Sequels and Continuity
by Katie L. Carroll
It seems more and more books these days are part of a series, and the market is definitely there for sequels and companion novels. Many authors are even releasing short stories or novellas in between novels. So how does a writer keep track of all the details so the continuity holds up from book to book?
That’s the very question I’ve been dealing with as I write Elixir Saved, a sequel to my YA fantasy Elixir Bound. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve come up with to keep it all straight.
Lists are a writer’s best friend
Make a list of each character. Be sure to include the character’s full name, age, hair color, eye color, and any other distinguishing physical features. If you want to keep one with personality traits as well, consider making a separate list for these. The idea is to be able to quickly reference the details on these lists, so you want to keep them short and easy to read. You don’t have to limit yourself to character lists either. You can keep a list of details in the settings of your stories (like what color your main character’s bedroom is and what size bed she has). I write fantasy, so I like to keep a list of the different species and creatures in my world. You can pretty much keep a list for any aspect of the series.
Map it out
There’s a lot of travel involved in my story and it’s all to made-up places. One of the first things I did before I even started writing the first book was I made a map of my fantasy world. I included the details of Faway Forest—the main setting of Elixir Bound—but I didn’t stop there. I drew out a map of the entire Great Peninsula. And, boy, has that come in handy while writing Elixir Saved because it covers quite a bit more ground in the Greater Peninsula than Bound did. Maps aren’t just for fantasy, though. Maybe you need to keep track of where all the classrooms are in a school or where different buildings and landmarks are in a town. When trying to maintain continuity for places, maps can definitely be an asset for any genre.
Outlining for non-outliners
I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so generally I don’t outline a plot (unless you count that mess of a plot in my head as an outline) before I draft a story. However, making an outline of a first story in a series is a good reference tool when drafting the second story. Even though it seems like I’ve looked at Elixir Bound ad infinitum, I can still forget its sequence of events at times. Creating a quick plot-point-by-plot-point outline helped me when weaving backstory into Elixir Saved. And trust me, it’s a lot easier to create a plot outline when the plots already set in stone.
Search and find feature
This may be the single most important tool I’ve found in my quest to keep the continuity between books in a series. This is great when there’s a pesky little detail you know has come up before but can’t quite remember where or when. I go into the actual document of my published book (I use the PDF file of book one, but you can use the most recent Word version or any type of document that has a search feature) and search for whatever detail it is I’m looking for. The trick is to be specific with you search word(s). Typing in a character’s name or something like “eyes” is just too broad to work with; you’ll get to many hits. For example, just recently I was trying to remember what type of material a particular dagger sheath was made of, which was pretty easy to find by searching for the word “sheath.” I could have used “dagger,” but sheath was the better choice because dagger shows up a lot more in book one than sheath. This particular tool has saved me precious writing time on many an occasion.
Those are my tricks of the trade when trying to keep continuity in series books. What tips do you have?
Katie L. Carroll is an author, editor, and mother. She began writing after her 16-year-old sister unexpectedly passed away. Writing was a way for Katie to help her sister live on in the pages of a story. Her YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND is available on the MuseItUp bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book retailers. Her picture book app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT, illustrated by Erika Baird, is available from MeeGenius. For more about Katie and her books, visit her website at www.katielcarroll.com or find her on Facebook or Goodreads.