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Question
I love fantasy novels. My favorite series is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. I love how complex it is in both characters and plot. I am starting my own fantasy novel and I am finding it difficult to file all of the information in both my head and my computer. Where should I start? Is there some kind of program that can help me? I am pretty knew to writing, except for short stories and poetry. I'm just kind of confused on how and where to start. Any tips or references would be much appreciated.(please keep in mind that I have a limited budget)

Answer
There are many programs on the market that can allegedly help with things like this... but since I've never used any of them, I'm not even going to pretend to know much about them.

Still, there are ways to keep track of information without spending a lot of bucks.  Personally, I use a spreadsheet to track information.

For example, my novel ONE NATION UNDER GOD was broken into ten chapters, each of which covered one calendar year.  My spreadsheet of plot points had ten tabs, one for each year.  In each tab, there were twelve columns, one for each month.  And the events were listed chronologically.  It was very helpful for tracking what happened when.

Other ways you can utilize a spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Excel, is to track character information.  You can have a sheet for each character.  Different tabs can be for areas of information.  For example, one tab could be about your character's education background, another for hobbies and interests, another for his job history, another for her past relationships.  

Just try to compartmentalize things and you'll soon see it's not too hard to use simple tools to keep it all organized.

And the better you can keep it at your fingertips, the less you need to keep in your head.

Hope that's helpful.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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