I recently began writing a second book in a series. This is the second time I've done this, so I'm no stranger to the process (I have two unsold books in another series). This time though, I found myself having to search through the first manuscript for character descriptions, where the characters either live or work, and I even forgot one's last name.
I didn't have this problem with the first series I wrote, probably because there weren't as many recurring characters to keep track of. The second book took place in another city so almost every character was new. My current books take place in a small town, so the only characters not in the new book are either dead or in jail. I needed a way to keep track of them all.
I've heard writers talk about character bibles before but I never needed to use one until now. So I sat down with my trusty Excel program and here's what I came up with. I assure you it's nothing fancy.
On two tabs on a worksheet I put Murder for the first book and Politics for the second. I made three columns on each page: Name / Who are they / Description. I may add another column and mark it Other. I then went through the first manuscript and entered all the names and filled in the other information. It was easier for the new manuscript. All I did was copy and paste the information from the first sheet. Then I deleted anyone who won't be in the new book and added the new characters. Now all I have to do is add people to sheet as they appear in the book.
Some writers also do this with the geographic places in their books. I haven't done that yet, but I do have a hand drawn map that I keep nearby. I drew it shortly after I started the first book and it's been a huge help.
Those of you writing series--how do you keep everything straight? Do you use a character bible?