Thursday, June 23, 2016

You've Got Style!

with guest Erica Vetsch.

 In the not too distant past of this year’s Speedbo, Tina and I were in the #1k1hr Facebook group writing away toward our Speedbo goals, and when I mentioned that I was working on a Style Sheet for my editor, Tina’s cute little ears perked up. A Style Sheet? Seekerville folks would love to hear more about that topic! She promptly invited me to guest post at Seekerville about the ins and outs of Style Sheets for authors, and I gladly accepted!

So, what is a Style Sheet?

A Style Sheet is a list, really. A list of people, places, and details of which you must keep track while writing a novel. If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, you know there are hundreds, if not thousands of details and decisions to oversee, and it’s easy to forget or change some fact between chapter one and chapter twenty. But you can bet your readers will notice and call it to your attention. And while you can’t guarantee that a manuscript is error free, you can sure minimize those mistakes with a handy little Style Sheet. (Some houses call this document a Story Bible, but I don’t like that term, so I don’t use it, but if you come across it, it means Style Sheet.)

For some writers, their Style Sheet is simple. Character’s name, age, hair color, eye color. Bam, done.

For some writers, their Style Sheet includes back-story, timelines, setting descriptions, character photographs, story synopsis, story turning points, and more! 

I suppose, much like the plotting/pantsing debate, the depth and breadth of your Style Sheet reflects your process and preferences as a writer. There’s no wrong way to do it.

For me, my Style Sheet varies based on the project I’m currently working on. The briefest Style Sheet I’ve done is two pages, a list of names and descriptions and a handful of small photographs to illustrate the main characters in the story. This was for my novella The Trail Boss’s Bride. When my editor saw it, she was super happy, and she said she might start asking all her authors to keep and turn in a Style Sheet with their stories. 

The Trail Boss's Bride
The largest, most complex Style Sheet I’ve ever done stands currently at a whopping 33 pages and counting! This particular Style Sheet is for a novella collection I’m coordinating. Seven Brides for Seven Texans is a set of novellas that all take place within one calendar year, written by seven different authors, about seven brothers who must marry in 1874 or lose their inheritance. With so many authors needing to coordinate stories so tightly interwoven and overlapping, keeping track of details is a MUST, which is where a Style Sheet comes in. 

Seven Brides for Seven Texans

For the Seven Brides collection, the Style Sheet includes:

1.    The order the stories appear in the collection, along with author, title, and contact info for each author.

2.    A brief overview of the collection (something like back-cover copy.)

3.    A back story timeline of the Hart family leading up to the collection prologue.

4.    A timeline of 1874, the setting of the story, and where each novella fits, along with dates of important events like marriages, cattle drives, community events, etc.

5.    A quick-reference chart of main characters along with birth order, age, hair color, eye color, physical traits, personality traits, etc.

6.    A calendar of 1874.

7.    Character sketches from each of the authors (a couple paragraphs at most) of the heroes, along with photographs of hero and heroine for each novella.

8.    A 1-2 page story synopsis of each novella.

9.    A list of extra characters with a brief description. From the town lawyer to the undertaker to the gossipy dressmaker, these characters make appearances in most all the novellas, so they must remain consistent from one to another. (The list currently stands at 46 different characters.)

10.    A list of businesses and buildings used in the story. Hotels, restaurants, mercantiles, etc.

11.    Photographs of the main ranch house, and the main rooms of the house, so that descriptions can be consistent from one story to the next, as well as a floor plan of the house.

12.    A map of the town.

13.    A map of the ranch with each son’s portion labeled.

As you can see, a Style Sheet/Master Document is essential when writing a continuity series where characters overlap so heavily, but you don’t need to be working on something of this scope to utilize and benefit from a Style Sheet.

How do I make one?

•    Use the method that works for you.

There are lots of ways to create a Style Sheet. Some authors use a spreadsheet. Columns and rows make their organized little hearts sing. Other authors use a word document, writing in paragraphs and lists. Some authors start with the Style Sheet first, and others fill it out after they write the story. You choose the method that makes the most sense to you.

•    Include pertinent details

At the very least, character descriptions should be included, but you feel free to get as detailed as you need to in order to keep track of information throughout your story. Include a list of places used in the story. If your story involves a great deal of research, be sure to include your sources. You never know when your editor might query whether your heroine should be using a sewing machine in 1850 or if your hero really would own a blue pickup truck in 1917. Photographs are helpful, too! 

