Shannon Stacey

Serial disorganization

Michelle asks:

I want to know, when you’re writing a series, how do you keep all the information straight. Do you have a journal where you write notes on each of the characters (ie from the Devlin group) and what they do, what they look like, whether they were shot or stabbed, etc. Or do you just keep referring back to the first book, which I assume would be a pain but… I know that JK Rowling built this whole world for HP and just had tons of info on it. I wondered if that was standard in series type work.

I listen to a lot of workshop tapes, seeing as how I’m an extreme introvert and won’t actually go to them in person, and the authors presenting usually give some sort of disclaimer: This is the method that works for me, so take anything that works for you and disregard the rest.

Here’s my disclaimer: This method doesn’t even work for me, so don’t do it. :lol:

I have to keep checking the previous books. What kind of gun did Alex carry? Did I mention Jack’s eye color? How long can pass between book 2 and book 3? Have I mentioned which ones can fly a helicopter? Stuff like that. It’s tedious, time-consuming and impractical.

What system do I WISH I used?

Well, there’s WritewayPro, which I have. I didn’t use it when I got it because I didn’t care for the word processing functions, but the organization capabilities are awesome. I still want to go back and cull all the tidbits on characters and such and plug it in.

But when push comes to shove, I’m hopelessly old-school and love me some pen and paper. Ideally I would have a DG 3-ring binder with dividers for each character. I don’t do character worksheets ahead of time, but I would have had a handy place to jot down pertinent details as I used them in the manuscript. Flip to Grace’s section, make a note of her weapon. Flip to Jack’s page, note that he’s afraid of the dark.

Not only would all those pesky continuity details be in one place, but when it came time for a secondary character to step up to the plate, he’d probably already have a decent character section in place.

So that’s what I’d recommend. A 3-ring binder divided up into characters, with a section for setting and a section for general plot notes. Portable, easy to flip through, and expandable.

2 comments to “Serial disorganization”

  1. Michelle
      · August 16th, 2007 at 1:31 pm · Link

    Good recommendations. Thanks Shannon! Very sensible, even if you don’t follow it yourself. :rofl:

  2. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · August 17th, 2007 at 8:25 pm · Link

    It’s a great idea, and one I need to do, but I don’t think I ever will because I just KNOW I will forget to put stuff in it, and then what good is it? There are wayyyy too many details I don’t know I need until I get to the next book (or the next).

    I DO keep a spreadsheet with a list of characters and some of their characteristics (though not appearance–I know, don’t ask me why, it’s stupid) and some other factors, which will help. But it’s not enough.

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