Keeping Track Of All The Details

It should come to no one’s surprise that there is more to writing a story then putting words down on paper. There are a lot of details that we have to hold onto and some details slip right through our fingers. So, how do I hold all of the moving parts in my head?

Easy. I don’t. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night, let alone what color I gave a character’s eyes when I wrote them last month. Hell, sometimes even a character’s NAME escapse me. (After 18 books that feels moderately forgivable.) So, how do I keep track of all the details?

I’m old school

I use “book bibles” filled with worksheets I’ve made/researched over the years to hold all of the details together (and still, I forget stuff.) It holds stuff like:

Character details I consider
  • Theme (What’s the lesson you want your MC to learn in this book?)
  • Hero’s problem/want/need (What problem does the MC have at the start of the book. What do they want that they THINK will make them happy. What is it that they actually NEED to reach the theme/lesson?
  • Character Profiles Basic stuff like job, family, age, looks, quirks, flaws, horiscope sign, etc. I’ll use images from Google and paste in a person who matches close enough that I can refer back to when describing the characters
  • The Outline A beat by beat play down of what the story arc will be.
  • Time and Space More Google images or terrible hand drawn sketches of locations and printable calanders for the month(s)/year the story takes place in. Time is something I have a hard time holding onto in the details, even WITH a print out.
  • A Family Tree It’s hard enough to remember a MC let alone the sibling or parent details of them!
Most of this outlining stuff comes from Save The Cat Writes A Novel. A GREAT tool if you’re trying to understand outlining. Highly reccomend. I just turned her ideas into worksheets.

If the book is a trilogy or a series, I’ll have a few other addtional bits in there as well. Such as;

  • Series Details Is this going to be a serial series (must read the books in order) or a regular series (books are lined by characters/locations but each book can be read on its own.)
  • Branding/Vision Basics How many books will there be? What titles will you use? What tropes are you lifting up? What is the genre and heat level for the series?
  • One Page Outline If writing a series, before I begin the first book, I’ll do a one page mile-high look at what the crux of each book will focus on so that I have an idea of where it’s going.
Varing worksheets I use for thinking about branding and vision for a series

Even WITH all of this, I still forget stuff. Hey, it happens. But at least this helps me hold on to most of it. And at the end of the day, that’s the best I can ask for.

If you want to hear more about this, author Marianne Morea and I dive a little deeper into the topic on our Bound By Books Podcast. You can watch that below.


We’re on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts!

Until next time, keep those pencils sharp!

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and keeper of all the details


Looking ahead

For those unaware, I am a BIT of a planner. I’m a sucker for a To-Do list and old-school paper planners. Planning helps relieve anxiety about WHEN I’ll have time to do the projects I want to do. It’s taken me several years to settle on something that works for me. I look at the bigger picture, then break it down into smaller bits.

For instance, here is my current plan for 2022.

An ambitious plan to be sure.

So, for 2022, I want to try for four book releases. IF I want that to happen, I have to start with the bigger yearly picture. WHEN in the year COULD I release a book? What days within those months are realistic? Once the month is selected for release, I work backward from that.

My cover designer needs about 4 months in advance to book, so in the white space four months prior to a release, I jot down a note to contact my designer. My editor needs roughly the same amount of time. The designer/editor typically give me the final versions of what I need the month prior to release which make the Cover Reveal months busy. Lots of graphics need to be made for marketing once you have the cover, ARC teams need to be assembled once you have your final draft…so in many ways, the month before your release will be busier than your release months, which is something to think about when looking at that big picture.

After marking down the due dates for the designer/editor, I then focus on WHEN I’ll write each project. After ten years, I realized I tend to write four drafts of each story (sometimes five.) The first draft takes me about three months. (I have a day job so writing takes longer.) The second draft about three months as well. Then a month each for drafts three and four as there is less to clean up in those passes. That means one book takes me about eight months. Um, how are you going to release FOUR books in one year if it takes you eight months to write one book?


I’m not starting draft one of all four projects in January. Instead, I write several projects at once so that there is always chain of books moving down the production line. For example:

Every day I write one or two chapters on a project (depending on the day.) I might write draft one of a book M-W, then do draft two of another project Th-F, then spend the weekend looking over the third draft of another project.

I’m starting a draft one of a project now that won’t release until June. Nine months from now. My February release is going to the editor in December which means I’m working on the last draft of that. The August Release? Draft one is already done. The November release? I haven’t even begun an outline for it yet, but that’s okay, because there is time to do that. And I have a few other projects for 2023 that are in later drafts as well. Yeah, I have a release plan for 2023 and 2024. Like I said. I’m a planner.

