Time lines are useful things. They can help you keep the timing of your story going. I’ve used them to plot the story in broad terms. This is something like saying this happens then this happens and so on. It keeps me from saying, this happened, but that happened first and this happened too. It’s good to know what I need to have in my plot for the story to work. That’s why I’m a plantser. I outline at a very broad level and then I pants it for the details. I know some people write with nothing written down. I’ve tried that. I ended up with a mess. I do better if I have some basic idea of what needs to happen. Knowing when things should happen is even more helpful.
I can hit all the plot points and fill in the spaces with details off the cuff. That’s my process. I have Aeon Timeline software that allows me to enter the various events that need to happen in my story. It keeps track of when things happen and lets me concentrate on the what rather than the when, except in a basic way. I need to know the timing of things to do the time line as I should. So I do the time line, then look it over for continuity and ease of transition. Then I turn it into my broad outline and put it where I can reference it. Once I have that done, I can fill in the blanks where my characters will be doing things not related to the plot as much. I can then reel them back to the plot as needed.
I know plotting isn’t for everyone. It works for me up to a point. I like to know where my story is going. Then I turn my characters loose to find their way from point to point in the story and that is where I wing it. That’s what works for me. You may find your stories evolve in a different manner.
The time line helps me keep track of the timing of the events in the story. Having an idea of how time flows in the story helps me to ensure that no one pops out of the story. The last thing I want a reader to do is pop out and say, “hang on, didn’t that happen before the previous scene?” I don’t get lost in the morass of plot and thus neither do my readers. That’s my hope anyway. The story should flow as though in real time. It should feel as though what’s happening to the characters is happing for the reader. Also, the reader shouldn’t get messed up when things occur.