I read Seanan McGuire’s Patreon post the other day where a reader asked her about continuity in a series. The beginning of her response was “Oh, jeez. Canon: the bane of our existence.” This is a sentiment every series writer can relate to. Readers will pick out continuity errors faster than you could ever believe.
To manage all the details of your series, writers will create a living document to track the story as it progresses. I call it my Book Bible.
Funny story. In Unbreakable Storm (book 2 of my Darkest Storm Series), I wrote a line about Marcel putting a device in Tommy’s shoe. I 100% knew that had happened in the first book. My wife read Unbreakable Storm and didn’t catch the continuity error. My editor came back with a note that the incident never happened. I went back to get the page number because it most certainly did happen. I couldn’t find it because in the editing process for Storm Forged we removed it. I had worked on Storm Forged for six years and it had always been there. No longer. Oops. (Erin Penn my editor is fantastic and I’m blessed to have her, BTW).
To help with keeping track of the details of your series there are tools you can use to keep track of the characters, events, definitions etc. that apply to your series. Here’s a quick rundown on the tools that are available to writers. Since this is a Tech discussion I’m skipping physical notebooks as an option.
Old School Tech: Excel/Word
Most likely, you have these on your computer so they are free! Creating templates and character sheets are easy and you can share the files with virtually anyone. The downside of these is neither is great for organizing information and making it accessible for someone unfamiliar with the files. Sure you can use folders to organize documents or spreadsheets by type (i.e. characters, weapons etc.) but then you have to send out a whole group of files or share them on the cloud. dl
The Notebook Agenda
My first series bible for Darkest Storm was One Note. Scapple from Scrivener, is another example of a Notebook type application. These work great. You can place notes, rearrange them, add images, text, and even sound to the files. They can easily be searched and organized. You can even put pointers that link notes together for easier reference. For example if you have a Note that organizes vegetables available in your world, you can use pointers on your character sheets to show what they do and don’t like. Highly flexible and easy to use.
The downside is everyone who needs to use these files has to have the associated software. This means you have to buy a copy if you want to access these files. Mine worked great until I needed to send them to my editor and proofreader.
Enter Evernote (www.evernote.com) . This gives you all the functionality of the Notebook software, but allows you to share with anyone on the internet. With the mobile app you have access to all your information on your phone or tablet.
I use a lot of templates in Evernote which makes building repetitive notes easier to work with. This is the basic template I use for my convention scheduling. I create a new entry for each and fill it out. I have templates for characters and locations as well. You can also share these template with others.
The important piece to take away from this overview is to create a story bible early on and keep it up-to-date. In a 100,000 word book, the amount of information is impossible to keep up with and when you sell your novel, editors will want to see it. Creating a bible is time consuming but, you’ll be grateful for it when your story goes to editing!