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Monday, January 17, 2022

Mind Tricks by Debra H. Goldstein

Mind Tricks by Debra H. Goldstein

Have you ever felt like you’re losing your mind? Perhaps, as you go to introduce two people, you go blank on the name of someone you’ve known forever. Maybe, you mentally make a list of items you must run to the grocery store for and get home to discover that you forgot to buy the milk or whatever prompted your trip in the first place. Of course, there is the classic forgetting of where one puts one’s keys or glasses. (Pro tip for the latter: check the top of your head before asking for help finding them.)


Happily, most of the time, this doesn’t mean you have the beginnings of dementia. Often the problem is being over-stressed or the mind simply not thinking this is a super-important item to recall at that particular moment. Authors confront this problem in a different way when the book they write becomes a series. When an author mixes up character names or relationships, attributes a character with a different eye color or hair shade, or modifies the setting in a way that is impossible based upon earlier discussions, it isn’t something to laugh off.


Rather, it is something that sharp readers will catch and call out the author. Even worse, it may

cause the reader to lose faith in the author’s abilities and stop reading the series. Different writers try to ameliorate the problem by keeping profiles on Scrivener; creating a bible that outlines every aspect of character and setting or using sticky notes that highlight error prone areas to avoid from one version of a story to another. Others simply hold everything in their minds and if in doubt, look back to an earlier version of the work.


I have never been an outliner or a planner when it comes to writing. Instead, I let the muse flow. That worked fine for the first few books, but by Four Cuts Too Many, the fourth book in Kensington’s Sarah Blair series, I often was looking back to the first three books to confirm (refresh my recollection) I didn’t deviate on anything important. The same proved true for Five Belles Too Many, which will be published in June 2022, but is available for pre-order.


I’m fairly sure I synchronized most things for Five Belles Too Many, but I think what’s funny is how different RahRah, Sarah’s Siamese cat, is portrayed by different cover artists. RahRah ranges from a cat who can jump off the page to the more stylized, almost cartoonish cat found on the covers of Three Treats Too Many and Five Belles Too Many. The irony, even though there is a pendulum shift between the art, people praise the cover art and unlike a minor difference in the book’s text, never mention the differences. That’s good because it isn’t something else I need to worry about. I’m having enough trouble keeping my data and deadlines straight.


What methods do you use to preserve accuracy in your stories or life?


Jim Jackson said...

I'm a spreadsheet guy and when that doesn't work (and it often doesn't) I do a global search in my earlier manuscripts to find the reference.

Susan said...

I keep an “encyclopedia” for the entire series. Starting book five, I find it getting pretty heavy. Of course, everything is in computer files too.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Character Bible and location Bible--even though my fictional setting is based on a real place, I've stretched and compressed location of the landmarks. I've started noting how long it takes the main character to walk or drive to her job or the town green.

Molly MacRae said...

Spreadsheets and notes for me, but they're only as good as the human full of errors who keeps them. Covers are out of our hands, for the most part, and there have been some very funny panels at conferences about cover art fails.

Kait said...

My characters live on Scrivener and in Plottr. That said, I often find the one trait I am looking for is the one trait I didn’t record!

Shari Randall said...

I remember my shock when a reader wrote to me to complain that I'd changed the hair color of one minor character from light brown to blond - I think my character decided she needed a change between books, but she forgot to tell me ;)
I have a character bible that I keep losing. The one thing that works is keeping a list of every proper noun per book (my wonderful copyeditor's much appreciated contribution) and an index card per book that lists major plot points (poisoning, grave robbing, bigamy, Elodie gets married, etc)
BTW I love Rah Rah's cover!

Annette said...

I've used Scrivener, but for the new "series" (so far it's ONE book in rough draft form), I also started a spreadsheet to not only track characters but also the timeline.

Korina Moss said...

I need to be more organized with it but for right now, I check back on my other manuscripts (I only have 2). My copyeditor is my only salvation at the moment -- he makes a list with brief descriptions. If I'm lucky enough to get more than 3 books, I swear to myself that I'll do some kind of bible!

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