Writing a book – Planning your timeline

Not sure where to start your non-fiction book (or memoir)?  Start with a timeline and see where it takes you.

Timelines of the most effective and easiest ways to jog your memory and to clarify your choice of theme for your book.  At this starting point you may not know what you want to write about or where to start.

The following are questions you will want to answer:-

  • Why am I writing this book and what will I be using for?
  • What is the main theme?
  • What are the key principles?
  • What is my book about? (One paragraph)
  • What do I want the reader to do as a result of reading my book?

Time lines are a useful way to approach these questions.

  • Get a large sheet of paper and with a set of post it notes or coloured pens / pencils and put your date of birth at one end and todays date at another.
  • Next divide the paper up into decades (across the top – horizontally).
  • Start brainstorming, just do it randomly as a thought comes to mind put it down.
  • What memories come to mind or themes of those times?  What big events emerge for you? Did you marry in your twenties, divorce in thirties, go back to college?
  • What emotions are coming up for you?
  • When you feel that you have enough notes on the paper, stand back and review.
  • What were turning points?  Which decades gave birth to a new you?  Were there changes in places you lived, countries, towns?
  • What if any themes emerge?
  • How can you use your life’s timeline and turning points to create a brand busting book?

Can you start to see what your book might be about?  Don’t worry if not, keep coming back, the ‘story’ may not uncover itself for a while.  As you write about your life and experiences, more themes will emerge, until the one, that amazing aha moment raises it’s head and you will know.  Later in the book we come back to deciding what the story is really about.

Another way to tackle this is to use something like WORD or EXCEL.  Create 2 columns, one for the year and one for the event.  On completion print and put up somewhere so that you can see it when writing.

Use timelines for any important section, they are so easy to do and enable you to remember so much.

Your action plan

  • If you aren’t already journaling, get a journal and start capturing your ideas and thoughts around the book that you want to write.
  • Now think about how you will fit your life around your writing (yes that’s right fit life around writing, to hell with the dishes)
  • Create your timeline
  • Break it up into smaller chunks
  • Write about one of your chunks, pen to paper, don’t think, just write

When you are really stuck for any ideas for a book this is a great exercise.

6 Replies to “Writing a book – Planning your timeline”

  1. This is such a great exercise for a visual person (like me). I love the advice about reflecting and coming back to it – and having it be up in an area where you always see it, instead of hidden away in a notebook or somewhere less accessible.

  2. I think the post-it’s are a great tip – perhaps a different colour for each decade? I wouldn’t want my life described by 2 columns in a spreadsheet or Word document, though perhaps I could cope with PowerPoint or a mind map.

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