Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Keeping the Magic Straight (Or, Worksheets and Lists to Infinity and Beyond!)

Anyone who knows me knows I love to make lists and spreadsheets. Part of it is necessity – a way to stay organized. Part of it is because I like to see everything all together in some semblance of order, and I have been known to tinker and revise my lists and spreadsheets so they are logical and yes, look nice. :-) I'm like Santa - making the list and checking it twice, though the reality is more like 100 times! lol I make lists for everything - shopping lists, guest lists, menus, items to pack for trips - you name it, I guarantee I've made a list for it.

When it comes to my writing, I have TONS of spreadsheets. I have one huge one which catalogs all of my books, series, worlds, etc. Then I have smaller ones that are book or series specific. For instance, I am currently working on the second book in my Vikings/Norseman's series (hopefully some word on the first book soon), and in my Excel workbook, there are several worksheets – one is for the characters that are part of the series, with their names, who they are, how they are related or interact during the books. Another contains lists of items the Vikings use in their daily lives, during battles and invasions, and for special occasions. There's a spreadsheet for all the fictional town names I made up for the series, along with one for the real places which were important to the Viking society. Yet another sheet contains a list of items I still need to research, with another for all the items I did research and the facts related to them. And of course, the listing of the gods that were so important to the Vikings' daily lives.

I also have a spreadsheet for every book I've ever written that is simply a word count tally - from my working days, I worked on a lot of spreadsheets, with formulas and "If" logic and the like, and a lot of that comes into play with the word count. It's a good way for me to keep track of my daily/weekly/monthly word count, and helps to stay on track, though I keep notes as to why I didn't hit the target word count goal for the day so I don't feel guilty if I have a few days with minimal new words.

By far, the biggest spreadsheet I have for a series is the one I have for the Bayou Magiste Chronicles. Not only do I catalog all the characters, I also list various magical items that are used by the characters - yep, the magical sex toys and various aphrodisiac potions have a list of their own, of course!  But the longest worksheet in the file is the one where I list all the spells that are used either directly by the characters, or mentioned. This one was a little tricky. Since the Marchands' roots are set in France, I had to spend a lot of time translating words, then conjugating the verb forms. I didn't want to use the actual French words as they are used today, I needed to change it up to fit the story and make them a little more special. In my younger days, I took several years of French classes, and while I did well, I remember nearly nothing now. So a lot of it was re-learning words – I can't tell you how many times the light bulb of memory went off when I found certain words that fit perfectly for the spell or item I was working on. 
One big benefit I've gotten from my lists is they also serve as important checkpoints, especially when I am starting a new book. There are more Bayou Magiste Chronicles planned as soon as I finish this Viking book, and I've already begun going through my list of characters. I'd paired off a few people when I started Claimed by the Zyndevine, but already, I'm making changes to those pairings based on the ending of that book. There were some unexpected deaths that paved the way for characters to become heroes and heroines who I hadn't originally planned to be anything other than supporting characters. The Founders of the Bayou Magiste Society have been established and if all goes well, there will be at least one book for each of the main founding families, if not more. Because I guarantee there are many more characters I've yet to meet who most likely will start popping up when I least expect them to. It's a matter of which ones are the loudest in my head.


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