Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's the little things

In writing, as in life, it's often the little things that mean the most. When you're writing a series, it can be difficult to keep track of all the details you’ve already included in previous books. It's important to get "the little things" right because it can be disconcerting to readers to find that you've made a mistake on even a minor detail. We want our readers to trust us so we need to make sure we "get it right." So how do writers do it?

I can only speak for myself. Let me first say that I am a list maker. I’m a firm believer in writing down everything that I need to remember as opposed to storing it loosely in my head. I detest the “What is it I’m forgetting?” feeling and I try to avoid it at all costs. So, I make lists for everything! Groceries and miscellaneous items that I need to buy, appointments, errands, phone calls I want to return; you name it, I write it down.

As I began to write my second novel, I found myself having to constantly go back into my first book to check on various details. It was beginning to get on my nerves and I realized what the problem was; I needed a plan, a list. So, I developed Characters and Chronology, an outline of “facts” that I needed to remember. 

I started with my main character, Ann, and listed her physical description, her age and important events in her life which I had mentioned in Mixed Messages. I then went on do the same with each character. Eventually, I expanded the outline to include the “new” characters in my second novel, Unfinished Business. As I wrote Desperate Deeds and Mistaken Identity, I added that information to my list too. 

Now, as I work on plotting the fifth novel for my Malone Mystery series, I have all of the "facts" I need to create my chapter by chapter outline and then to proceed to write the book, which makes me very glad that I took the time to jot everything down. 

Are you a list maker? 

12 comments:

  1. Most writers of series eventually develop a system for keeping character facts straight. It's a vital part of the job and readers will soon remind you if you fail to abide by the character bible. Now, where the heck did I put that list?

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, John! Hope you find that list. LOL

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  2. Yes, I'm a list maker! Not only do I do it for my WIPs (and still sometimes make mistakes) but I keep diary lists: my daily meals (have done this for years), the books I read (also for years), reviews of those books, the books/short stories I want to write, the books I've published, the books/short stories I've started and on and on.

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    1. Wow, Pat! And I thought I was a list maker. You don't know how many times I've wished I'd kept a list of every book I've read. You're one smart (and organized) lady!

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  3. For series characters, I write and print out information describing each returning character in detail: physical description, backstory, history, etc. It helps. As John observes, it's a character bible.

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    1. I agree with you and John, Jacqueline. It is a character bible and of extreme importance, especially when you write a series.

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  4. I'm a list maker, too, but I keep losing the lists. I need to create a document on the computer that I can refer to. Actually, I did that once but somehow lost it in the process of installing a new computer. Good points, Pat, and I need to follow your lead.
    Marja McGraw

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    1. Marja, let's not even talk about installing a new computer. You know the week I've had trying to do just that. LOL
      My "Characters and Chronology" is a Word document and, to be on the safe side, I have a shortcut (icon) on my Desktop.

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  5. Not a list maker, sorry to say, and woe is me!(means a lot of go-backs and fix) Loved your post, and it is "The little things that matter!"

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    1. Thanks, Madeline! Well, I love your books so however you do it, you're doing something right!

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  6. I'm just getting around to starting my list as I begin my second book. I was startled to find how many things I'd forgotten already about some of my major characters--eye color, age, even the correct spelling of some names. If I get to four novels like you, Pat, without a list they'll have all evolved into Martians!

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    1. Allan,
      That's exactly what would've happened to my characters if I hadn't made my list. LOL

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