If you’re writing a book about your life, creating a timeline is an essential step. While your story is based on your own experiences, it’s easy to forget important moments — unless it is all laid out clearly in front of you. A timeline provides clarity and structure for your life story.
However, creating a timeline doesn’t mean you have to tell your story chronologically – in fact, it can make it easier to get creative with the structure of your book. What you’ll come away with is a complete overview – making it easier to identify themes. A timeline establishes your content, structure and theme in a clear and concise format, ready for you to start writing your book about your life.
To help, we’ve created a timeline template for you to fill in. Download it here – and then follow the steps below.
Step 1: Brainstorm
First of all, start by writing down all the important moments in your story. We recommend talking to your friends and family, which will give you a different perspective, and bring up memories you may have forgotten. Additionally, if you’re feeling stuck, have a browse through our handy memory prompts to get you started.
Step 2: Fill your timeline template with all the key events in your list
Secondly, filter through your gathered information, highlighting key events that you want to include in your life story. These memories can be your fondest, your funniest and most uplifting. Alternatively, they could be your most difficult, challenging or upsetting. Choose a start and end point and fill in everything in between. If you can remember exact dates, that’s great – but getting things roughly in the right order will still be useful.
Try splitting the timeline into sections. We suggest childhood, adolescence, adulthood and those golden years. You may find it easier to compartmentalise your memories this way, and pick out the ones that are most significant.
Step 3: Reflect on the results, and fill in the gaps
Now you have the ‘tent-poles’ of your timeline in place, it’s time to fill in the gaps and above all, think about what your results mean. To connect your key events, add in any other relevant or interesting details that you want to include.
All done? Congratulations, you’ve taken a big step towards telling your story. Your key events will help you to inform your decisions regarding chapters and structure, potentially becoming your chapter titles, with the details becoming your chapter content.
Want to take it to the next level? If so – ask yourself, how do you feel about what’s in front of you? Are any themes starting to emerge? Try labelling or highlighting your timeline to bring out the common threads.