It’s bad. It’s always been bad, and it’s certainly not improving as I get older, either.
The bad thing is that people do expect you to remember small details about what you’ve written. :) And they should expect that. After all, we made it up.
But for some people, it’s not that easy. I have a hard time remembering the names of people that I see fairly regularly at my children’s extra-curriculars.
What I’ve done to serve as a crutch is to have a series bible for my series as well as sort of a cheat-sheet for each book that I’ve written. I’m starting my 8th book now, and details start getting a little foggy for books that I’ve written a while back.
Penguin Berkley was great to supply me with a style sheet that the copyeditor compiled for my series. I follow it to make sure I keep details the same. There are things in there like the name of the place where a particular character goes for manicures. One character’s sorority is mentioned there, as well as the name of a blues band, etc.
A style sheet is very helpful for reminders on how we treated recipes in the book (we left numbers as numerals in recipes—didn’t spell out 1 tablespoon as one tablespoon), as well as little reminders like this:
Sentence punctuation in italics if whole sentence is in italics; sentence punctuation in roman if only part of the sentence is in italics—quotes always in roman.
My series bible helps me keep track of character ages, traits, habits, hobbies; setting details; and any details of recurring subplots. I know a couple of writers who keep track of these things on an Excel sheet, but I use Word. I type out each character’s name, how old they are, where they live in the town, what they look like, where they’re originally from, etc.
Finally, I have a detailed cheat sheet for each book. This is, basically, a long synopsis. Sometimes I can’t remember the ins and outs of all the plots (and mysteries can get convoluted with clues, red herrings, and alibis.) These cheat sheets are lifesavers.
I have a meeting with a book club next month and they picked Pretty is as Pretty Dies to read. That’s fantastic, but I wrote that book back in 2005-2006ish. It was edited after that, but written 5-6years ago. A refresher is necessary. :)
How do you keep track of your story details and what program do you use to do it (or do you keep track in a notebook?)