No one wants that. "What can I do to prevent that fate?"
Well, I'll tell you, you can start working on a series bible! IE, a document that contains all of your cannonical information in one place, organized and accessible.
Everyone has their own way of organizing information, obviously, but here are some pretty easy tips to follow. Obviously, you can use the word processor of your choice, and for those of you with a love of spreadsheets--have at. (I am not one of them).
I usually start mine with character information. I use bolded headings and easy searchable terms.
So, for example:
Jane Smith ALIASES:
AGE AT BOOK 1
BASIC DESCRIPTION (eye color, hair color, height, figure, etc): Broken down by appearances, age, etc.
OBJECTS ALWAYS ON PERSON:
Characters are listed under headings like MC, REGULAR CAST, MINOR CHARACTERS, FRIENDS, ANTAGONIST, PETS, etc.
I try to note relationships as they relate to my MC as well as interior relationships, secrets and the like.
|Here's part of Liadan's Series Bible (with plot relevant details redacted)|
After character information, I include a timeline. Timelines are essential. I find myself constantly asking "When did that take place again? What year was it? What month? What time of year?" It's so much easier to be able to scroll through a timeline.
Mine are set up generally like this:
YEAR : BOOK - MONTH, SPECIFIC DATES (IF ANY)
I generally keep all of my plotting details in the timeline, as it keeps those details organized. So, for instance, if I'm planning to reveal someone's parentage in book six, I can drop that in the timeline. I can also then go back in and determine where foreshadowing elements need to go. Book titles, as I come up with tentative ones, also go in here.
This basic timeline is of course separate from a more intensive timeline I sometimes work up for individual manuscripts. I generally only need one when I have a lot of traveling going on and am working over a long period of time.
I also keep my synopses, query letters, pitches and the like in this document (organized by title), or at the very least, in the same folder with this document. Character reference images and the like could also be placed in a separate folder within the folder (I like keeping things sorted to the nth).
The important thing to remember is to continue to update this document when editing your manuscripts. A series bible won't help you at all if it's two drafts out of date. No one person is going to need the same information in their bible, but this should at least give you a good place to start. Just remember, compile now, save yourself heartache later.
Trust me on that.