As I mentioned before, I walk a couple of miles just about every morning. I always take that time to listen to my iPod, specifically, to audio books or podcasts about the book biz. One of my favorite podcast series is Meet the Author, hosted by Barnes & Noble.com.
A couple of days ago I listened to an interview with Ken Follett, author of some wonderful books on my keeper shelf. I've heard a lot of people say that his Pillars of the Earth is the best book they've ever read. His next book, Fall of Giants, to be published next week, will be the first novel in his Century Trilogy.
Mr. Follett's Tip
All the left brain thinkers of the world will rejoice because they can put their Excel or other spreadsheet skills to good use.
Mr. Follett revealed in the interview an interesting way to stay up to date in a work that involves a lot of people over a long span of time. He uses a spreadsheet. He inputs the characters' names, prominent physical characteristics, their birth date, chapter titles, and major events in time.
The spreadsheet formulas calculate what age the character at any given time. Let's say the character is born November 2, 1963, and that event occurred in Chapter 1. Then, in Chapter 6 which takes place in March 1999, the spreadsheet calculation will tell you at a glance that the character in question is now 36.
Writing a novel, especially a complex one that spans many years and involves many characters, is a tremendous undertaking. Use any trick you can to maintain continuity and keep it all straight in your head and in your manuscript.