Over the course of the last ten years, I’ve written close to 400,000 words that all take place in the same space opera universe. What truly boggles my mind is that I’ve never tried to collate it all so that it was at least internally consistent.
I’ve heard other folks say that the secret to a consistent milieu is to make a wiki, but all my past attempts ended quickly and dismally. I’d get a few pages deep, then find myself floundering about until the project was sidelined for something more constructive. So what’s different this time?
I’m not creating the wiki empty handed. Using all of those novel drafts, wannabe novels, and short stories I’ve written, I’m indexing and organizing the major characters, factions, events, and places in each story. To do this I’m using tiddlywiki with the Firefox extension for in-place saves, but you don’t need to use Firefox, and you don’t even need to use tiddlywiki. Google is your friend when it comes to finding personal wiki projects that can work for you.
Of course, it’s only useful if you do it consistently, so I’ve come with a simple template for each of my stories that captures the Synopsis, Cast, Factions, Races (it is space opera after all ), Places, and Ships. Tiddlywiki lets me tag each page, so I’ve been using a combination of tags (+Place +SOMESTORY) so that on the story pages, I can just use a simple line of code to display all of the stories that combine the two (places that appear in multiple stories will get +Place +SOMESTORY +SOMEOTHERSTORY, etc.).
For this first round, I’m more interested in the data capture than I am in the meshing of the data. I know, for example, that the name of one human government changed from story to story, sometimes referring to folks centered around Earth, at other times to the mysteries aliens from the far edge of the galaxy. I think I’ll wait until I’ve indexed all of the existing stories into the wiki before going back to make them line up with each other.
The benefits to this are more than data cohesion, though. As I work on this, I see stories I never told, or meant to tell, floating and bubbling along the outskirts. My hope is to have all of the data entry done with with time to spare before Nanowrimo. Ideally, I’d like to use this encyclopedia I’ve written to help me write a short novel in November.