In a recent post in The Writer's Alley, Krista Phillips talked about using software such as Microsoft's Outlook and Excel to keep track of the timeline in your novel. Her reason was to make sure you don't overlook an important event such as Independence Day as you are writing.
I used an Excel spreadsheet while writing Where Love Once Lived for a simple scene summary worksheet. The fields included:
• Chapter number
• Scene number (computed after scene 1)
• Number of pages in chapter
• Number of words in scene
• Total number of words (computed)
• Day of week (computed)
• Scene Goal
This worked fine for Where Love Once Lived, but when I started working on Vengeance Is Mine, I ran into trouble trying to line up events with the calendar. I had my amateur detectives finding clues hidden in a field in Massachusetts that was more than likely under five or six feet of snow at the time. As it is, they spend Christmas day in the Galveston jail. I decided I liked that and made use of it in a later scene.
To simplify change, I only enter the date of scene 1. The rest are computed. That way, I can modify the starting date until all the scenes fall into place. So, I've added a new field before Date called Days. It is the number of days from scene 1 to the current scene. With this information I can easily compute the date and day of week of the scene.
It's not easy to explain worksheets in text, so if you're interested, I'll be glad to send you a copy of what I ended up which includes the formulas.