•    I recommend updating as you go rather than waiting until the end

Creating a Style Sheet is much easier if you do some of the work up front and then add as you go. When plotting a story, I start with a Style Sheet, listing my hero and heroine and the setting, as many details as I know in the beginning.  As I write, sub-characters pop up all the time, a shopkeeper, a deputy, a neighbor, and it is easiest to add them to the Style Sheet at that time. Also, character quirks tend to develop as I write, and halfway through the book I discover that my hero is allergic to strawberries or my heroine is afraid of dogs. Stick those kinds of details into the Style Sheet so you can refer to them later.

What do I do with it when it’s complete?

When you’ve gotten your Style Sheet created and you’ve completed your first draft, print out a copy of the Style Sheet and have it by you as you revise. Use it to make sure that your blue-eyed hero doesn’t have brown eyes by chapter six, or that your heroine who is orphaned in chapter three doesn’t mail a letter off to her mama in Poughkeepsie by chapter ten. 

Once you’ve edited, revised, and cleaned up your manuscript, ready for submission, make sure you’re Style Sheet is all spit-shined, too, as up to date as possible.

And when you turn in that beautiful novel, include a copy of your Style Sheet. This bit of story-shorthand will be invaluable to your content and copy editors! They might even fall upon your with kisses and chocolate! Your editors, who won’t be as familiar with the story as you are, can keep track of unfamiliar details and edit for consistency and continuity without having to scroll back or riffle through screeds of pages to check on a detail. 

They will thank you! 

So what do you think of the Style Sheet? Are you already creating something similar? Do you have any suggestions? 


Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

His Prairie Sweetheart
  A Home for Her Heart

After being jilted at the altar, Southern belle Savannah Cox seeks a fresh start out West and accepts a teaching position in Minnesota. But between her students' lack of English, the rough surroundings and sheriff Elias Parker's doubts and distrust, Savannah's unprepared for both the job and the climate. However, she's determined to prove she can handle anything her new town throws her way.

Elias gives it a week—or less—before the pretty schoolteacher packs her dainty dresses and hightails it back home. But no matter how many mishaps he has to rescue her from, Savannah doesn't give up. Yet the real test is to come—a brutal blizzard that could finally drive her away, taking his heart with her…

Leave a comment today for a chance to win a copy of His Prairie Sweetheart, her debut release with Love Inspired Historical. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.

Oh, and just for fun, Erica did a Seekerville Style sample sheet (as though we 13 were characters in a book). ENJOY!! It's all good fun!



Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Erica.

This is really your book Bible, right? I love this. LOVE IT!!!

Thanks for sharing with us.

Okay, blame Jaime Jo Wright. We still have cheesecake to eat. Pass the strawberries.

Erica Vetsch said...

Cheesecake with Strawberries. YUM!

Thanks so much for having me again. I love Seekerville. :)

I first learned about style sheets way back in...2006? I took a class from Angela Hunt at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference, and she said creating a style sheet would endear you to your editors. I am all about endearing myself to my editors! :D

I somehow find the term 'book bible' or 'story bible' to be uncomfortable, so I've stuck with style sheet.

Missy Tippens said...

We're still settling in the new house (buried under boxes), but I wanted to drop by and say hey!! I miss "seeing" y'all's smiling faces each day. :)

Erica, this was fun to peek into how you organize.

And what fun to see the Seeker chart!! LOL

Okay, back to unpacking. But first, some sleep might be in order...

Erica Vetsch said...

Congrats on a new house! But UGH! The work of packing and unpacking and finding homes for all the stuff!

I had a blast filling out a style sheet on the Seekers! You'll notice that you're all 29 with cute hair! :D

Sleep well, Missy!

Cheryl St.John said...


I have a whole binder I use for this pupose. I create one for each book. Holds my research, character details, the synopsis, descriptons, and an alphabet list where I check off names that start with A or B or C so I don't duplicate.

Crystal said...

Hello Erica and Tina! With my to-do list not complete, I am looking at a long night ahead. So what do I do instead of my to-do list, why visit Seekerville, of course! I have a fresh batch of scone, mock Devonshire cream, and a nice big pot of tea (caffeinated of course) for the sharing.

Erica, I love the style sheet! It is not at all what I thought it would be when I read the title, but I do like it better than the book/story Bible. I really like how you organized it in Excel (I am a spreadsheet kind of gal) and am going to steal your organizational idea. :-) Just make sure you give me a pen and notepad when you send me to jail. I already jeep a journal listing most of the things you mentioned because I got tired of flipping through my manuscript to remember what detail I used. I also include the GMC to make sure I am staying focused and not chasing a rabbit. Speaking of rabbits, I think I have procrastinated too long... back to work. *Sigh* Have a great night/day!