Is that Paul Rudd?

But Danielle, what if there is a project you want to do sooner than when you have planned for it? Then I shift things around. Plans aren’t immovable. In fact, in my paper planner, things are always in pencil because life happens. But when I have a bigger picture, I can turn those yearly goals into monthly goals, and those monthly goals into daily goals. Then the goal of four releases in one year doesn’t feel so daunting. It feels manageable.

This isn’t just something for writing. This works for any project that is going to take a long time to finish. Focus on when it needs to be done by and then work backwards. Make monthly goals, then using those monthly goals, make daily goals. And then, everyday, you’re working toward your endgame. (Yes, I had to insert a Marvel reference.)

An example of how you could use the boxes

Got a big project but aren’t sure where to start? You can use my template. Put the major goal in the gray area. The rest of the area are the monthly tasks you need to do in order to achieve your big picture goals.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to tick off some of those boxes on todays To-Do list.

Danielle Bannister, writer and planner of all the things.http://bit.ly/DanielleBannisterNewsletter


How I plot out my year

If you have followed my blog at all, you know by now that I am a bit of a planner. I love to write things down on a list and then, more importantly, cross them off. So satisfying. 5 stars, highly recommend.

One thing I wasn’t great at, however, was planning my writing year. A task many a guru has lectured me on but I ignored. I had a daily planner. What did I need a yearly goal list for? Oh, sweet summer child me. It turns out the daily planner is more effective when you also have a yearly goal list. Who knew?

To show you what I mean, I’ll give you a quick example of how I plot out the year. I start with a blank page, like this.

The first thing I do is figure out how many books I’d LIKE to release in a year. Once I put it on paper, I can figure out if that is a realistic goal or not. Then I take out a PENCIL (because trust me, you’ll make changes) and I circle the months that I know I can’t release a book, either for market instability or personal reasons. For instance, September is a stressful time at my house with two school kids, so I no longer release in September. I’ve learned my lesson.

After I’ve deleted some months for releases, I then figure out what months I would LIKE to release in and mark those accordingly in the gray box. The release month is the key to the planning. It dictates the rest of the year. You work backwards from that point.

For instance, if I have a June conflict, I mark it. But April, say, looks good. So I mark that box as a Release. Then I know the month after should have a giveaway of said book, and the month before should be a cover reveal. Do that with each release.

Once you know what month you want to release your book, then you again, work backward from that date/month. How long is it going to take you to write and self-edit your manuscript? A year, six months, three weeks? Only you know how fast you work. Pencil in where each draft would live. I need about three months per draft, and I do at least three drafts, so if I wanted an April Release, I’d need to be on draft three by January to make that goal work.

My release date/month also lets me know when I need to have my book to my editor (every editor has a different window of time they need.) It tells me when I need to book my cover designer (prior to the cover reveal.) I think you get the idea. The whole plan revolves around that release date. Find those, and work backwards.

THEN, once you have a version of the yearly plan that realistically works with your schedule, you can take those big monthly goals and break them down into achievable DAILY tasks. For instance, if I know I need to be in draft three of a manuscript in January, I plot out daily how many chapters I need to finish each day in order to reach that goal. Again, I do this all in pencil because life happens.

The yearly planner can work for authors, or for life in general. Putting a large goal in the gray box and smaller goals in the white. Seeing the bigger picture can help you figure out how you can break those goals in to smaller, achievable tasks.

Lets make all the plans and then cross those tasks off!

Danielle Bannister, author and list maker

Theatre, writing

Where did Summer go?

Seriously? Like, I blinked and POOF, summer is GONE. Typically, I spend my summers writing all the words as I have a small break from the day job then, but alas, I foolishly agreed to be the Stage-manager of a musical here in my small coastal town and well, let’s just say stage-managing is really a full-time job. Writing did NOT get done.

It was worth it though. I got to see my son performing in a lead (Jack in Into the Woods) singing a solo (with some challenging notes to hit) in and among a cast of super talented adults and youth.

My daughter worked the stage crew with me as she had just gotten done performing a leading role of her own at another theater. She was Mary in Secret Garden, the Musical. She even had her face on the poster!

So between running to two different rehearsals (and help running a theatre camp during some of the hottest days of the summer), my writing days evaporated before my eyes.

Last day of camp. We’re smiling, but man, are we TIRED!

BUT, the good news is that the kids are back in school, and even though I’m also back at the day job, I am also able to settle back into my normal writing routine. I’ve mapped out my releases for the next two years, now all that I need to do is write them.

Easy peasy. Ha!