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Discussion Starter #1
One of my goals for 2013 is to write a whole series, but I am NOT an organized person by nature. I don't normally do big plots (just rough outlines that change as I write), but I would like to sit down and come up with ideas, characters, scenes, etc for a whole series. Any advice on how you all organize a series in advance as far as tools used, ways to keep up with characters, etc?
 

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I have a bible for my epic fantasy series. Characters, things, timeline, etc is there. Plus the annoying nitpicky things which floor/wing/tower the heroine's study is located at.  ::)

I like to use the sticky note method. I like to write down all of the scenes I want to include, then put on the wall. I rearrange them until I'm happy, then figure out how to connect everything from there :D
 

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I'm the opposite of Krista; for the two series I have going - both historical fiction, with each title in each series set during a very finite period of time - working from big picture abstracts work best for me. Basically, I know the highlights of what will happen in each book, and that's about it until I actually start writing a title. But I will say that all along, I do think about what will happen in the books I haven't yet started so by the time I start a new one a lot of background ideas percolate to the top and when I start the detailed outlining, a lot of it fits together easily.

If, however, you're going to try to write all the books of an entire series in 2013, then you might be better served by trying what Krista does with the whole-series storyboarding before getting underway. In my case one series goes back to the first book that was started 10 years ago, and I'm writing both series over several years along with other books, so I have a lot of time to make the big picture brainstorming work.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Where I get "thrown off" is making sure that time periods and other important things like that match up from book to book. So, let's say Ben and Susie get married in the fall in book 1 and the John and Sally start dating in the summer of book 2... I want to know how to keep up with all of the particulars of making sure that Ben and Susie's relationship makes sense for the timing in future books so they can be weaved in and out.... Hope that makes sense.... Wondering how people with big series' keep up with those little details for consistency.
 

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I'm "outlining" my series in the free Open Office version of Excel. Each book gets twenty rows, which is roughly how many chapters I want each book to have. Each book's Act I starts in the first column, Act II in the second column, and Act III in the third column. I color code the sequences.

I like "outlining" in a spreadsheet because I get the portability and visual aid of sticky notes along with the ease of changing that the computer brings.
 

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Rachel Hanna said:
Where I get "thrown off" is making sure that time periods and other important things like that match up from book to book. So, let's say Ben and Susie get married in the fall in book 1 and the John and Sally start dating in the summer of book 2... I want to know how to keep up with all of the particulars of making sure that Ben and Susie's relationship makes sense for the timing in future books so they can be weaved in and out.... Hope that makes sense.... Wondering how people with big series' keep up with those little details for consistency.
Ah, you said it yourself: you need a timeline! Let me know if you need suggestions on how to make one, or if just the knowledge that you need one does it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'd love to know how you handle a timeline. I have no clue how to use spreadsheets, so I am lost on that method. LOL
 

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I have a bible for my series. It helps me keep track of stuff. I'm not a spreadsheet person, so I use Word.

Here's an article that might get you started on one: http://www.yahighway.com/2012/05/how-to-make-series-bible-guest-post-by.html

As far as plotting, maybe the snowflake method might help. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. Start with the arc for your series, then break that down into books, then books into acts, the acts into sequences, sequences into scenes.
 

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It sounds like you're getting hung up on the tool and therefore aren't getting down what you want.  Hence the expression, arguing over Fords and Chevys but still have no cars.

Write it on a piece of paper with a pencil (so you can erase as needed).  Do a sheet of paper for each book or each set of characters.  Draw boxes and lines that connect things together.  Tape them on your wall and move them around (don't put scotch tape on your wall unless you don't care if the paint comes off).  Add to it and make changes as you need to.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I do get hung up on the tool somewhat because I've tried a few different methods from using a dry erase board to using Scrivener. It's hard for me to find a method, so far, that allows me to easily access information about scenes, timelines, character info, etc. I will keep working on it until I find the method that works for me and my disorganized brain, but I thought I'd see what others do as well. If I try to be too organized, my creativity will shut down like a prison door, but I also realize I have to be somewhat organized so I am not constantly searching for facts about my own characters or timelines.
 

