I’ve spoken before about the creation of an encyclopedia to keep track of your novel or novel series’ world. I had an entire series about it on some website, Obscure Authors Alliance I think, the website itself is even more obscure than the authors now so whatever. My own encyclopedia for the Cloudy Cuckoo Cosmos was all put in a Word document. I started with a rather random assortment of information, moved on to entries for species, organizations, characters, and locations, then ended with some random lists. The document became like 200 pages long or something and it was nigh-impossible to efficiently look through it.
I needed a better way to do it.
What about a wiki?
I mentioned I was putting everything on a private wiki earlier and that I would make this post so now I am. I actually have some weird wiki experience, having made one with some friends a while ago for our fan universe. This new one is private and not for a fan universe. It’s for my universe. And it helps immensely with organization. I fully recommend anyone creating their own universe put it all into a private wiki for easy access and organization of information. You might even find it easier to come up with new details when it’s so easy to find existing ones.
When I was trying to find a good program to use I checked Wikipedia’s personal wiki article. I probably should’ve tried all of them before going with one for sure but I didn’t feel like it and am always too busy so I just went with Dokuwiki on a Stick which is apparently its real name. It’s worked fine so far. Some of the syntax is different than what I’m used to (but apparently it’s the syntax MediaWiki uses so whatever) and it needs some extensions added for things that should be pretty obvious like categories, and also it has a bit of the problem of public programs made by coders which is that it can be obtuse to anyone who doesn’t code (like me) but it’s not too bad. I mean, I figured it out! See?
Okay. Okay. Okay. So on the Word document I just basically had one chunk of text with a few paragraphs smushed together with each paragraph being a different section (history, appearance, etc.) This was terrible, and for longer things, such as species with an actually notable history, it was terrible to look at because it was just one paragraph per section. It was… you know how dinosaur is like “terrible lizard” or something? What would be the name for “terrible paragraph”?
Anyway, having actual sections sectioned off for each section means I can use actual paragraphs now. It’s readable. And whereas before I could really see no more than one or two entries at a time and had to scroll the giant document to find them, now related articles can be reached right from a link. I know this is basic wiki information but I mean come on it’s really figgin useful!
So far the most time-consuming thing in transferring all this information onto the wiki is the formatting, but as I go I’m finding there are things that I never really detailed on, things that are easier to notice I never wrote down now that I can easily look at it all. Species culture, including any possible common religion, is but one of these. Eating habits is another. There is also a lot of information that I would put in lists, such as blood color, that I probably should have mentioned in the species entries. So now I do. Characters of a certain species is another example.
Honestly the Word document also got incredibly disorganized. At the start was a lot of information that should have gone elsewhere, such as planet histories, and for some reason I tucked a list of planet flora off near the bottom instead of actually in the entries for those planets.
With all this information in the wiki, I’ll be able to see a list of everyone who lives somewhere and simply click their name to see who they are. Before I’d have to like, put their name and then probably what species they are or some other identifying characteristic because honestly I just wouldn’t know, that’s why I write this stuff down so I can look it up, but I couldn’t effectively look stuff up in that document!
The character articles are probably the biggest relief of these. There was a lot of information I packed into places that it didn’t really fit in an effort to reduce the size of those terrible paragraphs on the Word document. Now they get their own section! I also never was really able to detail a character’s family in their sections because it was about them, but again, now a specific section for that can exist.
Being able to have specific sections also helps in looking up those specific things—before I’d have to scour their history for where they lived, but now I can just check the actual section for it. I’ve also started work on a properly-organized timeline article, which set me into determining just what the birthdates for all the characters are, so I’m not sure I can stress enough that having this be organized goads me to actually get more information made. Now I can tell when Ropak’s birthday is in Wandering Fortunes! Er, not that he can.
There is actually something of a timeline for a couple kingdoms in the CCC that haven’t appeared yet in the old Word document. They’re both too long to look through well and have a giant line of the kings and queens that is confusing to look at. This will, again, now only be vastly improved in the wiki format, but I can make the names of all these rulers link to pages that don’t exist, and when I find I don’t have anything important to make articles for, I can start really detailing that history. The red links to nowhere significantly help me see what parts of the CCC I still need expand on.
So I reiterate at this point in this post that I recommend organizing any world you’re creating for something into a wiki, especially if it spans for more than one something. Especially do it before you have more than 100,000 words worth of information to transfer over to it like I do…