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Why Continuity Is Key for Authors

19 May 2017

From Digital Book World:

Writing a book is a herculean task, but writing a series is even more difficult. You have to keep track of so many elements: plot, characterization, setting, narrative arcs, subplots, relationships amongst your characters, and which character to kill next—assuming you’re a mystery author, and maybe even if you aren’t. Then there are all those pesky little continuity details that you swear you’ll remember because you created this world and the people who live in it, and no one knows it better than you.

All goes well until you hit “publish” and a reader writes in asking why the hero has blue eyes in Book 3 when they’ve always been a dreamy chocolate color. Then another reader asks when the mother character got a dog, and whatever happened to the cat she had? Now you’re scrambling to find the errors and wondering how you could have forgotten such basic details.

. . . .

A compelling story that keeps your reader engaged relies on your efforts to maintain continuity. Continuity creates a bridge between your books, continues the timeline, and maps out your story world. With strong continuity, your fictional world will be more descriptive, more interesting, more unique, and more real.

. . . .

I once attended a talk with a very successful author who confessed that she didn’t write descriptive prose because she didn’t want to forget anything. What a loss to her readers! Descriptions about the physicality of your characters and the world they inhabit bring the story to life for the reader. If your descriptions are too generic, then your world becomes more of a prop than a real place, and your characters become interchangeable and forgettable.

I read broadly in the cozy mystery genre, but I’m embarrassed to say I can only think of two series whose Midwestern settings feel authentic rather than generic. Of course, many cozy mystery series are set in the Midwest, and I’ve read most of them, but the worlds just don’t stand out. They have all blended together into a blur of vague small towns. Maintaining vibrant descriptions over the course of your series will set your world apart.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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6 Comments to “Why Continuity Is Key for Authors”

  1. I just finished the 19th novel in my longest series.

    Thank God for CTRL+F!

    To be honest, I use Windows 10’s File Explorer search to maintain continuity. It can show search results inside Word documents, and I do all my writing in Word. So if I want to check on a character’s first name, I search for his name in File Explorer, find the oldest book file with his name, and refresh my memory from the original description.

  2. I created a ‘cast’ file. Names/sex/color/shapes/hair/tattoos if mentioned all go in it, as well as places and things mentioned/visited.

  3. That’s why I use an excel spread sheet for every book or series to keep track of all my creative lies and get it right. I even have a master spreadsheet with all the names I used through out the books, just in case I’m using the same names. Part of being a writer, you must be an analyst and accountant.

  4. Series bible. I haz them.

  5. I keep track of Catmage eye colors so I don’t mess up the Magelight colors. And sometimes I go back and search previous manuscripts (faster in Word than trying to leaf through the books).

    You know, until I became the author of a series, I had no idea how difficult continuity issues can be. I have a great copy editor and proofreader, but even they, and all my first readers, miss things. I caught a major continuity issue just before publication in the third book. Or the fourth. See? Continuity issues even in continuity issues!

  6. All I can say is that Anne McCaffrey killed a character and brought him back to life in another book. I feel that if I can keep the dead characters dead and the alive characters alive, I’ll be doing all right.

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