Some people have photographic memories. I envy those people. (Though it does seem that remembering EVERYTHING might not always be a benefit.) I tell people I have a memory like a sieve. If I write something down, I’m better, but even then it’s usually the general information I remember rather than specifics.
Someone like me really shouldn’t write a series, or, if they do, they should know so ahead of time so they can write down information as they go along. There’s the basic information that’s necessary, like the names of the characters who will appear in more than one book, their physical descriptions, ages, relationship to each other, etc. What I’m also finding important is making sure I keep the background info the same in all of the books, adding to it with each successive book. And I don’t want to change how characters talk, unless there’s been a change noted from one story to the next. Do they repeat the same phrases? Do they change how they treat each other? If so, is it a logical change or just a mistake on my part?
I didn’t think about any of this when I started my “Crow” books (P.J. Benson Mysteries) mainly because I didn’t know I was writing a series. The closest I’d ever come to writing a series was when I did two books for Bantam’s Loveswept series where one book featured one sister and the second book featured the other sister (with the two sisters making appearances in both books). THE CROWS (published 2007) was simply a story I created because of a murder close to where I lived. It wasn’t until after the book was out that a librarian asked when the next book featuring PJ would be out, and I decided “Why not?” And then, of course, my muse (might as well blame her) teased me into ending the second book with the possibility that PJ might be pregnant…causing many to ask me, “When’s the next book coming out? Is she pregnant? What does she have, a boy or a girl?”
So now I’m on the third book in the series I never had any intentions of writing, and I can’t remember what I said in the first or the second book, and I’m wasting a lot of time doing SEARCH AND FIND. But thank goodness we do have those features, and thank goodness both THE CROWS and AS THE CROW FLIES are in digital form and I can call the files up whenever I want and do side-by-side comparisons or research.
Nevertheless, if you do think a book you’re writing might be the start of a series, I highly recommend that you plan ahead. Some writers create what they call a “bible.” It’s a NOTEBOOK (or file) where there is a section for each of the characters or settings they create and all of the important information is jotted down or copied into those sections.
Other writers use INDEX CARDS. Basically these cards hold the same information a writer might include in a notebook, but the cards (3×4 or larger) are separate and the writer can pull out and use just the cards needed for a book or scene.
There’s also a program called EVER NOTES (https://evernote.com) that I’ve been told will help you remember. It’s a free app that can be downloaded to a MAC, PC or iPad.
And many writers nowadays are singing the praises of SCRIVENER. That program costs about $40-$45 but those writers using it seem to love it. One feature in that program is a corkboard where you can post pictures or notes that will help the writer keep track of characters or settings.
I’m almost finished with book three, and when I do finish, I’m going to sit down and re-read the first two books to make sure I’ve stayed true to the characters and haven’t made any major goofs. Of course, there’s no guarantee I won’t miss something, and I sure wish I’d planned ahead.