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Writing a Book With Two POVs and a Linear Timeline

I've never been one to write an "easy" story.

Even the project I'm working on now, one I began almost four years ago, was one of complex construction. Mainly, this book was made up of two side by side points of view. Two different characters told two different stories that only intertwined at crucial points throughout the plot. Before I even began, I knew that it would be a difficult story to write without causing mass confusion. 

I'd never written a story anything like this before (and even now, I'm editing to change one of the storylines completely), but I knew one thing:
     {My time-line could never back-peddle.}

This would prove an annoying decision, but one that drastically improved my story. Every story is different, but I can outline the logistics of what I did to make this linear timeline possible. 

First, decide your primary main character. With two stories, not just two perspectives on the same story, your story will appear to have two main characters. You must choose a single character to be the primary storyteller. This means that their narrations will take more than half of the total book, and that main character will appeal a little more to your target audience than your other POV. 

The easiest thing to do next is brainstorm the full plot of both points of view. I know for pantsters, this is going to be a tougher step. However, writing two storylines needs careful planning. Right now, don't worry about how they fit together. All you need to work on now is the most important plot elements of each storyline. 

Next, create a calender of events. Document the big plot elements where they HAVE to fit. Keep in mind that is prior to your first draft so things will change. Don't get discouraged. Then, fill in possible scenes trading stories chronologically. If you have a scene about breakfast with story A, story B must pick up sometime after breakfast. This will have to be the format throughout the entire book, so plan wisely. 

Then, write, write, and write. When you're finished your first draft, prepare to outline once again. 

I found it best to create a grid. 

After taking a break from my story and reading through the entire first draft, I documented what happened in which POV for each chapter. 

On the far left of my page, I wrote the chapter number. Next to that I left space to write the timeframe or time of day. The two large columns on the right were designated to each of my POVs, Jessica and Taylor. This format helped me go through my story again and record the events in order so I could look at the timeline of my story at a glance and identify flaws and moments when the timline is not continual. 

As you read through jot down when a chapter begins, when it happens during the day, and every time the POV switches back and forth. On my grid, I color coded it. Every time the color changes, the chapter changes. 

To read this chart, one has to follow the flow of the POVs. In short, my grid can show my story as scenes switching from Jessica to Taylor, Jessica, Taylor, Jessica, Taylor, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, Taylor, Jessica, Taylor, Taylor, etc. By looking at the details to the left, I can see how the flow through time in one straight line. 

Now, you have to fix any inconsistencies in the timeline. If a scene is out of place and causes the reader to back-peddle in time, now is the time to fix it. 

Lastly, edit small chunks at a time, using the grid as a guide. Obviously, this grid doesn't tell you elements of the story or characters that need editing, but it is a tool to help you edit without loosing your intricate timeline. By now, you realize that writing a linear timeline is a lot like creating a puzzle. Approach editing as taking one or two pieces out, editing them, and putting them back. Instead of dissembling all the pieces, editing all of them, and trying to piece them back together. 

Every story is different. Every story is going to need a different approach. Every story is going to need different editing. 

There are no hard fast rules. In fact, my story in this grid is no longer anything like it. I've decided to strip one POV and write a different plot to fit all the same places that last set of puzzle pieces left empty. Without this grid, editing would be torture, and my linear timeline would have been extremely difficult to maintain. 

Have you dared to write a challenging story? Have you written a linear story with two separate POVs? How did you do it? What  advice would you give?


  1. I'm writing a story in two POVs too. ^ ^ I'm doing simply by planning out which parts are told by each character, but I need to try the timeline concept. Thanks for the tips. ^ ^

    Stori Tori's Blog


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