Keeping Factsheets

Last year I wrote about creating a factsheet about your story, but this year I’d like you to take it to the next level. I’d like you to create factsheets—pages of point form notes—documenting everything you know about the following things:

Your world— what time period is your world set in? What are the places your characters live in called? Is there magic or high technology? Perhaps there’s no technology. How do they document time? What religions are common? Anything you know about your world should be put on one piece of paper you can easily refer to as you write your novel.

Every character— every character that has a significant part to play in your story should have a fact sheet with every piece of information you know about them. This will help you when you’re trying to remember what colour eyes your main character’s second cousin has, and is especially useful if you have a large cast or a first person narrator.

Every place— if your characters do a lot of travelling, you’ll probably want separate factsheets for every town/city/country they visit. Creating one for every inn is excessive, but if you’re working with large noble households, you might want one for each of them.

The story itself— what must happen? What are you heart set on including in your novel? This should be something you can base a solid outline on, and will be a place where you can note how your novel changes during the month, because believe me, it will.

Once you’ve created these factsheets, put them in a file that you can keep at your workspace. Every time you work on planning your novel you should be updating one of these sheets, and you should keep updating them throughout the writing process. Keeping notes of everything you know and everything you learn about your world, characters and setting will make editing much easier. Not only does it help you prevent continuity errors in the draft itself, but it allows you to incorporate major changes into a full rewrite without reading the entire first draft.

This is something I’ve only been doing for the last two years, and if I’d started keeping factsheets sooner I probably would’ve skipped three drafts of Moonshadow’s Guardian. So take the time today to create your factsheets and make a place for them in your writing space.