the importance of a series sheet

Before I start today's post, I want to say thanks to Martha Wells (@) for tweeting this list of relief organizations for Japan. I like this site, because it provides a good listing of legitimate organizations that are providing relief to Japan in the wake of the tsunami and the on-going earthquakes throughout the area.

Now to today's post:

Like most fantasy authors, I knew my world (or in my case, Woerld) inside out. I knew all the characters' names; the names of my countries and towns; my world's mythologies; why the religions all worked together; etc. As a matter of fact, I had spent so long immersed in Woerld and it's particular laws, I thought there was no way I would forget everything.

Of course, after not reading the novel for six months, I was amazed at how much I had forgotten!

So for my editor's sake (and mine) I created a series sheet for Woerld. This includes a timeline, the correct spelling of my characters' names; the countries, cities, and towns; the political climate amongst the bastions and the various countries; languages; and general world building specifics.

I have each character listed with his or her own personal timeline and a mini-biography. This isn't as detailed as the other biographies I have for my characters, but it's more like a cheat-sheet.

Some things, like the spelling of Rachael with an "a" and Lucian with an "a," are details for a copy-editor. I want to keep the spelling the same if I can. I spelled their names like that deliberately, even though the common spelling of Rachael is Rachel. With Lucian, I wanted the Latin spelling of his name, because it was more indicative of the time period Lucian is from, rather than the French spelling, which is Lucien.

This series sheet will be extremely valuable when I start writing Dolorosa down the line. There are a lot of minor details in Miserere that will become more prominent in Dolorosa.

I also marvel at authors such as George R.R. Martin, who are able to create such complex worlds filled with dozens of characters. I would need a concordance to keep it all straight!

Instead, I'm lucky and can get by with a two page cheat sheet that I'm sure will grow as I start working with the other bastions and their hierarchies in Dolorosa. However, I feel like I've got a good foundation with my series sheet for Miserere.

What about you? Do you keep a series sheet for the novel you're currently working on or do you wing it and remember all the facts in your novel?