The gist of it: To avoid getting lost within your own creation, create a chapter-by-chapter synopsis that you update as you progress.
Isn't funny how when you read something, a light bulb goes on. I couldn't put it into words before, but now that you say it... But in truth, I've noticed my own difficulties in keeping my story straight.
I keep a timeline of events for my historical fiction so my ducks stay in a nice neat line, especially since I'm working in B.C. time and the years work themselves backwards. However, I can easily forget which chapter I placed a certain event. I have the year for an event on my timeline, sure, but did I remember to put it in this chapter from 1341 or that chapter from 1341? Did I foreshadow an upcoming event or not? Momma duck is losing her ducklings and fast!
As if I need to write a story to realize how easily I get confused! Its easy to get so far ahead of yourself that you begin to lose your way. So poor little gray duck, purple duck, and polka-dot duck cannot find the path I took as I'm no longer in their line of sight (its duck-duck-gray-duck, not duck-duck-goose!)
I definitely need to start doing this. Here is the synopsis for Aten's Last Queen's first two chapters. Perhaps it will be a good guide for you as well.
Chapter One: Both Shadow and Light, 1341 B.C.
The story of Tutanhkaten’s birth is retold by Ankhesenpaaten as it has been told to her. Nefertiti claims the title of Mother of Tut, and his birth mother, Henuttaneb, is erased from the record. Nefertiti’s fears are briefly shared. Ankhesenpaaten’s older sister, Merytaten, appears to be the heir to the throne, and Tut is placed in the care of a nurse named Maia, who has lost her husband and a child previously in an accident.
Chapter Two: Let Not The Heart Be Troubled, 1340 B.C.
Ankhesenpaaten and her sister Meketaten are playing together and discuss how they envision their futures.
Time moves forward to 1338 B.C. Merytaten’s role as future heir has become more intensive, and the only time Ankhesenpaaten shares with her is at school. However, they come to love a song performed during one of their classes that brings tears to their eyes.
One of Pharaoh’s wives, Kiya/Tadukhipa, has her father visiting. There is a festival taking place in the palace to celebrate his arrival. Meketaten insists on buying a good luck charm for their Mother who is pregnant again. Ankhesenpaaten meets a Canaanite boy at the market stall. They share stories of their lives, and she feels attracted to him. But she is rebuked publicly by Meketaten for it. We are also quickly introduced to Marahkaten, one of Pharaoh’s lesser daughters.
As there is a lot of world building and character identification in the first few chapters, some synopses will be longer than others. However, I am going to have to go back and start this. I can see how beneficial this quick-reference tool would be.
Do you have other methods to your madness? Please share! Anything to help keep my little quackers from getting lost in the momentum of the story. Because if they get lost, I'm guessing the reader will also get lost. And that's definitely something as an author I want to avoid.