Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you’re writing a book, the information needs to be organized. Scenes need to be in some sort of order. Characters who are dead should not show up four chapters later just because the author forgot who lived and who died when.
So, what to do about keeping it all straight?
I’m glad you asked.
I head for my spreadsheet program.
This particular one shows a little bit of how I have everything listed. Incidentally, there are 785 rows in this spreadsheet and 13 columns.
I have columns for:
which of the four books this scene occurs in (color codes for Red, Black, Pink, and White)
whether it’s from a letter, a diary, and who it’s referring to (Silas, Hubbard, Mary Frances, Charlotte, Miss Julia, Homer), whether its a mealtime at Biscuit’s house (day 3 supper / day 4 breakfast / day 4 lunch). It’s amazing what you can cram into one little column just by color-coding.
page # in the current manuscript
the first sentence or two copied and pasted from the manuscript (so when the page numbers don’t match up—they never seem to, since I’m always going back and adding or deleting something—I can do a search for those words).
year the scene takes place
month and day ditto
day of the week if it’s necessary to know that — the time and date website has proven invaluable
various other columns about who found a particular artifact in the attic, whether or not the scene has been sent to my beta readers, and the ubiquitous "NOTES" column where I put everything else I want to include.
I’m pretty sure this photo is fuzzy enough that you won’t be able to read the scenes. I’d hate to have to say SPOILER ALERT here.
I'm getting closer to the end of the book(s), and beginning to be able to visualize the actual publication of them. Bear with me, please! I'm writing (and entering stuff in my spreadsheet) as fast as I can.