Fixing Timelines

I’ve written a couple of posts about the timelining process that I have been going through with Songmaking timelines, and particularly documentary timelines. This post is about fixing the timeline once the information has been gathered.

The first thing I should say is that this is one component of the manuscript-fixing process. I started making the timeline after collecting first read comments in the revision plan for this draft. Some of those comments were about timing and sequencing issues, and as I have gone through the timeline creation process I have been collecting more of those things which are broken. These timing issues are their own category of comments.

Fixing timeline issues is about walking through the timing comments and correcting the inconsistencies.

Each comment is addressed with two sets of changes:

  1. fix the timeline
  2. fix the text

In this part of the process, the timeline is king – if the text disagrees with the timeline, it is the text that should change. Longer term, the priority of the text will be reasserted* but in this moment, the timeline is correct.

What surprised me a little as I worked through the timing remarks was that the text itself didn’t need to change as often as I had thought. In preparing the timeline, I found that some of the timing issues I observed were not inherent in the text. If my characters are working at their jobs on a Sunday or on the Fourth of July**, then that was an artifact of the timeline that is not reflected in the text. In those cases, shifting the timeline alone is often sufficient – the text doesn’t really need to be updated, because there was no explicit anchoring of the events to the day I’m trying to avoid.

There were a few text fixes, though, mostly around the order of events. If a character is acting in response to something which, now, hasn’t happened yet then I Need ot find an alternative trigger to instigate that action.

A larger output from this timeline fix were notes in my directed reading list, however. I will write about that next.

[*] one of the issues that pops up in software a lot is how and whether design documentation should be kept up to date, and this seems particularly problematic when it comes to diagrams. I spent the best part of a decade in my software career concerned with keeping design-level representations of a system consistent with the implementation of that system. It’s a hard problem.

[**] which is a significant holiday in the USA, for those who might not know***.

[***] did you know that the UK has no national day? I suppose this is because most national days seem to be celebrating the dawn of independence for the country, and mostly that independence was earned from the UK…

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