Most of the time, I develop my own way of doing things that is optimized for the peculiar way my brain operates, and is likely to only be loosely inspired by or based upon research into what other people might be doing. If it seems worthwhile, I’ll then share that information with you in an extensive and detailed Tuesday blog post, like the one I wrote about revisions.

Every now and then, though, I come across something that already seems so effective that I have no need to alter it to fit my own way of doing things. The most recent example of this is a post from Marie Brennan (author of The Memoirs of Lady Trent, among others) discussing, of all things, ways to prepare your manuscript for the copyeditor.

Now, I’m my own copyeditor (and sometimes a poor one, as those of you who’ve caught my typos and continuity errors in even revised Blood Magic stories can attest), so it may seem that this bit of advice would be of little utility to me, and to you if you are also not in a position to have your own copyeditor working over your manuscript. However, as Brennan points out, the listing technique she describes in “How to make your CE’s job, and your own, much easier” is at least as useful for purposes of world-building as it is for copyediting.

Some of my world-bibles (as I term them) are massive files in OneNote, with pages dedicated just to describing the unique flora and fauna that populate a single island chain (those come from my world-builder’s disease days). Others are sparser, built up slowly and out of necessity as I’ve worked on stories that became too complex and/or sprawling for me to keep everything straight in my head. I’ve even had to stop progress on a series like Fo’Fonas because I was having trouble keeping track of everything, and had not put together a detailed world-bible. My world-bibles are wonderful, and detailed, and useful, but they are a lot of work to put together.

Sometimes, I don’t need that much. I don’t need to take that much time to build it, and the world and the story don’t necessitate thousands of words of just world-building. Especially in novellas, or even in stand-alone novels, the world-bible method is just overbuilt. Yet, I still need something, because I tend to work on multiple stories simultaneously, and even a short novella might take a few months to write. That, to me, is where the true utility of the list technique Brennan describes lies. It’s a way for me to keep track of names, spellings, places, and basic continuity, without letting such documentation take too much time away from my actual writing.

If you’re a writer, whether you’re in the early stages of practicing your craft, or are working on revising a completed novel so that you can start sending it out to agents, I encourage you to give Brennan’s post a read, and the technique a try. I wish it was something I’d figured out years ago, and that doesn’t happen to me very often.

One thought on “Keeping Track of Terms

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