Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Timeline With Microsoft Visio



Ed downloaded Microsoft Visio for me today so I could play with its timeline template. For years I've been looking for something that would help me map out the timeline of my story world which now streaches from the Civil War era to five or ten years into the future (currently that happens to be 2012). I was disappointed that Visio wouldn't let me insert dates preceding December 31, 1899. I get that it was created as a project organizing tool but still. Where is their imagination as to other uses. Timelines are huge in schools for teaching history.

Since I couldn't put in dates preceding the 1900s, I chose to start with the birth of Faye's grandmother in 1914. I took it to the end of 2001. The top pic is a screenshot of the entire timeline but the text is unreadable having been reduced to chicken scratches. It still gives a sense of the scope though.



Above is a shot of the timeline zoomed in on the decades of the 1980s and early 1990s. There was a string of births around then depicted by the red diamonds. Two actual historical events are marked by the black squares. And three significant plot events are indicated by the aqua triangles.



Here is a section representing about two years that is so dense in plot points that it is nearly useless as tool for decreasing my confusion. And I don't even have all the plot, birth and historical elements included yet. Three separate stories/novels are represented here and at least two more have significant events during the same two years.

So I'll probably have to create a separate file and make a timeline covering the ten years from 1993 to 2003 so that the elements can be unmingled.

I spent about three hours putting this together from my notes. Ed teases me that I spend more time fiddling with my notes and 'polishing my tools' then I do writing the stories. I used to feel embarrassed at that charge as though there was something unsavory about it. As though it was an accusation of slacking off, dawdling, avoiding the hard work and so forth.

But after my experience last week of getting nearly zero words after four days of intense effort at making myself sit in front of the keyboard while depriving myself of as many distractions as possible, I have reaffirmed my sense that I have specific work-environment needs to stimulate creativity and productivity that can look from the outside like goofing off.

Shuffling through my notes and reorganizing them in a graphically visual fashion has served to stimulate my imagination and thoughts and make me feel more than ready to re-engage with my story world. I even felt the urge several times to start typing into my notes but resisted it because my focus was in getting this posted and so I needed to get the timeline completed. But now that I know that playing with the timeline stimulates such urges, I will make use of that in the future. The same thing happened when I created the mindmap last fall while prepping for Nano.

0 tell me a story:

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