Charles Stross posted about Scrivener, a word processing program that allows authors to organize their long projects in all sorts of useful ways to facilitate catching continuity errors and snip off loose plot threads. Considering how much time I’ve been spending lately removing such errors from Dismantle the Sun, I wish I’d known about this back in 2003, if indeed it existed in 2003.
And to answer Kevin Drum’s question: “The author of the novel, the guy who’s spent months immersed in the world he’s created, is sometimes unable to follow his own plot without the help of a monster piece of project coordination software?” The answer is, frequently, yes.
That is to say, it’s often hard to remember how a revision made in Chapter 3 affects a scene that refers to the previous version of the scene in Chapter 10, and to other scenes that might allude to it in Chapters 13, 17, and 28. Search and replace can help in some cases, but not in all. The second, third, and fifth pairs of eyes that publishers provide can also help, but issues still pop up. In the most recent revision of Dismantle the Sun, I removed from the first chapter a character named Mina, replacing her entire scene. I’ve since spent the last year hunting down all references, including oblique ones, to Mina in the remainder of the text. Last week, going through proofs, the proofreader found one that the copyeditor and I both missed. YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, MINA!!!
Just goes to show that, while Lenin got a lot of things wrong, he was right when he said that everything is connected with everything else. It also means that having a tool to keep those connections straight can be an enormous help to an author trying to wade through 100,000 words of material.