|Alicia Hunter Pace (Jean and Stephanie)|
Here’s the thing. When you sell your first book, you don’t know if you are going to have a series, even if that’s what you hope. There is just no telling how that first book is going to go. What if you don’t sell a single copy except to yourself? What if it sells okay but everyone who reads it hates the characters? What if it is so bad that people hang outside your door and throw eggs at you? What if they break in your house and take your computer so you can never write another book of any kind?
It could happen. Not likely, but it’s possible. What is more possible is that it won’t do well enough that your editor is unwilling to go into that world again.
Luckily, that didn’t happen to Stephanie and me. When Secrets Gone South is released next month, there will be four Gone South books and one novella in print. But since we weren’t sure in the beginning, we didn’t do all the things we should have to keep the facts straight. In the end, we didn’t have any inconsistencies—that we know of—but it wasn’t for lack of trying. We spent a lot of time as we went, putting together time lines, looking up names, birthdays, and occupations, and hoping for the best.
Never again. You live and you learn. For our next series, we are sure of what’s going to happen so we will create a “Bible” of facts. These are the rules that we think will work for us:
Don’t get fancy and create a spread sheet. Simple is better. Get a composition book.
In that book write every character’s name, no matter how insignificant they may seem. You never know when the cemetery owner is going to become a favorite of your readers.
Don’t give a minor character an occupation you don’t want to write about. You never know when that minor character might tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey! I’ve got a secret baby!”
Keep a meticulous chart of what happens when—conceptions, weddings, birthdays, festivals. It is all going to be important.
Especially for main characters, keep a record of likes and dislikes as well as things they own like vehicles, houses, and jewelry. If the hero from book one has a peanut allergy, it’s best if he isn’t seen eating a bagel with peanut butter in book three—unless you want him to have a medical emergency.
Even for minor characters, write down what you think isn’t important and especially what you’re sure you will remember—because you won’t. You cannot have a character who has been police chief for four books, suddenly become sheriff.
Above all else, keep this in one book, designated for the series. Do not write on random envelopes, the backs of printed manuscript, and restaurant receipts.
Yeah. Stephanie didn’t know about those envelopes and receipts. It’s best that she didn’t.
What do you do to keep your facts organized?