The Writer’s Grimoire: A Magical Fact Book for and by Novelists

DavidKracovSculpture
An author’s fact-book is filled with magic. (Click photo to see more of David Kracov’s metal sculptures.)

So, I was fortunate enough to come across a reblogged-and-commented blog entry by Alice de Sturler () which directed to the original by Jessica Loftus ().

Jessica’s “Fact-Books are Your Friends” (06 January 2015)

Alice’s “Fact-Books are Your Friends” (06 January 2015)

Writing back-story, which goes unseen by readers, is nothing new. Organizing back-story is the real challenge.

So, I tried to look up fact books (and even fact-books) online. I came back with wonderful examples of encyclopedic tomes filled with information on specific subjects. While these may come in handy as research resources, I found nothing at all on creating a novel fact-book.

In other words, novelists who wish to prepare a fact book have the two aforementioned blogs (and this one) as resources. Fortunately, Dare to Dream, Live to Write (Jessica Loftus’s online journal) is filled with personal-experience guidance for novelists who want to bind their own writing grimoires. I recommend following her ‘blog.

Why Should I Create a Writer’s Grimoire/Fact-book?

Continuity.

In the past few months, I have grown increasingly overwhelmed. My fact-book is in my head and scattered about notepads. Retaining story threads and character information inside has had a wretched side effect: writer’s block. I am writing a series. I need a reference manual for my ever-expanding world.

I need a fact-book.

How Do I Make a Writer’s Grimoire/Fact-book?

Make one.

GrolierOrnamentePaperblanks
Paperblanks.com makes stunning journals like this one, which has metal clasp closures. (Click photo to shop.)

Writers create worlds from aether. To honor that creativity with a bound work of art is an investment in the alchemy of putting mind to pen to paper.

After I read Jessica’s and Alice’s entries, I was inspired. Unfortunately, I scatter my ideas in spiralbound notebooks and composition books and on the margins of my typewritten pink pages. I want to be organized enough to put it all into a stunning journal like the one shown to the right. Some people can; I encourage those people to find and use an ornate, pre-bound journal.

Whenever I write, each story becomes a living thing. The tale evolves, grows, and changes even after I draft, rewrite, and publish. It’s why I write series, to be honest. My worlds grow too big to be held in just one novel.

So, what’s an alchemist of words and worlds to use? Here’s my personal recipe:

  • One D ring binder, 3″ to 4″
  • Tabbed dividers
  • Lined paper
  • unlined paper
  • graph paper
  • pens/pencils/crayons–whatever I find to write and draw with.

The nerd in me also wants plastic slide-in protector sleeves. Maybe I can use them for drawings, pictures, and character bios for the main characters (MCs); general notes don’t need protection. The general notes are, after all, going to be marked up like mad as the story progresses.

What Do I Put in My Writer’s Grimoire/Fact-book?

Reference material.

Brockhaus_Lexikon
At least you’re not rewriting the encyclopedia . . .

I want characters who act and react consistently with their personalities–even as the characters evolve through the story. I want every significant story thread tucked neatly back into the story weaving. Not all threads are tucked back into the same book they’re drawn out. If I forget a thread which I made a fuss about in an earlier volume, then I risk losing readers. As an indie-published author, I cannot afford to lose even one potential reader.

While my fact-book contents list is not yet complete, I know these elements will be put into it:

  • Character biographies
  • Series and novel themes
  • A cryptid bestiary with histories, mythologies, legends, and modern interpretations
  • Scene summaries
  • Back-story which readers should not have to suffer
  • Series story threads

Come on. Do I Really Need a Writer’s Grimoire/Fact-book?

You may not, but I do.

In the Dome Trilogy, I introduced a major story thread at the beginning of Beneath a Sunless Sky that I resolved halfway through Solaray Dawn. That story thread was so important that it got a nudge in Nightmare Specters–to let readers know I intended to address and resolve it in Solaray Dawn.

I did not have a fact book for that series, so I had to re-read Beneath a Sunless Sky and Nightmare Specters as I wrote, rewrote, and polished Solaray Dawn. I wasted a lot of time and put off Solaray Dawn‘s publication because a 433-page novel and a 506-page novel constituted my trilogy “fact book.”

The Cryptid Series has four drafted novels already, and the fifth through eighth novels are getting re-imagined even as I write this journal entry. The series started as a chick-lit series: one-shot personal-development romances between cryptids and the women who love them. As the world grew, it evolved into urban fantasy with a dash of romance. Something, however, kept pulling me toward the paranormal science fiction genre. The current premise, and its resulting genre, evolved from a question I have asked myself since 2009:

“What if cryptids–the creatures of fantasy, legend, and mythology–returned in force to the modern world?”

I thought about the fairy tales, the mythic stories, the anecdotes of mystery and magic. Once upon a time, cyclopes and unicorns were real. The truth was irrefutable; cyclopes’ skulls and unicorns’ horns were proved to exist, and individuals could examine both.

Well, they were both real until the Scientific Revolution. Cyclopes’ skulls suddenly were dwarf elephant skulls; unicorns’ horns suddenly were narwhal tusks. But what if . . . ?

Fact-books Are Just Good Science.

Science rules science fiction; I cannot proclaim, “Therefore, magic!” and continue on my merry way as a science fiction novelist. While I may not be able to answer every question, I can approach each scientifically. How?

I can record my findings in my fact book, even if the paranormal creatures and events make the fact book appear more like a grimoire.

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