Raise your hand if you’re writing a series, or a set of linked novels. Keeping everything organized for one book can be hard enough, but how can you possibly organize information for multiple books?
You don’t even know what you’ll need to reference again! It’s hard to choose what’s important, so it’s best to assume you’ll need everything. Still, it needs to be laid out in a way that makes each detail easy to find.
I work in Scrivener, an awesome program that used to be available only for Mac, but has recently become available for PCs as well. Because Scrivener uses a tree-type organizational system, always visible down the left side of the monitor, it’s easy to move around within the program to find Jack’s sister’s name, then shift back to what you were doing . (If you want a tutorial on how I use Scrivener, that’s a different post. Let me know!)
But, what to save and organize for future reference?
1. Maps of your story world, whether its a fantasy world, a real city, or a fictional Earth town. Include high level stuff as well as details such as turning left out the driveway to go downtown.
2. Sketches of the settings/blueprints of buildings that you could conceivably use again. If in doubt, leave it in.
3. Sketches or jpg images of previous characters who may or may not return for a visit (or notes as to what they look like).
4. Mind-maps that you’ve done for characters, plot, whatever.
5. Personality info on all previous characters, whether major characters or walk-throughs. Who knows when a random waitress or taxi driver may turn out to be important in a future story?
6. Complete list of Every Single Named Character, pet, street, town, college, etc. Everything you’ve bothered to name in a previous book needs to be recorded. Maybe you won’t use that character or place again, but having the list will help ensure you don’t give the same name to someone/someplace else.
7. Any research you’ve done, whether you currently see a further use for it or not.
Have I left anything out? I hope not. What I want to get at is this: If you needed it for one book, assume you’ll keep needing it. If your organizational system is set up appropriately, the things you end up not needing won’t be in your way.
While brainstorming/ plotting/ writing, when I come across any specific information (Mr. Graysen arrived in a white pickup), I jot it down. No detail is too small to note, too insignificant to save.
Why is this all coming to mind right now? My agent has Domino’s Game, first book in a proposed series tentatively called Green Acres. I wrote and polished Domino’s Game last year, and had made some notes (in my Scrivener file) with ideas for the second and third books in the series. The past few days I’ve been gleaning all the information I’d filed, as noted above, as I brainstorm the second book–with occasional thoughts on the third book, which I’ve put in the proper place in the series folder.
I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am with how detailed and organized I kept the over all folder in 2010! A few things changed completely during writing and revision, so I’ve revised the filed notes appropriately.
I’m having so much fun revisiting my characters and seeing what all I can put in the way of them reaching their goals in the upcoming stories as well!