Mistakes Were Made

Well, this is embarrassing. Having spent the last couple of blog posts talking about building a wiki for my Kormak series, I now have to admit I got it all wrong, and am canceling the project.

What happened?

I realized, as is so often the case, that I was going about things the wrong way. The specific moment was when I was writing an outline of book seven, Born of Darkness for inclusion as a hub in the wiki. As I mentioned last time I was going through the process of writing a synopsis for a publisher but in reverse. The book existed and all I was doing was decoding the structure and summing it up.

As I was writing, I remembered when I used to do something like this for a living. I wrote outlines intended to sell books, which were approved and contracted by a publisher. After that, I wrote the books. I remembered that a whole lot of other things used to go into those outlines. There would be character sketches of the principles, descriptions of locations and important bits of business. The format I used was to tell the story and then have follow-up sections detailing all the needed information. The basic idea of such an outline was to convince a publisher that you could write the actual book. It usually worked.

It dawned on me that such an outline was all that was required for my purposes. It could tell me all I needed to know about the story in an easily digestible format. Having it close at hand, would save me needing to reread the books in order. I could refer to the synopsis. I could even cut and paste the descriptions of major characters and locations from one outline to another to save time and work.

If I wrote the outline in markdown it would be usable everywhere. I could keep a copy on Dropbox and Google Drive and OneDrive. I could transform it into Word documents and put in Office 365 and Google Docs. This would let me refer to it on my phone anywhere, anytime. Everything would be in one compact bundle, not scattered around a bunch of linked notes as they would be in a wiki.

That was another pain point that got me thinking about this. In Zim there was no auto-linking which was one of the things that I liked about VoodooPad. It was what got me thinking about the whole project in the first place. My plan for dealing with this was kludged. I was going to go through the files in a code editor after the wiki was complete and find and replace all the links into place. The problem as mentioned before is that I would need to repeat this process if I ever modified the wiki.

I was forcing myself to find ways to make this solution work. Yet again I had allowed myself to seduced by the idea of a thing. I had this piece of software. It seemed ideal for a purpose so come hell or high water I was going to find a way to use it. I was going to make a series wiki.

I did not stop to consider whether this was the best way of doing the job. I just wanted to get it done. Only once the project was under way and it became obvious that it was going to be a massive amount of work, did I stop to question why I was doing it, and how.

The purpose of the project was to save me time and work, by providing me with an easy reference to my previously written books. I did not need a reference for every minor character who was named during the course of the story. I just needed to keep track of major recurring characters, and those who appeared in important incidents. It was not really necessary to have hyperlinks every time something was mentioned. My memory is not yet that bad.

Once I admitted that to myself, I began to question whether I needed a wiki at all. I had already created several outlines and I had cut and pasted the data about characters and places out of the original ebooks. I began to think it made more sense to keep these things all in one place, in an easily accessible format. I remembered the outlines I used to write and thought, that would do. I was in good company, this is what Erle Stanley Gardner, one of the world’s most prolific and successful authors used as well. Of course, he worked in the days before computers were commonly available so he kept his records on paper in filing cabinets.

I’ve scaled back the plans for the outlines and dumped the plan to create a wiki. I have decided just to go with simple outlines all kept in the same folder and copied to all the places I have already mentioned so I have them at hand. I may well create an ebook containing them as well so I can carry it around on my phone and kindle for reference. You can never have too many copies of such information.

One interesting side effect is that it’s given me some good models for writing new outlines. These ones are convincing, as they should be since they were taken from finished books. I will aim for something like them the next time I want to write an actual outline.

It’s been a learning experience. One I am sure I will forget as soon as the next interesting bit of software comes along and I find myself looking for excuses to buy or use it. One thing I have learned as I have gotten older is that I do forget stuff and need to be reminded of it or to relearn it.

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  1. Well, at least you stopped yourself before wasting too much time and money chasing a cool solution. An advantage of self-employment over a large corporation.

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