Five Things I’ve Learnt About Keeping it Together + Beta Call Out

Brilliant news! Yesterday (while supposedly writing my 3000 word essay which is due sooner than I’d like to admit) I managed to fix a plot point in Queen of Hearts that’s been bugging me for years and add nearly 2000 words to my word count which means I can afford to cut 2000 words worth of dodgy bits. Yay! So altogether, everything is just working better now. Regarding Queen of Hearts anyway.

As anyone who has read this blog regularly knows, I am having trouble with editing and there are some sections which I simply cannot be objective enough about to edit properly or cannot see a way to fix the problem. Therefore, I am putting a call out for beta readers and critiquers of the first sevenish chapters of Queen of Hearts which is about 20,000 words in total. If you are interested, please send me an email at inkandpapyrus [at] Hotmail dot com (obviously taking out the spaces and using symbols where appropriate). You can find more information about Queen of Hearts here but basically it is a young adult fantasy adventure but fantasy in the sense of not a real place rather than dragons, sorry. Or at least, there are no dragons yet. 😛

Anyway, onto the main event of the day, Five Things I’ve Learnt About Keeping It Together. And no, I’m not talking about emotionally or mentally. If you are truly a writer, it is far too late for that sort of help anyway. No, what today’s topic is about is five things I’ve learnt from horrible experience to do in order to make sure you have all your information for your stories safe and orderly. These tips are all a bit intermingled but each important in their own right.

  1. Keep a scrapbook

For all those ideas you have about the colour of the dress you heroine wear when x happens or the exact vista from x. For pictures of a character with all their details beside them and pages and pages of maps or songs or language notes. This is more than a scrapbook, this is a bible, and in it is every detail about your world and your story. While this can be either in hard copy or digital, it is super important to have somewhere to store everything. This avoids discrepancies in time sequences and characters who randomly disappear.

  1. Use Pinterest (or something similar)

This is connected to the above point but also into the idea of inspiration boards. Personally I use Pinterest because there are a million images at your fingertips and you can sort them into story boards or character boards or whatever and they can be both public and private. At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter what medium you use to inspire you but a collection of images is a good place to start.

  1. Keep profiles

Of characters. Of places. Of cultures. Of languages. Of religions. These records are vital to ensure that everything is ship shape and things don’t randomly change or characters disappear and reappear at will. I keep my records in a variety of places but most of it is in one document in word with countless headings and subheadings. At first I didn’t bother with doing this, even though I’d heard and read such advice a hundred times. Then characters started appearing from nowhere and merging into other characters and people who had been travelling north suddenly headed south but for the same destination.

Which leads me to my next point…

  1. Have a map.

No, having a map in your head isn’t enough. That said, whatever you do doesn’t have to be elaborate either but it must contain the following in order to ensure continuity and realism: general outline of coast or borders, basic geography (mountains, rivers, forests as these will impact how quickly and how easily the landscape can be traversed), placement of important towns, villages and cities. Even if it’s in pencil on the back of a napkin, as long as it serves its purpose, it’s enough. How elaborate you want to get is entirely up to you but I would suggest you at least photocopy your map in case you lose the original. I am speaking from experience when I say it’s a pain in the butt to redo it all again.

  1. Back everything up!

Yes, everything. On a hard drive or a USB or saved as an attachment in an unsent email, photocopies in a folder in the bottom draw, whatever. Just make sure you have a copy of everything. These details are as important as your work itself and without them, your story risks turning into a tangled mess of lost characters, improbable geography and nations that move.

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