Greetings, loyal MW readers! Thank you for following me to this new day and posting schedule – you’ll still be hearing from me once a month on Magical Words, but I’ll pop up on different days of the month. In other words, when you least expect me, expect me!
For anyone who has read my earlier posts (especially those about strategic plans), you know that I am a list maker, a scheduler, a planner. Those natural inclinations serve me well when I’m writing secondary world fantasy. The more complex the world, the more important it is to keep track of all those details, to maintain the sort of rock-hard consistency that “sells” a novel to readers.
When I created DARKBEAST (my middle-grade traditional fantasy novel, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in fall 2012 as by Morgan Keyes), I went overboard in the details. Not only are there twelve gods, but each god is associated with a particular sigil (an animal symbolic of the deity) and a particular style of godhouse (temple, with a unique composition and design.) Not only are there mystery plays, but each play has specific elements that must be included in every production. Not only is there a vast variety of healing herbs, but each herb has a unique appearance and specific properties.
You get the idea.
When writing DARKBEAST, I kept notes in the “Research” section of Scrivener. My notes were freeform, and I could modify them at will. (Global search and replace is your friend, when you are still searching for the perfect name for characters, places, and things…)
Once I finished DARKBEAST, though, I realized that I needed to get my notes into better order. I was going to need them for the sequel, tentatively titled DARKBEAST REBELLION. And as long as I was going to need them, I figured that my readers will want to see them to.
Enter the wiki. We all know about online encyclopedias – most of us duck out to Wikipedia for a bit of spot research at least every now and then (whether we admit it publicly or not!) There are a lot of wiki tools that allow people to create their own online encyclopedias, tailoring them to a variety of needs and formats. I’d used Wikispaces successfully in the past (it is simple, with a mostly intuitive interface), and I’d explored several other providers.
Ultimately, for my DARKBEAST wiki, I chose Google’s wiki tool. I did this, in part, because I was most familiar with Google; I had been the wiki administrator for a group of 100 authors for nearly three years, and I’d experienced most of the Google wiki quirks firsthand. I also leaned toward Google because of my ability to customize the site; I could change the background to match the one on my website. Finally, with Google I could easily set permissions, allowing me to make changes to the wiki text, but keeping anyone else from having similar access, all for free.
There were challenges, as I created the wiki. Of course, I needed to decide on basic principles of organization. I needed to decide whether gods were “people” or “things”. I needed to figure out how much of my plot to spoil with wiki entries (and once I decided what spoiling was acceptable, I needed to work out a method to protect readers. Ultimately, I used a system of different colors of type and background so that readers can highlight information to read facts they might not want to know up front.)
I envision making changes to the wiki as my exploration of the DARKBEAST world expands. I am already compiling notes in my rough draft of REBELLION. (Because my drafts undergo fairly major changes over time, I won’t update the wiki until things are in a more final form.) I find myself writing REBELLION with the existing wiki open on my desktop; I use it several times in each chapter.
What do you think? Is this a tool that you can see yourself using for your own speculative fiction work? If you were a middle grade reader, would you find this sort of site interesting to visit?