Tina, I will gladly take a piece of cheesecake. A girl's gotta have a midnight snack. ;-)

Dawn Ford said...

I do something along these lines for each of my books, mainly to keep the details so I don't have to search the whole document when all I need to do is check the sheet. I have photos, but I put those in a different file. For one of my books, I had little sayings that went along with each chapter, so I had a page and a half of sayings, the ones I used marked in red, and the others in black waiting to be added to the second book after I finished using them for the first book. I spend a lot of time getting this all organized, so I don't spend double the time trying to get it all figured out in the middle of a writing session. Nothing nearly as grand as Erica's sheets, but maybe I'll graduate into them sometime. ;)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Scones!!!!! I love scones. Seriously love them. Thanks Crystal!

Tina Radcliffe said...

By the way, I'd like to say, you NAILED US!!!

Crazy driver.



Mary Preston said...

I can see how a Style Sheet would be invaluable to a writer.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Erica! I loved this post and giggled at the Seekers Style Sheet...they are all my age! :) Cute. This is really a great idea and a keeper.

Many blessings to all today.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Erica, I'm dying laughing.... I love your description of me, it's got me giggling because I tease my Midwestern/Minnesota-born-and-raised son-in-law often that folks out there are just toooooo slow..... and while they're shakin' their heads about what should get done, we've moved on to task #4 in the day...

With coffee!!!!

The words "New York Minute" are serious descriptors in the Northeast.

Although I'd rather be "Slender and Sweet" or whatever that was... dagnabbit!

I've never done a style sheet. It's never occurred to me to do a style sheet. I do list names of folks in series, but this is brilliant.

I bet it takes time, doesn't it????


I have seen the error of my ways, Erica Vetsch!!!! Huge thank yous for giving us this wonderful sketch!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love that we're all 29....

And good hair is clutch, LOL!

Erica, do you have to know how to create a spreadsheet to do this darling???

Because that might be your next Seekerville Post!!!!!!

Jackie said...

Erica, you are so S*M*A*R*T*! I've never really been a spread sheet person, but my husband loves them. After looking over yours, I might just convert.

Thanks for sharing today!

Jill Weatherholt said...

I love your Seeker style sheet, Erica! Hilarious! You've got a great system that obviously works well for you. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Since using spread sheets reminds me too much of my day job, I tend to keep a spiral handwritten notebook of details. I also have a HUGE storyboard with my favorite florescent Post-its.

Janet Dean said...

ERICA, welcome back. I love your style sheet! I've kept track of descriptions, ages, names, etc. but not all these great details you suggest. The style sheet will be a fabulous help to zero in on a book and keep tabs of everything. THANK YOU!! I'm going to do this.

The Seeker style sheet is great fun! Twenty-nine and holding! Love it!!


DebH said...

LOVE this post Erica!!! Gold, gold, gold. Going to have to use this information to my benefit, because who DOESN'T want to endear themselves to an editor? I don't have one (yet), but luck favors the prepared, right?

I also happen to LOVE the Seekers style sheet as well. You are so cool!!!! And I'm not just saying that because I love your books. Which reminds me, would love to be in the draw for your latest. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO keeping a look out for that Novella collection as well. Instant must buy, IMHO.

Thanks for visiting today. I am feeling a bit old though. Reading 1986 on the style sheet made me realize it's been 30 years since I graduated from high-school. *groan* And yes, I know the Seekers are all thinking I'm still a young pup. I FEEL like a young pup, it's just seeing something in black and white slaps a bit of reality into my personal fantasy zone (where I'm svelte and 20-something and brilliant *ha!*).

Janet Dean said...

ERICA, I'm wondering if you're a fly on the wall to know some of this stuff about us. However you did it, you're right on.


Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, ERICA!

I learned something new this morning...our very own TINA has "cute little ears" that perk up. :)

Some of the info collected on the spreadsheet is similar to my 1-page character "wanted" poster (hero & heroine on same page). It briefly details the story concept, moral premise, location, personality/physical description, GMC, etc. (I'm always having to look back to see what kind of vehicle did hero/heroine drive in earlier books in my series.)

Your spreadsheet very much reminds me of the info 6 authors had to keep track of when I was part of the Love Inspired "Texas Twins" trilogy. So many, many details to keep track of from book to book! But I like the spreadsheet as you've done it as it keeps the info concise and easy to find and refer to.

Thanks for the ideas, Erica!

Wilani Wahl said...

