Introduction: Book writing and a wiki
At the moment I’m writing my second novel (the first one is paused) and I am really euphoric about that! It is every time a really good feeling to see something happen, to see that your own story becomes a life. It is awesome. But there is a big problem. My story is huge (like many other novels) and becomes very complicated over time. Some characters have a background story, some others have special feelings, etc.
Of course you are the author, it is your story, something of your life, so you must know this all from the head. But let’s be honest, this is complete nonsense. Our brain is limited and it would be stupid if we did not take advantage of the available technology.
Today I want to introduce one of the many possibilities. I use it and love it. It is not something new and I can bet that other authors use this technique too. So it is not my technique. Only my idea to introduce it for you
Let’s start and make our own Wikipedia, but this time only about our own story…
Why a wiki?
A wiki is a website which allows its users to add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser usually using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software.
- Wiki (Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 14 October 2012 09:42 UTC).
Okay, a wiki allows us to create pages, categories and some other special things in no time. It is really easy and do us allow our own formatting of the whole text. You can collect everything of the story and sort them into categories. Like the characters, planets, objects, secrets, etc.
One of these ‘wiki software’ is MediaWiki. It is the software which powers the huge Wikipedia. You know already what Wikipedia is, do you?
I use MediaWiki, because it has many useful extensions (like ParserFunctions), it is really easy and I already work with it on an other project. You are free to use other software, but I prefer this one.
What we need?
You need three things:
- Wiki software
I use Apache (Server), MySQL (Database) and MediaWiki (Wiki software). If you not already have this three things on your computer, I suggest to download XAMPP and the MediaWiki software. They are really easy to install and many articles are already out there to help you, when it is to confusing, to hard or it is failing. I can’t make a tutorial about that due to the lack of time, sorry.
When you are finished you should play with it. Make some pages and do some formatting. You don’t need to be a computer guru to know MediaWiki. It is really easy and you will love it. Maybe after that you will write your own articles in the mystic Wikipedia?
How to start?
There is no real way to start. I started with the main page.
My own main page is really a huge link container with the most important pages. Like tool-pages, characters, chapters, sections, books, sagas, secrets, scenes, objects, etc.
The main page will be your own operation room and everything will be handled there:
My own main page looks like the picture above. It has an overview of many important pages.
Of course you can do what ever you want. One tip, use a good style and make something for your eye. It is really useful to have something balanced and well coming. Thus, the write process will make twice as much fun!
After that you can structure and plan your story. For example one of my character pages looks like this:
You can see (and maybe understand when you can read German) that it is really easy to make something like flashcards about characters.
Another example, this time one of my chapter pages:
The chapter page has two special things:
- It has a navigation, so it is really easy to switch between chapters. (Use ParserFunctions to make them dynamic)
- It has a ‘Criticism’ section (Kritik). Write here everything which is on your mind, why this chapters is not so good or why it is good. Be critical to your self.
So, this was a little overview of an example wiki. Let’s see where the benefits are.
A wiki has several advantages:
- Fast editing
- Easy interface
- Unlimited types of pages
- Dynamic (you can change everything really easily)
- PDF and many other export features
- and many technical things more….
Nothing is perfect – Disadvantages?
Of course a wiki has some disadvantages:
- Big overhead due to the server requirement
- Loss of focus on the main story (You will only write wiki pages…when you will write the real story?)
- Featuritis (You will add features, chapters, objects, characters and many things on mass, because it is so easy. The whole story will maybe blow up!)
You see, a wiki is also associated with a lot of discipline. Just with discipline you’ll write your own story finally and you will not fall into the wiki. Be careful and question any good.
So this was a little introduction how to use a wiki to structure a book. Before I started with MediaWiki I used yWriter, a very good software to write novels, but due to the lack of dynamic structure I changed to MediaWiki.
But attention: Don’t write your book on the wiki, use something like Microsoft Office, LibreOffice or OpenOffice. The wiki is only for structuring and planning. It is not a story container. A wiki has not the great features of formatting or other features as an office application.
I hope I could give you some ideas about story structuring and planning. Finally my last words:
Use a wiki to plan your story, but not to write it