present as soon as the reader has all the information they need. Grace’s flashbacks stop before the halfway point because this is when Grace’s mindset and behaviour begin to shift towards the future. By this point, I felt like the reader had all of the information they needed, and that any more would only cause the story to drag. This exact point will be different for every book, but there does need to be a moment when the past and the present collide in whatever way you had planned.

Pick up a copy of The Comeback .

The Pen Company Blog

How the creation of timelines can help you plot a novel

novel writing timeline

When it comes to writing a story, it can be easy to become distracted from your original plan or to get confused about what should happen when.

This is a common problem amongst writers and can result in a story that either doesn’t make sense or isn’t as strong as it could have been.

A timeline can help you unleash your story’s full potential and this blog post is here to show you how.

What is a timeline?

A story timeline is a line on which you plot all of the significant events in your story. It doesn’t need to be a physical line — the layout can be whatever works for you. You may wish to create your own, or there are templates you can download from the internet.

Alongside story timelines, you can also create character timelines, chapter timelines, and so on. Experiment and see which work best for you and your writing style.

Why is a timeline helpful for writing a novel?

Some writers can sit down, write, and produce something that makes sense, but most will struggle when it comes to the details unless they are highly organised.

A story timeline can help you organise the overall novel, while further timelines can help you to keep on top of each character and other aspects of the plot — for example, the backstory of why your protagonist has a particular character trait or a pivotal moment that changed one of your characters lives forever.

You might want to plan each timeline out with a pen and paper before moving to a digital or printed version — or, like many writers, you may wish to stick with the pen and paper.

Post-it notes on a wall can be a fun way of tackling a timeline.

A whiteboard and markers can also work well as this allows for changes to be made quickly and easily.

Others reach for index cards for every aspect of the story — characters, events, and so on — and move them around on a flat surface when required. This method doesn’t suit everyone, though.

If you’d like to go digital, a spreadsheet can be useful. Otherwise, you may find an app that does the trick.

a man writing a story using his laptop and notepad

Questions that can help you produce a timeline

To get you started with your story timeline, you may want to consider the following points:

  • How old are your characters when the story begins?
  • Where are your characters when the story begins?
  • What event occurs at the beginning of the story?
  • What are your goals for each of the main characters?
  • Who are your supporting characters?
  • How old are your characters when the story ends?
  • Where does the story end?
  • What event occurs at the end of the story?

It is important to remember that your story doesn’t need to be set over several years to be long in length; you can write an entire novel on the events of one week if you wish. In fact, there’s a list of 15 novels that take place in a single day .

How do you keep on top of your interweaving stories, characters and times? Let us know in the comments below.

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Last updated on Feb 21, 2022

How Long Does It Take To Write a Book?

Of all the questions that arise when you're learning how to write a book for the first time, the most pressing of all might be: just how long does it take to write a book? After all, you wouldn’t embark on a road trip without knowing how many hours you’d be in the car. It’s only natural to want to have a timeline in mind for this journey, too!

To that end, we’ve created this post all about how long it takes to write a book, including typical figures and factors to consider when adjusting your expectations. And for those who want to speed things up, we have actionable tips to help you shorten your writing time and get that manuscript done!  Now, since time is of the essence, let’s begin.

How long does it take to write a book?

Based on data from a 2021 survey Reedsy conducted, it takes most authors six months to a year to write a book. A writer's timeline depends on the genre of the novel, the word count of the story, the amount of research you do, and the time you spend editing the completed draft. 

Of course, every author is different, and there are famously wild outliers from the range above. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks, whereas The Catcher in the Rye took J.D. Salinger 10 years to finish! (Though to be fair, he was pretty busy fighting in World War II at the time.) Even a single author may have totally different timelines for different books — for example, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks, while David Copperfield took him over a year.

All this is to say that there is no wrong amount of time to write a book. If you manage to write all day, every day, maybe it takes less than a month! Or if you’re meticulously constructing a thousand-page historical fiction novel, it might take an entire decade. But if you’re writing a typical novel ( 50,000 words or more ) on a typical schedule (a few hours of writing per week), you’ll likely fall somewhere in that 6-to-12-month range.

novel writing timeline


How to Write a Novel

Author and ghostwriter Tom Bromley will guide you from page 1 to the finish line.

How long does it take to write a children’s book?

We’ll include the caveat here that writing a children’s book does take less time than writing a full-length novel. Though one can’t underestimate the degree of care and effort that goes into writing for kids , the fact of the matter is, their books are shorter and therefore less time-consuming to create.

