Tuesday Tips – Keep Those Records

If you write a series, there are any number of continuity problems that may arise. The problem is, you may not start out trying to write anything more than a stand-alone novel. What do you do when you write a sequel several years after that stand-alone is released?

Almost any novel in speculative fiction requires either research or “figuring out.” Often, you need both. It’s important to keep that paper (or bit) trail around even after you finish the project, because you may want to refer back to it.

Case in Point

Rigel Kentaurus was always intended to be the first volume in a series. I had actually labeled it a sequence, not a series, because I hadn’t intended to use the same characters. And for most of the sequence, I won’t be able to do that–at least not with the humans. Sublight space travel just takes too darn long.

Exhibit A: Frank Lassiter, the human point-of-view character in Rigel Kentaurus, was 32 years old in that novel. In the sequel, he will be 70 when he enters the story. How do I know that?

It comes down to travel time, and at relativistic speeds, that ain’t a simple question. The time spent aboard ship was about 15 years during the original voyage to Proxima Centauri. On Earth, 34 years passed. All figures “roughly.”

So, Even though I start the clock ticking right from where the first novel left off, after considering Earth politics and travel time once again, the characters get old. And possibly have children and even grandchildren by this time.

Thing is, I didn’t have to dig out the physics book to calculate those figures. I leveraged the work I did for Rigel Kentaurus and worked out those figures in about 5 minutes of playing around with the numbers.

I also had to be careful with dates, because the Alpha Centauri system is a trinary, and the A and B stars were at periastron in the first novel. That only happens every 80 years, so the dates were pretty much forced on me.


I have a manila folder with notes for each novel. I also number my novels so my computer files will be in the order I write them instead of alphabetical order. I keep these folders for when I need the information again. I needed character ages, a birth date, and very much the relativity calculations so I don’t have to do them again.

I also keep a similar file folder for every non-fiction project I do, as well. I urge you to find a way to retain your research and scribbles and sketches and maps for every creative work. Eventually, you’ll be glad you did.


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