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Trust – on all sorts of levels – is a key element in the relationship between reader and writer and authorial consistency is essential for this. For example, if you have your hero aged 27 on page 11 and aged 29 on page 12, readers can’t read on for the alarm bells ringing in their heads. They are suddenly concerned that you don’t know much about your own characters. Similarly with memoir – you can’t have people dying inconsistently. So attention to detail is vital. But how do you keep track of all that detail – birthdates, exams, Halloween, dances, travel days, significant periods. For example, you may need to make a note of how long it takes to hand-stitch a dress.

A few practical tools will help. You will by now be familiar with the uses to which a novelist can put notebooks, folders, wallets and sticky notes. Pinboards can provide inspirational wall-decoration festooned with visual aids such as photos (cut out of magazines or withdrawn from family albums) which may suggest the physical attributes of hero and heroine. Or you can pin-up maps, town plans, street plans or room plans – if they’ll help you visualise where your hero is and how he moves around the space. You will also gather around you a reference library of everything from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to Roget’s Thesaurus.

But don’t neglect the potential of the Spreadsheet – computer-based or otherwise. This can help you with:
• Timeline – what happens and when in your story. Check for feasibility.
• Chapter designation – reflecting the story arc, clarifying what’s important for you in it.
• Word Count – totting up the totals (Have you written a novel? A blockbuster or a novella . . ?)
• A note on the Point of View character for each chapter. (Avoid unnecessary head-hopping.)
• Locations – a list of settings (also indicating areas of required research).

So, as you see, you may find you are using far more than pen and paper or a computer to help you to write a book

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