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There is a great software called Scrivener that makes outlining a breeze. I am loving it from the moment I started writing. It allows you to take notes, write and also has a full screen mood. It's cheap also.

I'm currently working on a series. I use the same method I use for ghost writing projects ; I write a chapter by chapter outline on a few pieces of paper. Each chapter has 4 to 5 points in to for scenes. I plan the main events within the series itself in advance. For example .. Book one : She gets a job and moves to a new state. Book Two: Her Nephew comes and Lives with her.  Book Three: She's put into jail for something she didn't do ETC. Just a ruff outline that tells me the main goal of the book I'm writing so I know the beginning and the end at least.

Good luck with your series.
 

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Ooh, ooh, I totally recommend Holly Lisle's How to Write a Series. It's utterly awesome. A little pricey, however. Like $100. But sooo worth it. It's totally awesome. And, hey, the money's tax deductible. :)

I use it every time I start a new series, and I wish like hell I could go back in time and redo the J&A books knowing what I know now from that course.

Anyway, she's totally got this detailed method for dealing with the timeline question that you're talking about. I don't personally use it. I get a little huffy when people tell me how to organize things for some reason. (I don't know why. I'm weird. In middle school, this math teacher had us all organize our notebooks the same way with these little handouts and everything, and it made me crazy.) I just use Text Block Writer and label all my blocks really well so that I can find stuff.
 

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Rachel Hanna said:
So, let's say Ben and Susie get married in the fall in book 1 and Jon and Sally start dating in the summer of book 2... I want to know how to keep up with all of the particulars of making sure that Ben and Susie's relationship makes sense for the timing in future books so they can be weaved in and out....
For this situation, it sounds like a calendar makes the most sense. You could go through Book 1 and calendar all the events. Use that calendar when you write Book 2. :)
 

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ME:

1. Get $12
2. Go to Home Depot
3. Get on of the white walls they put in bathrooms that are actually basically whiteboards
4. Have them cut them in half
5. Put the outlines of each book running down, color coding themes, events, turning points, timelines and book and series arcs
6. Add and move things as needed.
7. Take a picture of it. Trust me, things go wrong or you want to back up. Take a picture.
8. Go up to Krista's post --> World Bible. Do it. You will regret it forever if you don't do it while writing. If you think you'll remember stuff you won't. Even if you live, sleep and breath it.

People think I"m nuts and they use notebooks and scrivener and other awesome tools to do this, but I need to see it all at once. I draw maps and make quick changes. I brainstorm and leave it there until I'm killing things off and coming up with new things.

It's the best thing I've done for my big series. Book one got tossed out and rewritten after I started taking the series arc seriously.

GOOD LUCK
 

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I have a total of 6 series going at the moment, and I don't outline any of them. I do keep a notebook of plot threads that haven't been resolved, as well as a list of characters, descriptions, town maps etc. But I don't plot, not even for an overarching series. Though I do end up in tight places sometimes and I have to be creative. I have a UF series coming out this year with Samhain, and all I can say is thank God for magic where anything is possible.
 

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I am on the last of a 5 book series and did not/do not outline. I do write down a word or two words to remind me of something that needs to be carried through. THe paper has a bunch of words that make no sense by the time I start writing each book. 

For the timeline, I look back in the previous book to make sure dates are right. I will job down when people were born, etc from the book before.

If I think of things I want to happen, I jot down one word. "Fire."  etc. I know what it means, no one else would have a clue.
 

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Monique said:
As far as plotting, maybe the snowflake method might help. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. Start with the arc for your series, then break that down into books, then books into acts, the acts into sequences, sequences into scenes.
I find snowflake always helps when I'm feeling like a special one myself ;D

(seriously, the snowflake method helps when I'm stuck)
 

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Thanks for the idea of a series bible, Krista, and for that link, Monique. That's going to be helpful in doing my series (I'm already going back and trying to remember details that I hadn't already written down in my current clunky way).

In the olden days, writers would put details on index cards, and move them around until they were satisfied -- plot points, characters, bits of dialog, locations, etc. all got written down and
tacked on the wall. That probably wouldn't work, unless you have a big wall you can dedicate to an entire series. :p
 
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