Oh, relax. This post isn't about religion.
Having spent the past few weeks revising and then re-revising both a full-length book and a novella (don't ask), and now preparing to stare Book #6 in the Haunted Guesthouse series in the face, I have come to a really disturbing conclusion about my own mind.
I am incapable of remembering what I've written. Well, not all of it, anyway.
Now, this would not be a very serious problem at all if I'd written what we lovingly call "standalones," books that begin and end and are not intended to be continued in any way. But I don't; I write series books. So the characters and their travails are meant to go on for as long as the reading public and the publisher wish for them to do so.
Therein lies the rub, dear reader: I don't always remember what the hell I've written before. So details can get by, and when I decide to write something new, it's inconsistent with what has come before. For CHANCE OF A GHOST, the current novel, in which Alison's father re-enters her life after being dead for five years, it took a half-day of research to find out if I'd ever mentioned his name before, and if so, what it might be.
It's Jack, but that's not the point.
So in a conversation with my editor, the luminous Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, the subject of writing a bible for the series was broached.
A bible, you say? Yes. That's a term probably taken from the television industry, in which the creator of a series writes up all the relevant data about the main character, the premise, all the other charactes and any signficant events, dates, characteristics or opinions ("I hate herring!") that might become relevant, or at least should be consistent, when the next episode in the series is produced. This avoids problems like, for example, having Mr. Spock fall in love with Lt. Uhura, because he's a logical, unemotional Vulcan and that could never happen. It'd just be silly.
So a bible for the Haunted Gueshouse series seems like a very good idea. It would help to centralize all the information about Alison Kerby and her family and friends, to keep facts straight and avoid emails from angry readers (oh, you'd be amazed) who found something on p. 194 three books back that indicates Alison doesn't like to eat tuna fish sandwiches on Wednesdays. And it would help me, going forward, not say things I'll just have to rewrite once the aforementioned Ms. Jamieson Vazquez gets her hands on it, or the proofreader decides to take matters into his/her own hands.
There's just one problem: I don't want to write the bible. Not the one(s) that people like to quote chapter and verse, and not one for my own series.
First, it would require that I re-read each story I've written in the series. I know, you're saying, "Hey, you wrote them, so that's not such a chore," and "it's only four books." Well, the part about the four books forget, because there are also two novellas (one coming in October) and one more book (almost) completely done (coming November 5). So, seven stories altogether.
But the bigger problem is that I cringe at the thought of reading that much of my work all in a row. I see every tiny problem, every line of dialogue I'd write in another way now, every question I had to answer, every silly plot device I thought was a great idea at the time, and every nutty murderer I wrote who really could have solved his/her problem in some other way much more easily. (Not to be too grandiose, but) Picasso probably looked at Guernica and said, "Black and white? What was I thinking?"
Worse, that much reading, even (or perhaps especially) of my own work makes me sleepy. To be fair, if it's the right time of the day, any amount of reading will make me sleepy. About 3 in the afternoon, you can walk up to me with a STOP sign to read, and I'll nod off just before the "O".
Then there's the whole issue of writing down EVERYTHING that might eventually be relevant. How do I know what's going to be relevant two books from now? I don't. So I'll have to write down every possible detail in every sentence. Why not just keep re-reading the books? All I'll have cut out is all the "I"s and the "she said"s.
There's a certain hubris among authors--we designed these characters, these places, these plots. We have created universes. How dare it be assumed that we can't change whatever we want? Well, it's fine when we remember what we've done before and make choices to change things given the new circumstances we conjure up. If Alison's 11-year-old daughter Melissa has a new friend, that's okay; she doesn't have to spend all her time with Wendy. But if suddenly Alison referred to her daughter as "Melinda," that would be a problem.
So I imagine the bible is an inevitability. But it's not going to happen anytime soon, trust me. Book #6 must come first.
If I ask you what someone's name was in Book #2, just indulge me. My memory isn't what it used to be.