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Archive for January 6th, 2014

Ann Jacobs: Keeping to the Facts
Monday, January 6th, 2014

Keeping to the Facts—Only the Facts, Please

Organization isn’t my strong point, so I’m always looking for gimmicks to minimize my frantic searches through completed books in a series to find that one vital piece of information that’s absolutely necessary to keep me from making a mistake that some discerning reader’s certain to pick up.

My writing style is linear—that is, I write stories from start to finish without leaving some piece of the puzzle to fill in at a later date. At least that’s what I try to do.

When writing a series, however, I have to make certain that the later books don’t contain information that contradicts some fact I already had established in an earlier book. I’ve learned the hard way that if my editor doesn’t catch these inconsistencies, some eager reader will. If I’m lucky, that reader will write and tell me—if I’m not, she’ll tell every one of her Facebook friends and I’ll be getting a lot of social media attention that I didn’t want.

There are lots of ways to avoid these embarrassing gaffes, from creating a very simple card file of pertinent facts to methods so complex that they can add months, not days to the timeline of writing a series—or even a standalone book for that matter.

Have you ever had to search back in a manuscript to find whether a secondary character’s eyes were blue or brown? Or whether you already mentioned a prop that now has significance later on in a story?

If so, then you’re a lot like me—and my lapses become more so as the time between having written the initial piece of information becomes greater. For example, I wrote the three-book, Caden Kink series over a six month period starting about eighteen months ago. Meanwhile I have started another totally unrelated series.

Therefore, when readers began asking me for a fourth story about the Caden patriarch, I needed to find a simple tool to help me gather information about characters and interactions among those characters which were already established in the first three books. I also needed to gather details about the common setting so as not to create inconsistencies in the new novella.

ajshowcase-scapple_headerScapple is a simple new application from Literature and Latte, designers of the much more complex writing aid, Scrivener. Scapple works as a brainstorming application that is part outliner, part mind-mapper, part writer’s journal. I’ve been using it lately to gather and relate information in Lovers’ Feud, Shotgun Relations and Wild One, that I will use in creating the backbone of a new story which must, by its definition, tie in closely with information I had already established bit by bit in the stories of the new hero’s three grown children.

Generally I find writing aids overrated. Scapple is not. As a matter of fact, it’s awesome! A very inexpensive tool, it allows the writer to jot down notes about characters, character interaction and setting, to arrange them logically in terms of the new book’s premise, and to make connections that make sense.

I’m very glad I stumbled onto Scapple. If you ever have trouble keeping up with what went before, whether in a single book or a series, I encourage you to try it. It’s available for Macs as well as PCs.

Ann Jacobs
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