Hi, Roxanne here. Have you ever watched a movie and noticed a flaw? Takes you out of the magic and reminds you that you’re sitting in a crowded theater, doesn’t it? Google movie flaws, mistakes or continuity errors—and forget about wasting time playing Hearts or Solitaire or (my mom’s favorite) Bejeweled, which for some crazy reason she always calls “bedazzled”—because you easily lose track of time until someone calls you for dinner or begs you to get off the computer and make the meal.
In the beloved 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s hair changes length within a scene, and in another, she wears black shoes instead of the ruby slippers, along with 307 other recorded mistakes.
Least you think we’ve too sophisticated to make errors today with multimillion-dollar movie budgets and available technology, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaba (2004) had a whopping 299 goofs.
Apparently, the continuity girl is playing too many of the above mentioned games or taking coffee breaks or anything but doing her job. Perhaps, she’s a continuity man in these days of political correctness. Never heard of a continuity girl/guy? According to the Collins English Dictionary at dictionary.com, a continuity girl "is a girl or man whose job is to ensure continuity and consistency, especially in matters of dress, make-up, etcetera, in successive shots of a film, especially when these shots are filmed on different days.”
But rather than pointing fingers or laughing at movie errors, admit novelists make mistakes too. As a reader, don’t you wonder how it happens? How many times did the writer/agent/editor read the manuscript? I recently had the opportunity to read the fast draft of my friend’s novel. She was writing on deadline and didn’t have time to compare the proposed timeline with changes she’d made or keep track of minute elements. So I checked her manuscript for errors—guess I was her continuity girl.
How do authors keep track of the details as they write?
Note cards. In the beginning, I wasn't savvy enough to keep all my info online and note cards were just no brainer easy. One card/scene, which I'd sometimes color-code. I’d even spread the cards along the floor so I could see holes in the plot.
Notebooks. One award-winning author simply keeps pertinent information in a little notebook she carries in her purse.
The Book Buddy by Susan May Warren. A fabulous workbook that helps you think through and organize your book.
Spreadsheets. Other authors use spreadsheets to easily track all the details. Among the benefits: you can be ultra organized; everything is always at your fingertips, it's easily carried on your thumb drive, and there's unlimited storage space.
Novel-writing software. There are dozens of programs out there. Some, like Storybook, are free. Others may cost but are worth their investment with the man-hours saved when scrounging a manuscript for minute details. One published author doesn’t know how she managed before Scrivener, which offers a 30-day free trial.
Wikispaces. Created by the people who brought us Wikipedia, "Wikispace gives you a place to share work, ideas, pictures links, videos and media—and anything else you can think of." Even though the pages were created to be shared among users, they can also remain private. One historical author of dozens and dozens of novels couldn’t keep track of names, places or events she’d used in previous books and wanted to refer to again, so she created a Wikipage for each of her books.
Who is the continuity girl in your life? How do you keep track of the details?
~ Roxanne Sherwood