On Consistency

Okay, so I'm in that stage of writing where things have to be consistent. Not only plot items, but character relationships, reactions, world-building items, the full monty. And it's not just in a single book, but through an entire series, with one book which is completely unchangeable.

Let's define. Consistency: agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing.

I know, you're running scared. You should be. Because novels are COMPLEX THINGS. I think consistency is the hardest part of an author's job. We need our characters to act a certain way in a certain situation, but then we need them to do the opposite later on. That can't really happen, unless the arc the character has gone through is pretty big.

And in my novels, that's not the case. I'm a self-proclaimed "discovery writer" so I often have major consistency issues in my drafts. As I'm editing, I've devised a system to help me organize the chaos and achieve consistency.

The highlighter tool. It may seem lame, but I like all those pretty colors. I pick a color for language of a specific character and I highlight it. It's super-easy to check for overuse and consistency; simply make the zoom 20% and you can see 20 pages at a time to see if the color appears too much or not enough.

I repeat this highlighting process for relationships. Do they start and end the same way? If not, why not? Is the arc sufficient to support the change? If so--and that was the goal--yay!

I use the highlighter for many different aspects, but mainly to alert myself to things that need to stay consistent.

How do you stay consistent?


Claire Dawn said...

That's why I don't write dystopian. I'm not good with details, and I'm deathly afraid that I'll make up a rule on page 50 and forget it on page 60. :(

Just finished POSESSION. Brain still reeling. Why isn't the next one out yet??????

Leigh Ann said...

Unfortunately, my first (fabulous, incredible, saintly) beta got stuck with pointing out every. single. inconsistency. in my MS.

Your highlighting tip is brilliant. I think I struggled with the "not enough" at the beginning - just as easy for all the characters to sound the same as it is for them to say one word tooooo much. Obviously it worked for you, because POSSESSION nailed it.

Michelle Flick said...

I love highlighting my manuscript. It really helps me see if I am spending too much time on something and/or not enough time on something.

Alex Mullarky said...

Good idea!

The East Coaster said...

This is going to sound so lame, that I'm almost afraid to share it.

For each series, I have a huge 3ring binder...the kind with the D rings. Character worksheets are in the first section, then settings, then goals, outlines and timelines including a full out calendar.

I know its overkill, but it's the only way I can keep things together.