I have been playing around with Aeon Timeline for a few days now because I’m working on two different projects that are intensely time-specific, in two totally different ways. The first is a detective series I’ve wanted to write for ages, and I’m seriously concerned that after five years, I might not be able to track what the hell I said happened five books ago, and I’m trying to be nice to Future Me who really is not going to want to go back and sort that shit out. The second is a book in which way too much stuff happens all at once, which I hope I can turn into a MG masterpiece, or at least salable MG manuscript.
I really like some of the features I’ve already found on Aeon Timeline, like the ability to build custom calendars, but I’m trepidatious, because every new technology I try makes me feel like I’m seeing my own work in a different way. A shift in perspective is always a big creative boost for me. So I’m going to go through the whole trial before I commit to this one. I often find these niche programs more frustrating than they’re worth once I get past the initial elation of a shiny new program to play in.
I have so much optimism when it comes to technology and fiction, though I do strongly believe that the ways in which we write–on a laptop, vs by hand, for example–shape the product we create. It just makes sense, intuitively. That said, I also think that writers tend to ally themselves with particular processes, and they float towards the technologies that enable them to write in ways that are to them comfortable. So saying that technology impacts writing is really just saying that writers impact writing through technology.
I’m a very loyal Scrivener user. However, there are parts of my process that I wish were easier to “prop up” with technology. Timelines are a big part of that, but what I’m still hoping for in fiction just hasn’t been built, perhaps because it would be so custom to me. For example: possibly based on the metaphor of GTD, I keep lists of “open loops” that I need to close later in the story. I have, in the past, used text analysis software to keep character language consistent. I track arcs, though again, it’s hard to track these when one scene or unit can/should play into multiple story elements. I am guilty of some of the gravest misuses of NVivo and Atlas.ti that have ever been attempted. And yet, I’ve never found quite what I’m looking for, because nothing really functions the way I think about the stuff that is story.
Aeon Timeline looks, on the surface at least, like it comes so damn close to what I’m looking for, but the learning curve is so high it’s hard to figure out if the potential is really there. I can see even just playing around with it how customizable it is, and I’m betting there’s a way to manipulate what they call properties and entities to do what I want. But, in the end, what I really want is something totally custom. For now, I’m going to invest a little time in learning Aeon. But later, I really do think I’d learn a lot about how I really think novels are plotted by trying to build a program that tracks everything I intuitively keep in my head while building a novel. It’s a project I will hopefully someday make time for. I’ve only been saying that since, you know, 2009, but who knows, maybe 2019 is the year.