I have many weaknesses in my writing. Some I’ve identified and am working on, and some I’ve not yet discovered. But, that’s true for all us! No matter how long we’ve been writing there’s something else to learn. Which is awesome, and also why I’m afraid to go back and read any of my books. I’d probably nit-pick them to death with what I’ve learned since.
One of my weakness is picking names. Not that I pick *bad* names per se, but I tend to get hyper-focused on one or two letters in the alphabet. For example, my character list for Slow and Steady Rush:
Robbie Dalton (hero-often called Dalt)
Reed (cousin and hero of Book 2)
Dave (football player)
Rick aka Rick the Dick (policeman)
Dylan (football player)
Ada (grandmother, not technically a ‘D’, but strong ‘D’ sound)
I realized my issue when I was editing a scene with Robbie and Reed. What stinks is when you become attached to names, or the names have already imprinted onto your character. There was no way I was changing my hero or heroine, but I caved and changed Reed to Logan. I had already written his book, so this was heart-wrenching. I had to keep Rick the Dick (for obvious reasons, amiright?), so I changed Dave to Tyler and Dylan to Jamal.
Another of my weakness is keeping (or not keeping) a series bible. This has bitten me on the butt more than a few times, yet I feel like I’m too busy to go back and reconstruct a detailed one. So while I recognize this as a weakness, I still didn’t do one at the start of my new series. But I was introduced to a copy-editor trick that helps me avoid name repetition and also helps me keep track of main character highlights, like hair and eye color and any distinguishing characteristics or titles. It’s the Cliff Notes version of a series bible.
Pardon my handwriting and lack-of-OCD straight lines…this could be set up in Excel, no doubt, but I like keeping it next to me while I’m starting a book so I can jot things down or scratch things out. To me that’s easier than the screen. Plus, I use a spiral bound notebook for each manuscript to long-hand scenes and jot down ideas, so this works for me. I’ve found it super simple, and extremely useful…
You can divvy up your quadrants however you like, and if you do it on the computer, you could expand into as many as you want. But, the point is to write every name (first, last, nicknames) and proper nouns on the grid. From a glance you can tell where you have too many names of the same letter.
It also helps narrow the search for new names. In my case, I’d probably go to the ‘H’s or ‘P’s in my big book of baby names for a first name and the ‘A’s or ‘Y’s in my telephone directory for last names. (Don’t throw those antiquated books away… They are very handy for surnames!)
I hope this helps some writer out there avoid my missteps. I would be very interested in how you guys keep track of names or other shortcuts you use to keep track of your series…