I learned very quickly, when diving in to create a fictional world, that the process was a lot more work than I’d anticipated. Though free of the restrictions of continuing to write within the confines of the real world (like I did with the Lethean Trilogy), I had far more work cut out for me than simple matters of research. Making up everything from the gods to the creation of the world to the development of various races and countries–which meant determining how different people looked, spoke, behaved, dressed; what they ate, what they valued; what technology or customs they had; etc–was both thrilling and exhausting. For the most part, I managed to keep it all in my head, but as my world grew, and more stories began to take shape, I wound up with notes scattered across dozens of files, which I was constantly having to seek out and reference to make sure I was getting the details right.
What I should have been doing all along, right from the start, was building a Series Bible, keeping everything in one spot, nice and neat and organized. Of course, I didn’t run into an obvious need to do so until I began editing the next Treble and the Lost Boys book and realized I’d run into a pretty glaring timeline issue.
Between Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8), Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and the three Treble books, I had five books on my hands with tightly overlapping events, and discovered that some of those events were turning out to be a whole year off.
So I stopped writing entirely, went back to The Prisoner, the first book in the Shifting Isles world, and starting reading. I took meticulous notes of every single day that was mentioned, how much time was indicated to have passed between different events, who was where, any mentions of what time of year it happened to be, any references to past events and how long ago they were said to be, any mentions of how old a particular character was, etc. At the same time, I started building one big Series Bible file, multiple spreadsheets to consolidate information about the gods, companies, addresses, magic spells, phrases, and–of course–characters.
Almost four months later, and after having gone through the 13 Shifting Isles world novels currently in print (as well as a handful of short stories), I discovered several more timeline issues.
Some were relatively minor: events being described as happening on the same day when they were really supposed to stretch out over two. Some were more interesting, like one week in Blindsighted that somehow contained 9 days instead of 6. The worst timeline discrepancy came with the Matchmakers Trilogy. Randomly throwing out that some particular thing or another happened such-and-such years ago is all well and good until you actually start pinning down dates for things and find out that the thing happening such-and-such years ago is a temporal impossibility when compared to other historical occurrences that were mentioned.
So I corrected, adjusted, edited. Hells, I wanted to do a series relaunch / second-edition-with-bonus-content launch anyway, so now, when that does happen, not only will I be able to put out the stories with corrected timeline flow, I’ll also be able to better develop extra bonus content, as well as appendices for the novels.
Like timeline notes, for instance, showcasing major events and their dates.
Or family trees for my characters (I had a good laugh when I started fleshing out a tree for Officer Benash, and realized the man ultimately had six wives/partners as well as ten children before he died (to say nothing of all the grandchildren and so on), when all the while, in my head, I just saw him as the man who loved Vorena and fathered Saira).
Or finally make some progress (and corrections) on the Wiki I started building a few months back and had to set aside in favor of other, more pressing matters. With a dozen spreadsheets and notes on something like 260 characters, that’s going to be an ambitious project in and of itself.
Or…maps. But that’s a fun topic for another time… 😉