Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

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12 Responses to “Take Notes While Writing a Series”

  1. Kim November 11, 2017 at 3:52 am #

    I use OneNote to keep track of everything 🙂 each character and location has its own page for details 🙂

    • Shannon A Thompson November 11, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      That’s a great way to keep track of everything! Thank you for sharing with everyone.
      ~SAT

  2. Charles Yallowitz November 11, 2017 at 7:40 am #

    I live or die by my notes. It was easier in the earlier books, but by the later ones, I was creating reminder files. These were collections of events, descriptions, and other things that I knew would carry on into the next volume. I’ve also stopped writing to double check things that have appeared before just in case my memory is off. That’s harder because I can never remember exactly where a minor thing that popped into my head might be in a book. A ‘Find’ search on Word definitely helps there.

    • Shannon A Thompson November 11, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      RIGHT?!? I am so lost without my notes. I’m constantly reading them and changing them and double-checking them. Thank you for sharing the things you take notes on!
      ~SAT

  3. debyfredericks November 11, 2017 at 8:57 am #

    Part of my revison process is to do a detailed outline with chapter summaries. This helps with the synopsis, too. If there is more than one viewpoint character, I color code to show who has the POV.

    I also sketch maps with important countries, cities, streets, etc. But recently I had to go back and search for the name of river, so you always forget one thing, right?

    • Shannon A Thompson November 11, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      Color coding is the best, isn’t it? Thank you for bringing it up!
      ~SAT

  4. The Animation Commendation November 11, 2017 at 10:22 am #

    I don’t think I ever plan on writing a series, but should I want to, this sounds like great advice.

    • Shannon A Thompson November 11, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      I take notes on standalones, too, but it’s been a while since I wrote a standalone. 🙂 Notes help me during revisions, either way. (But I’m a little note crazy.)
      ~SAT

  5. Don Massenzio November 11, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from Shannon A. Thompson’s blog on how to take notes while writing a series.

  6. Phoenix Rainez November 12, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on Phoenix Rainez and commented:
    WRITERS do you take notes between books?

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