While much of Imbalance was born from ideas formed observing an initial map, the concepts behind the series were maintained by a series of documents designed to assist me in documenting the world. There are likely entire programs in existence now for just such documentation, designed with purpose to make a creator’s life easier, but I began the process so long ago I have simply continued to use what has worked for me rather than stopping to improve my systems. You know, similar to how George R. R. Martin still writes A Song of Ice and Fire on software from the 1980s.
1. The Almanac
The Almanac is the series bible. It contains every bit of information created for Purge of Ashes and beyond to ensure continuity across all pages, chapters, books, and formats. This spreadsheet has 16 tabs: Characters, Army, World, Peoples, Nations, Terms, Phrases, Unique Names, Religion, Chakka, Geo, Fauna, Basics, Weapons, Military and Medieval – with some of the headings shortened so they all fit on a single page without need of a scroll bar. A typical tab contains all the information on the subject cited – so, for example, ‘Geo’ breaks down terminology and details for various locations across the map, including a catch-all for ‘man-made’ structures and places. It keeps track of which areas feature what topography and the correlated types of trees and vegetation. A few other tabs are unique. The ‘Army’ tab features a grid of soldier names from the Loce Freelancers, third division, and is updated at particular intervals wherein the listings change. ‘Nations’ contains plenty of objective data about different parts of the world, some of which can be found in my ‘World’ section here online. Finally, the ‘Characters’ tab keeps track of every original name mentioned in the book, be they many-detailed principal characters like Orenzo Madleej or few-detailed throw-away characters like Masterchef D’al.
2. The Chapter Breakdowns
This spreadsheet lists all point of view characters on the left and shows the division of their page count across all 25 chapters of the novel on the right. In other words, it is a rolling counter of who is getting the most ‘headspace’ time per chapter and gives you a sense of who is most central to your story. Since it is divided by chapter, it also demonstrates how long it has been since we last heard this character’s point of view. The results are tallied in a column on the far right, illustrating the final division of mental labour. It also keeps track of when characters have anything similar to a flashback for quick navigation later. I break things down by the quarter page.
3. The Divisions
A succession of milestones both intimidating and inspiring, whenever I finish a point of view, I hop over to the Divisions page to chalk up another completed section. This document divides into the various points of view that comprise each chapter, listing whose POV we are getting and giving it an arbitrary title and brief description so it is immediately identifiable. Since the section is done, I can also fill in how many pages this perspective ate. Before I start writing a new novel I also use this document to record every prospective point of view I plan to write, and then add, take away, or reorder based on my current considerations for the novel’s direction. I lay the entirety of a book out in this fashion before beginning. This document also serves as a place to leave reminders of stuff to double check before finalization.
4. The Timeline
A spreadsheet created to ensure flashbacks had accurate ages, the timeline is a blocky document that would be the first to go were I to afford fancy timeline software, which I’m sure exists. Covering the last 100 spans, it uses coloured boxes to denote character ages, with a top bar listing important events of any particular span. As such, I can keep age continuity for any moments new or old, and hopefully prevent the plethora of challenges that come with hopping about in the narrative as much as I do. I also track the two different understandings of the calendar that occur in the world as explained here. Only 58 characters merited a spot on this document, their histories and relevance too important to be left floating. I would greatly enjoy a better document, but the timeline will have to do for now as there is writing and promotion to do.
All of these documents add up to a system that keeps Imbalance on track and in check, ensuring consistency is maintained across the many pages of Purge of Ashes and beyond.