Keeping Up to Date

Hi, SE Readers. Joan with you today. In recent weeks, Staci has shared some of the tools she uses when plotting a new novel. I’m more of a panster rather than a plotter, but there is one tool I’ve come to rely on for writing.

A calendar.

When I wrote my first novel, not only did I have to keep track of events in the current timeline of the story, but also ones that occurred years earlier. Because the two timelines were almost exactly twenty years apart, it was easy to become confused.

Simple solution? An Excel or Word calendar template.

Here’s an example from Unseen Motives. (This is a Word template.)

You can see where I’ve made notes on various days. While I don’t record everything, I do note the more crucial elements and important events.

My second and third novels had tighter timelines (they were spread out over a few months and didn’t have an inciting event that occurred years earlier. However, I still found calendars useful. For these novels, I used Excel templates.

I’m aware than many of you may not use Excel. I not only use it at work, I use spreadsheets frequently at home. Using a pre-built template makes it easy to create a monthly or annual calendar with tabs (spreadsheets) for each month.

Don’t use Microsoft Office products? Google Docs also has a number of calendar templates, but I find them harder to use and not as advanced. With an Excel template, you plug in the year and it does the work.

Recently, I began a calendar for my personal blog. Again, I used an Excel template to create a yearly calendar. As I have topic ideas, I type them into the calendar. It’s a handy, quick reference for when I write the actual post. As you can see, I decided to use a more colorful template.


Do you use calendars to keep up with your story timelines or blogging schedule? If not what tools do you use? Share in the comments.

35 thoughts on “Keeping Up to Date

  1. Calendars are an interesting idea. I’ve never thought of that. I use Excel spreadsheets for lots of various aspects of writing, such as keeping up with character names, character arcs, and basic plot points, but never thought of putting it onto an actual calendar. It looks like a fun thing to try! Thanks for sharing, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, had to keep calendars. Books two and three of my series happened simultaneously, so I had to make sure that I knew exactly when the events happened in book two so that I could fill in separate events in book three. Then, books four and 5 had to take place by one of the character’s birthdays, so I then had to make sure that the events in my plot could all fit before that date.

    On top of that, my characters age differently than humans. From birth to 18, they aged like humans. After 18, they aged one year for every 10 human years. So, I had to create a separate timeline to keep track of the age of each character versus how many human years they’d been alive. Without calendars and a timeline, I would have totally messed that up. Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would definitely need calendars to keep up with that. I had to refer back to my first novel several times when writing the third because I referenced events that previously happened. Having those calendars helped.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I also take notes, especially when I need to brainstorm. There’s something about writing with pen and paper vs. typing into a word processor. I’ve also purchased a journal for my next project and have already begun brainstorming for my next novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love excel and I often find myself creating a spreadsheet to track countless things I really do want to count… like the number of words I have written. I am proficient with excel ( thanks to the dreaded day job) but it has helped numerous times.

    Calendars in excel are great. Use the find feature, and you save yourself hours of flipping through pages of stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point! Absolutely use the search feature. I’ve also created a spreadsheet to keep up with my word count. Already have one ready for 2020.

      I love Excel and have also learned a lot from using it on my day job. Recently learned some more complex formulas. Not that I’ll ever use them at home! LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joan, I am more of a pantser than plotter, i consider myself a plotster. I never thought of using an online calendar. It’s a great idea. I use both Word and Excel for my day job, and I believe that the Excel calendar will be the best for me.

    Great idea.

    Good luck in NaNo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I couldn’t write a single book without a calendar of some sort, especially the ones with dual timelines. I usually go to a site that lets you print monthly or yearly calendars for any year, but I never thought about trying Excel. (I’ve noticed you can get calendar templates from Word, too). I’m thinking I’d really like to be able to type my events instead of scribbling & then trying to figure out what I wrote later. 😯 I’m going to check Excel today!

    The book I’m writing now has a backstory that gets very confusing at times. For some reason, because it’s only a year earlier than the main story, it’s the hardest one I’ve tried. Definitely going to check this out, Joan. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Excel it is, then. I know nothing about either one, so unless I can’t figure out how to set it up, I’ll go straight to Excel. I have a great event calendar that I downloaded and keep open in the taskbar, and I use that for everything that’s going on each day, including weekly blog features and regular appointments, etc. But I like the look of your Excel example, and that it holds the entire year for you. THAT could be super helpful. Gonna give it a whirl this afternoon. Thanks, Joan! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW! I really like this idea, Joan!

    I’m always tracking timelines in my novels, often dual timelines centuries apart. I usually jot those notes by hand or make line entries in a Word doc. I never thought to use an actual calendar. It gives you such a wonderful overview at a glance. I’m going to try to apply this principal as I plot for NaNo and my WIP. I never realized you could do calendars in Excel. I love how you can switch between months easily. Brilliant idea!!

    When I had a regular blogging schedule, I’d buy a calendar book every year to list topics as I planned them. Again, I never thought about having it on a computer.
    Fabulous post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Mae. I love the Excel Calendar templates. They’re so easy to use. I’ve modified the one I use for my blog only to wrap text within a cell, but all you have to do is plug in the year and tell it if you want the week to begin on Sunday or Monday. The formulas are already built-in. And yes, I’m going to be using one as I plot (yeah, I have to smile about the two of us plotting) for NaNo. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Great idea, Joan. I haven’t used calanders yet, but this is now another tool I’ll put in my drawer for later use. This would have helped while writing FALLOUT with its multiple timelines, lol. Instead, I used an outline plan and noted the timeline on that. Like you, I’m a pantser, but FALLOUT and my current WIP both have outlines–a brief sentence or two on what each section/chapter covers and its place in the time continuum. Reblogged this on:

    Liked by 3 people

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