Aeon Timeline: A Review

The authors, specifically Mary Robinette Kowal, at Writing Excuses mentioned Aeon Timeline as useful for creating and tracking story plot points. I’ve been looking for something like this for years.

The only feature that Scrivener lacks is timeline functionality. Don’t misunderstand me, Scrivener is a game-changer for writers. For what it does (and it does a lot), it’s top shelf. But, I still needed to create timelines.

That fact was highlighted several months ago when a friend who writes historical fiction noticed that she needed her protagonist to travel by rail. Her problem that she noticed late in the revision process was that a bridge on the way to the destination had been destroyed beforehand.

This situation isn’t unique. I’ve written myself into plenty of holes. It can mean a few minutes of rewrite or a few days. The more complex the story the worse it can be.

I tried Aeon Timeline. It’s a free download for Mac or Windows to use on 20 separate days. Naturally, it’ll create timelines with events happening on certain dates. Further, it’ll create timelines without dates, i.e. Day 1, Day2, Day 3, etc. It’ll track to a chosen granularity, which means it’ll report event to the year, year/month, year/month/day, and even down to time, including seconds.

It also allows timelines to switch formats. For my novelette, Beware the Guardians, I knew I created an outline with dates of important events for my protagonist. These events ranged from birth, starting school, graduating, enlisting in the Navy, and leaving the Navy. And it also located when the Guardians appeared. All of these events occur before the my story begins, but I need to know when they occurred to tell the story properly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the printout, so I settled for placing my story’s outline in a timeline without dates (using Day 1, Day 2, etc.)

It worked extremely well, and I found a plot hole doing it. When I was nearly done, I remembered my protagonist’s events was in a computer file–I never printed it. I easily switched from a generic calendar to a date-specific calendar. It worked instantaneously and correctly.

It has additional features. Multiple timelines, Arcs, can be created in one file. I could see using this to track events by viewpoint character. Another way to track events by character is by Entities. Entities can be attached to events. Their interactions can then be viewed.

Unlike Scrivener, Aeon Timeline doesn’t automatically save changes. After years working without battery backups, I learned to save early and often, which works well here.

One feature I didn’t try, but the manual explains well, is that a new calendar system can be developed. For fantasy writers, I imagine this could be invaluable.

I highly recommend this software. Try it before buying it. Also, watch the demo videos on the website before using it–they’re invaluable in getting started.

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