♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
When writing a sequel or series with the same characters,
do you ever have to refer back to your first book because
you forgot what you wrote about a certain character?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
You’d think that when working with material that has been with you since you were a toddler, you might not need cheat sheets on the matter. However, that’s precisely why notes are so necessary. Humanity keeps written history in books because memory is faulty and things drop off. The whole purpose of writing anything down is to keep it straight and share it.
When I began penning the trilogy, 2013, I had already spent the majority of my life with the material swimming about my head. It started when I was a toddler. Dreams are notoriously unclear, and they don’t come every night. At least, they don’t come with title blocks or episode numbers to let the viewer know this is a continuation.
Decades passed before I started to surmise a pattern. Then, after a friend prompted me to keep a journal, the pattern became clear. In hindsight, there definitely was a story. Like a puzzle, I put it together in a way that made the most sense. Thus, I decided to write the screenplay. There was so much material, I felt quite overwhelmed. The idea of writing novels, especially a series, was defeating.
First of all, I didn’t have all of the information. I didn’t feel the story complete enough to bother to write it down. What I had was one part of the trilogy. This was in 2006. That story remained in rough draft for the next 7 years (oh, that number is important to me, by the way, but that’s another tale to tell).
At the outset of my graduate studies, I was working full time, and had just published my second novel. That book was the focus of my studies: film noir, politics and film, propaganda, and screenwriting (book adaptations). OP-DEC is a particularly political book, exploring fascism and domestic violence. Film Noir, by the way, was a very political form, and the book pays homage to the genre.
I had not expected to write a trilogy in the midst of all this. Working full time and taking two graduate courses per term should have had me busy enough. Between semesters, I decided it was time to take that script I had written about my strange dreams and turn it into a book. That material now created three books!
My adaptation studies covered the idea of taking a script and making a book (reverse adaptation). The consensus was that a script would never create a suitable novel. There simply wasn’t enough in it to do so. Yet, here I sat on three dense novels covering myths and legends and where humanity falls in that mix. There was probably enough to write a full series of 6 or more books. Yes, I do have plans for an offshoot, but I am speaking of the Captain Maiel and the Earth experiences. Instead, I decided to focus on the story that revolved around one incarnation and unwinding that to its close–or rather, the awakening of humanity.
You can imagine that with decades of dreams and nightmares, information about the things being seen, myths, legends, paranormal studies, and so much more, you lose track easily. This screenshot is just 3 pages out of the 9 that I used to keep things straight. It’s impossible to remember everyone’s name when you are juggling grad school and a job. It would be impossible even if all I did was write full time. There is a lot!
The other notes I kept were regarding ranks, species, and worlds. We’re not talking about just humans, devils and angels, after all. Even among the angels there are different species. I also tagged relational details, like who someone was to someone more major in the series. You lose minor characters quickly if you forget who they’re connected to and why. The more cheat sheets I created, the more I realized the ambition of these books, as well as the fact that they would likely need to be adapted as a larger series (probably for television) if I pursued it.
The necessity of these cheat sheets as a tool proved themselves. I’ll require this as I move onto other worlds, and likely I will create a new set of cheat sheets just for that arena. They were also useful for giving me a space to write down directions to myself for ideas that needed to wait a short time, and check them off.
Even though I wrote the series draft in a month, once I sat down to do so, I was still working, even though between semesters, and had plenty of distractions. What you see above is the complete set of notes through the end of the trilogy. During the writing process, a great deal was added. The minute I thought I had lost this file, I would go into a deep panic. They were integral to continuity.
The fact that I had ambitiously chosen to write all three books, one right after the other, and then publish them separately over the next several years made them indispensable. Imagine trying to polish and edit a series, but having no cheat sheets on any part of it, with which to verify information! You’d be flipping through the previous novels and wasting a lot of important time. For someone working and studying, that was time unavailable.
What taught me to do this was years of writing, years of messing up, and studying at university. What you see in the above screen shot is how I handled notes for papers, work tasks that required a lot of detail, and other books. You learn to take notes. Then, you learn what is most important to take notes on. This document is what gave rise to the Online Companion, too.
If I struggled to keep it all straight with years of intimate knowledge, then readers may benefit from a glossary/companion book like an encyclopedia. This way, if they forgot something, they could look it up and get the details without needing to reread the entirety of what came before that moment of questioning. A lot of fantasy writers do this. Part of my inspiration came from the Dungeon and Dragons creature catalog manual. This was a fantastic book that I enjoyed in my teenage years for inspiration on fantasy critters. There was a time I thought I might write high fantasy.
I highly recommend that you keep cheat sheets, even on a novel with few characters and few scenes. These notes are your road map. No matter how well you think you know the material, they will be indispensable. It will matter to continuity as well as revealing to you unseen story elements, and providing inspiration. Let’s hop on over to see what the other authors have to say on the topic. Click their links below…