I have some sheets I keep in the front of my work in progress notebook that has this type of information on it and I refer to it regularly.

please enter me in the drawing for a copy of your book.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Good Morning Erica,
I love waking up to a little humor so thanks, that style sheet has me smiling, you've nailed the Seekers across the board.

On the subject of being that "desirable" 29, as a mom of a 5, 6 and 8 yr old at that age, it was all kind of a blur, so maybe I do need a do-over, too, lol.

Both the Seven Brides and the new LIH book, His Prairie Sweetheart, look great.

Barbara Scott said...

Yikester, Erica! I guess I'm a minimalist. If I kept a style sheet as extensive as yours, I'd never write a word. Not that I don't do the research. I find models online so I have photos of my characters in front of me. Okay, I did that twice. I always start a notebook with the best of intentions and throw notes and "stuff" into it and never look at it again. Do yellow stickie notes count?

Please put me in your style sheet for a copy of His Prairie Sweetheart. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Erica and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post on style sheets. I've always called them something else, but they are essential. I had a heroine who changed hair and eye color mid-story so that is how I discovered the need for one. LOL.

Thanks again for joining us. Its always good to see your smile. Have fun today.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Crystal The scones and coffee are perfect this morning. Thanks for bringing those. They are non-calories I hope. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Erica Funny Seeker style sheet. My eyes are green.

btw not too much pickleball. Not enough pickleball. LOL

Marianne Barkman said...

It's always a great way to start my morning, coffee and Seekerville. I enjoyed your post, Erica, even though I'm not a writer! So glad my favorite authors are my age too!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome back, Erica! Great info on how to collect and manage story details! My problem sometimes is remembering to refer back to the style sheet often enough to keep everything straight. Like in a recent book, my heroine's eyes kept switching back and forth from brown to blue and back again--good grief!

Oh, and WOW, did you ever nail the Seekers! ;-D

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

I like the term style sheet better too - makes me think of CSS!

I didn't realize there was a novella collection about seven Hart brothers! I'm the oldest of nine, and there are seven of us girls, and we grew up watching the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. We Hart girls always said we'd have to have Seven Dudes for Seven Daughters. :)

Crystal said...

Of course, Sandra, no calories at all!

Helen Gray said...

I have a form I use, but it's not as long and intricate.
Thanks for the insights for upgrading.

Here's fresh coffee!

Barbara Scott said...

And please pass the scones and leftover strawberries and cheesecake, TINA. A double helping if you have enough to spare. I'm on a protein shake diet today, and Seekerville is the only place I can get those goodies made with zero calories. You really must share your recipes in a cookbook sometime soon.

MYRA, changing eye color is not so bad when you've edited manuscripts where the heroine's name continues to change or she keeps misspelling her name or not remembering the name of the town where she lives. The global Find and Replace feature in Word is a wondrous thing for correcting those little faux pas. ;-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cheryl St. John! Yours sounds like the Carolyn Greene Plot Doctor. I use some of it for each book. I admit that about the last three chapters of the book I generally abandon my spread sheet because I am so excited to be almost done.

Sandy Smith said...

Hi Erica. Great post! I will have to make use of a style sheet. I am not much of a spreadsheet person, but love to keep lists. I need one for the book I'm writing. I started it a year ago in Speedbo, then didn't really get back to it until this year. I discovered I didn't remember the names of towns, businesses, or minor characters that I had written earlier and needed to mention again. So I just added question marks or generic terms in parentheses until I go back through and find them. So definitely need a style sheet.

I already have your book, so no need to put me in the drawing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Exactly, Dawn. I have timelines on mine too as I always have timeline issues.

Tina Radcliffe said...

DebH. Old. Talk to me in a few years.

Tracey! I laughed at your post. At 29 I had a newborn, a 6 year old and a nine year old. Little did I know one more was to join the crew. Those years were a blur. I have no idea what songs were popular or what movies or TV were in vogue unless it had to do with children.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I laughed at your comment on the minimalist, Barbara.

I keep a spread sheet, GMC sheet and fill out a few templates for each book. And yet I still get notes from the copy editor.."I thought his eyes were blue?!"

Tina Radcliffe said...

Marianne!!! Good to see you! How's the weather up there in the real north country??

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well Katie Hart, welcome to Seekerville. Wow, talk about art imitating life!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Helen is back!!!

Tea is ready in Helen's honor and the second carafe of coffee is brewing!

Tina Radcliffe said...


I'm with you. For the Paradise series I had to keep looking up the grocery store. Was it Pay n Sack or what?? So I do put those on the spread sheet too.


Sharee Stover said...