Here’s how long it takes to write children’s books, on average:

  • Picture books (500-1,000 words) — 1-2 weeks
  • Early reader books (1,000-2,500 words) — up to a month
  • Chapter books (10,000-15,000 words) — 1-3 months
  • Middle-grade novels (25,000+ words) — 3-6 months

Keep in mind that with a kids’ book, you’ll probably spend more time thinking about the story than actually writing it. This is especially true for picture books and early reader books, which need strong concepts behind them in order to sell! While there may only be 500 words in a picture book, every single word needs to count — so don’t assume it will be easy just because the writing time is relatively short.

How much should you write per day?

The other burning question when it comes to writing timelines is: how much should you actually be writing every day? While we can’t give a universal decree, we’d suggest that beginners aim for 3-4 writing sessions per week, at around 500 words per session.

How did we conjure up with these session and word count goals ? Well, based on our collective experience and testimony from other writers , 500 words/session seems to be the perfect balance of substantial and manageable: enough to make progress without getting too overwhelmed.

Indeed, many writers advocate not just 500 words per session, but 500 words every single day. While you might work up to this eventually — and if you’ve had lots of writing practice, you may already be there! — we still recommend starting off fairly easy with 3-4 sessions a week. Once you’ve got this schedule down pat, you can move onto more frequent sessions and higher word count goals. In the meantime, we have some calculations to help you along.

Here’s how long it takes to write a book based on our daily writing guidelines:

  • 50,000-word book — 5-8 months
  • 75,000-word book — 8-12 months
  • 100,000-word book — 1-1.5 years
  • 125,000-word book or more — 1.5+ years
PS. Curious about average word counts in your genre? Check out this post!

How many pages is 500 words?

In a standard word processor, 500 words = 1 single-spaced page or 2 double-spaced pages. However, in a book, it’s about 1.25-1.5 pages.

So if you’d prefer to think in terms of pages rather than words, try to write about 5-10 book pages per week. Most people stick to word count-based goals for convenience’s sake — otherwise you’ll have to translate your word processor pages into “book pages” every time. But if you think tangibly tracking your pages will help, you can always write on the Reedsy Book Editor , which automatically formats your book as you go.

Should you do NaNoWriMo?

If you’re hoping to get a first draft done ASAP, you might consider participating in NaNoWriMo — an annual event during which writers attempt to complete a 50,000-word novel in a month. NaNoWriMo can be a great incentive to write quickly, and the NaNo community is an amazing source of advice and support. If you can handle the intensity, then by all means, go for it!

However, note that NaNoWriMo is designed to help you write more , not better. Many NaNoWriMo winners — especially first-timers — find themselves doing extensive rewrites and edits in the months that follow, because the first draft is usually a hot mess.

This may not matter to you if your first priority is getting words down on the page. But if you want to minimize the editing time ( and editing costs! ) on your book, you should probably skip NaNo for the time being.

novel writing timeline

Tips to cut your writing time in half

Speaking of minimizing, we certainly wouldn’t leave you without a repertoire of time-saving tips! If you follow all our advice, it’s definitely possible to write your book in just three to six months — essentially cutting the average writing time in half.

That said, it takes some serious discipline to get a book done that fast . Don’t set goals that you aren’t prepared to meet, lest you end up more discouraged than ever. But if a few months of sacrifice sounds like a worthy tradeoff for a finished manuscript , read on!

1. Work from an outline

As most experienced writers will know, the work always goes a lot faster when you outline first . For some, outlining will be second nature, while for others it’s like pulling teeth — especially if you’re a “pantser” who prefers to improvise as you go. But regardless of your natural inclination, if you want to cut down on writing time, outlining is the only way forward.

Now, your outline doesn’t have to be intensely detailed, nor is it impervious to change! You just need a framework so you don’t either a) write too much irrelevant content that later gets cut, or b) find yourself stuck on what should come next. Both these scenarios are massive time-wasters that can set you back weeks if you’re not careful.

So pantsers: suck it up and make an outline. It can be a standard chapter-by-chapter synopsis outline, a “mind map,” or a character-based plan. Whatever helps you stay organized, do it! An organized outline is absolutely paramount to reducing how long it takes to write a book.

2. Set deadlines and track your progress

Experienced writers will also know that having the outline isn’t enough. You'll still need a concrete plan for filling it out — that’s where deadlines and progress tracking come in.

You already know that your word count goals should be around 500 words per writing session, but how does this translate into chapter deadlines? Well, most chapters are 2,000 to 5,000 words long , so it should take you about 1-3 weeks per chapter when you’re first starting out.

novel writing timeline


The Reedsy Book Editor

Set goals, track progress, and establish your writing routine in our free app.

