Building A Series Wiki Part Two

Last time, I talked about wanting to create a wiki containing the background information for my long-running Kormak series. I managed to write a thousand words without addressing how you do this. I hope to rectify that this time around.

One problem I had was deciding where to start. I was in the middle of re-reading the last six books of the series as part of the process of writing book eleven. In my mind, I refer to these as The Siderean Arc because they deal with events connected to the Kingdom of Siderea and its various colonies. The sequence opens with Kormak hunting a pirate sorcerer called the Kraken. From there it moves to a very odd assassination attempt on the King-Emperor of Siderea. After that Kormak is dispatched to the Siderean colonies across the World Ocean. His mission to find the source of the assassination attempt. He gets involved in sea battles with marauding giants, investigates a murder connected to a dark cult, then battles his way through jungles filled with lycanthropic tribesmen en route to a confrontation with a demon god. There’s political intrigue, multiple investigations, and the usual monster hunting and sword fighting. There’s also a lot of lore about the legacy of the Elder World cultures that occupied the colonies before the Solari came. I needed to figure out how to get all this into the wiki while continuing to work on the books.

The basic structure I decided on was a simple one. Each book would get it’s own page, and become a sort of hub. The page would contain an outline of the book, with links spreading outwards to describe its characters, locations, and bits of business when they were mentioned. The front page of the main wiki would contain the names of the books and links to each synopsis.

Another problem I had was a silly one. I am methodical. I like to begin projects at the beginning and work my way through them. My natural inclination was to start with Book One of the series, Stealer of Flesh and work my way forward from there. Warring against this was my lazy desire to follow the path of least resistance. I had just read Ocean of Fear, it was fresh in my mind and it seemed logical to do the outline while that was the case. In the end, perhaps foolishly, I decided to do both.

I began with a thousand word synopsis of Ocean of Fear. I had the original outline, but, as is always the case, I deviated from it during the writing. It was not just story variations. Inevitably characters got renamed, events happened in a different order or not at all, and so on. It’s all part of the process of writing, at least if you are me. I reverse engineered the synopsis from reading the book and found the experience oddly pleasurable.

It’s a strange thing, trying to distil the essence of a novel you’ve already written into less than a thousand words. It makes you aware of some odd things about writing. Events that sprawl over several chapters can often be dealt with in a sentence. Kormak and Rhiana break into the pirate fortress covers the gist of a big chunk of the book. Things that take up little space within the book but which set things up can use up a great many more words in the synopsis. I would say doing this was good practice for writing outlines in the future.

At the same time, I was going through Stealer of Flesh. Unlike with Ocean of Fear, which I had just read and could outline from memory, I was working on the wiki as I went along. I read through the book on my phone and computer, bookmarking and highlighting things and making notes on paper. At the end of each session, I went through the files of the ebooks and cut out relevant material from the text and pasted it into a wiki page, thus ensuring in the future I had the exact words I used to describe something at my fingertips. Here’s a screenshot from the first part of the first day to show you what I mean.

One slight flaw in my plan was that Zim Personal Wiki does not create auto-links. In VoodooPad, which I talked about last time, whenever you typed a word about something that already had its own page, a link to that page was automatically created. It did not matter where you were in the wiki, all the instances of that word would be linked. This is very useful because if you need to check on something in the text, you can just click on it. You can also see if something is important enough to have its own link.

Zim could not do this but I had a plan. Zim uses plain text as it’s file format and I am a proud possessor of Sublime Text, a coding editor which I use for most of my first draft writing. It has the ability to search and replace through many files in multiple folders if need be. (Most of the code editors I have looked at can do this.) The syntax for a link in Zim was as simple as putting double square brackets around an entry. Each Zim wiki exists in its own folder, which in my case lives in Dropbox. My plan was to go through the wiki folder, doing find and replace on each entry once things were done.

It’s not ideal because it means changing things after the first edit gets complicated. You have to do the find and replace again, ignoring the entries already linked. It was the best solution that I could come up with that would work on multiple operating systems.

Right now I am still creating the wiki. It’s time-consuming and that is frustrating when you are trying to get some writing done. I have assigned one Pomodoro per day to the process, and I’ll keep soldiering on until I have achieved my goal. Once the first pass is complete, things should get easier. I will add new entries as soon as a new book is released. I should also be able to update the wiki on the fly as I work. It won’t be efficient, but it will be a good way to procrastinate, and I am always looking for those.

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