Grabbing the Continuity Iron
By Phil on in Fiction, Writing with One Comment
Finally finished the continuity pass on the latest novel, which now has a working title of Spectrum, and copies have gone out to my test readers.
In just about every novel I’ve written, no matter how much advance planning I did before principal writing, the first three chapters or so always need work before I can give copies to my first round of test readers. A lot of the writing I do–even work based (loosely) in reality–requires world building, and even if I spend months or years adding details to this world before I start writing the book, most of that world building occurs during the writing. A significant amount of it happens after those first three chapters, and over the years I’ve learned that a lot of the terms and ideas that gestated at the beginning of the novel are either supplanted or made obsolete by world-building elements later in the novel. So each novel of mine, almost without fail, requires me to go back into those first three chapters and iron out all the inconsistencies that don’t fit with the rest of the story.
With Spectrum, I had a definite, clear vision of the world and how it worked, but the initial terminology I came up with for several ideas ultimately fell flat. For example, I had a religious term that factored into one of the belief systems, and as I went on, that concept didn’t mesh with the story at all. During the continuity pass, all occurrences of that term got yanked.
For those who are writing novels that entail a lot of world building, don’t get too hung up on specific terminology in your story. If you have a concept, gadget, creature, race, nation, or whatnot that needs a name and your first few stabs at naming seem to fall short, take heart. Odds are you’ll probably end up grabbing that continuity iron after the first draft and either change the term or iron it out altogether, so there’s no real need to get hung up on arriving at the “perfect name.” Rather than let yourself get stuck, leave a placeholder and come back to it later. A nice writing trick is to put <TK> (short for “to come”) in your ms to remind yourself to deal with the item later. “TK” (especially in caps and ever more so with the greater-than/less-than signs) hardly ever occurs in natural English writing. I’ve also seen people use “XX.” Just don’t forget to search through the whole ms for these placeholders before you submit. I’ve seen some published newspaper articles in my day with the <TK> notation left intact.
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Making a list of problems in a mausncript is a great idea I think it would often turn to explaining one item on the list because you’re excited about it, and having to shift to the computer to keep writing.My favorite list to make is plot complications, with a switch-up to your advice. When a character has to overcome something, don’t settle for one of the first three solutions you think of. List ten, and choose one towards the end. The first solutions you think of are the easy ones, and the last are the more unexpected, creating a more original story.