What you should really do is determine how long each of your chapters will be, and give yourself appropriate deadlines for each. For example, a short chapter can be completed in a week, whereas a meatier chapter with more important details may be closer to 2-3 weeks. Be honest about how much time it should take — don’t set a lazy three-week deadline for a 2,000-word chapter!

And how do you make sure you’re meeting the deadlines you set? Progress tracking! There are some great writing apps, like Ink On and Word Keeper , to help you keep track of your word count goals, time your sessions, and maintain summaries and stats for all projects.  You can also create a simple spreadsheet and keep track of your session times and WC milestones in there; again, whatever helps you stay organized!

novel writing timeline

How to Build a Solid Writing Routine

In 10 days, learn to change your habits to support your writing.

3. Find an accountability partner

Other than progress tracking, having a writing partner is probably the best thing you can do for your productivity. Indeed, those who have trouble staying accountable may find that another person is just the motivation they need.

That doesn’t mean it has to be someone you know IRL. Though it’s great to work together in person, you can always find a writing buddy (or several) through online writing communities and forums, which include people from all over the world. This may even be better than working with someone you know, because you’ll be more objective with each other: about goals, deadlines, and even feedback if you decide to swap manuscripts.

The key thing with a writing partner is to stay in constant contact. That way, if one of you falls off the writing wagon, the other one can provide a pep talk — and maybe some gentle guilt-tripping — to get them back on right away.

4. Never go more than two days without writing

Remember when we mentioned “long breaks” as one factor affecting your writing timeline? Well, it might sound obvious, but if you want to finish your book faster, don’t take breaks. Or at least, don’t take breaks for more than a day or two.

This is because, if you’re aiming to write a book in three to six months, you simply can’t afford it. Not only will you lose precious writing time, you’ll also lose the “flow” that you obtain after writing for several days in a row. Even a 24-hour break can wreak havoc on your creative sensibilities, so try to write at least a little bit every day! Remember: 100 words of “flow maintenance” is still better than nothing.

5. Get used to the “pressure cooker”

The truth is, if you’re trying to write a book in under six months, it’s going to get intense. Most writers have day jobs, many have families, and of course there’s the constant juggling of hobbies and social obligations. Cram in writing on top of that, and you might feel like your head is literally going to explode.

But don’t give up before you’ve even started! The first few weeks are the most painful, and after that — well, things don’t get easier , per se, but you grow accustomed to the pressure cooker. Believe it or not, it’s actually better to be busy; when you don’t have very much free time, you tend to build extremely efficient habits.

Still not sure you can do it? Well, perhaps this next section will inspire you…

How long did it take these famous authors to write their books?

We mentioned Kerouac, Salinger, and Dickens earlier, but here’s some more trivia about famous authors and how long it took to write their novels!

👦🏻 John Boyne took 3 days to write The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

🔥 Ray Bradbury took 2.5 weeks to write Fahrenheit 451

🔎 Arthur Conan Doyle took 3 weeks to write A Study in Scarlet

🧛 Stephenie Meyer took 3 months to write Twilight

🤴Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took 6 months to write The Little Prince

💔 Emily Brontë took 9 months to write Wuthering Heights

👒 Jane Austen took 10 months to write Pride and Prejudice

🌪️ L. Frank Baum took 1 year to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

🧟 Mary Shelley took 1 year to write Frankenstein

👻 Toni Morrison took 1.5 years to write Beloved

🍾 F. Scott Fitzgerald took 2.5 years to write The Great Gatsby

👩 Gillian Flynn took 3 years to write Gone Girl

⚔️ George R.R. Martin took 5 years to write A Game of Thrones

⚡J.K. Rowling took 6 years to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

🌬️ Margaret Mitchell took 10 years to write Gone With The Wind

💍 J.R.R. Tolkien took 16 years to write The Lord of the Rings

We’ll end with this: how long it takes to write a book is almost entirely dependent on you. If you want to finish it as soon as possible, the best thing you can do is start today! So get off the Internet, and get cracking on that manuscript.

Another way to speed up your writing time? Find a piece of writing software that lets you stay organized, leaving you free to do the important stuff: write!

2 responses

Harvey Stanbrough says:

28/09/2019 – 13:05

I'm flat flabbergasted. It's difficult to think of worse advice than is offered in this article. I don't consider myself "prolific," but with over 50 novels and novellas and almost 200 short stories in under 6 years (and making a good living), I would never offer advice like this.

↪️ Mystic replied:

29/10/2019 – 15:24

(and making a good living) You shouldn't need to be asking for people to financially support your blogs. Also, your Amazon bio reads like a washed up comedian routine. Dude, seriously, this wasn't a definitive guide. This was a motivational read if you will, with some good tips. Relax and allow us newbies find all the resources we can too help us along with the craft.

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