HI Erica! I am so glad you gave a name to the thing I've been trying to do but haven't had a name for. I shall now call it a STYLE SHEET. :) I've played around with Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, index cards, sticky notes, you name it. I'm still getting to know my Scrivener program and have found it helpful in pulling in pictures and details for characters but I love the idea of putting it all in one place where I can see the information at a glance or two. Thanks you for sharing this!

Unknown said...

Cheryl!!! <3

I have a terrible time with using names that start with the same letter...once I had a set of three brothers who were Nick, Noah, and Nate. *Facepalm* No, no, no!

I would love to stroll through those binders of yours and see what your thought process was when you created some of my favorite characters ever! :)

Mary Connealy said...


Mary Connealy said...

I went to pre-order your books and (shocker) I already had. Bless Amazon for not letting me order the same book without a warning.

Edwina said...

This is a fantastic tool - thanks for sharing your spreadsheet!

I'd love to read your book so please enter my name in the drawing!

Mary Connealy said...

For me the trick of a style sheet is, sometimes in the course of writing I change a character, like decide he's the YOUNGEST BROTHER or he had a mother who died when he was eigh
oh my gosh WASP

Pam Hillman said...

This is so cool, Erica!

I guess I've been doing Style Sheets without even knowing it. Pages and pages of spreadsheets tabs per book. A list of characters, notes, timelines, links, research. Anything and everything I can think of to keep things straight. I'd hate to know I had to send it to my editor, though. Yikes! lol

Since I've started writing in Scrivener (about a year ago), I'm sort of using spreadsheets and Scrivener both to keep up with this. Mostly Scrivener, but my MASTER Character List for all my books is still in a spreadsheet.

I've had a few Style Sheets in Word from line editors. Not real detailed, but formatting guidelines, and things that were specific to my novel, mostly things about location or a piece of history that had to be verified, unusual words, or quirks. A couple of times, I had to go back and clarify something, so it was a helpful tool.

Love the Seeker Style Sheet. All 29 and holding.

Yes, that works.


Pam Hillman said...

Mary, or he's the OLDEST brother, who has ten younger siblings (all with the same mother and no twins) and she died when he was eight.

Erica Vetsch said...

Well, fishsticks, I wasn't signed in when I left a comment for Cheryl St. John. *eyeroll* "Unknown" is me.

Erica Vetsch said...

Crystal, I hope you had a profitable late night! I agree, flipping through a shorter document beats scrolling through an entire manuscript to find one little detail. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Dawn, I like the idea of having a little phrase or saying for each chapter, and you would sure have to keep track of those! I miss books having chapter titles. They seem to have gone out of favor. :(

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, making that spreadsheet on the Seekers was sooo fun! :) I had to dig deep on some of the items, since I know some Seekers better than others. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary Preston, I have a few things I won't write a book without, and a Style Sheet is sure one of them!

Erica Vetsch said...

Cindy W. Isn't it odd how we're all so close in age? ;)

Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy! You are a dynamo, I bet your son-in-law gets tired just watching! Us Minnesotans have a slower pace. :)

As to how much time it takes to create a style sheet...I find it takes less time to create and maintain it than for me to search through a novel for a little ort of information that should've been on the sheet in the first place! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy, I don't usually create a spreadsheet for my Style Sheet. I used a Word document. I made the excel spreadsheet as an exemplar because Tina thought it would be helpful. :)

If you want to learn to use Excel, I recommend Youtube tutorials. Easier and cheaper than taking a class. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Jackie,

You don't have to use a spreadsheet. Use what you're comfortable with, and tweak it as you go. I prefer a word document, but some folks think in spreadsheets. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Jill, I LOVE Post-its! I use them with a plot board (that I learned about here on Seekerville.) Between my plot board, my style sheet, and my synopsis, I tend to be able to knock out a book pretty quickly. Of course, if I try to take a shortcut and bypass the plot board, etc. I get frustrated and write slow...

Mary Connealy said...

So first I put water on to boil and set the timer so I wouldn't forget it.
Then I came in to find the recipe which some Seeker emailed to the loop a few days ago.
Then I realized I couldn't find it even though I KNOW I saved it.
Then I went to the yahoo loop to search through old messages and finally found the recipe.

While I was on the computer checked email for a few minutes until the water boiled.
Then I realized I hadn't checked in at Seekerville yet today.
Then I found out ERICA was here and of course I had to read every word of her article because she's a genius.
Then I saw a wasp.
Then I went to the kitchen to get a flyswatter.
Then I got to the kitchen and the water was boiling almost dry.
Then I realized, yes, I'd set the timer, but left it in the kitchen. I can't hear the kitchen from the computer room. (apparently???)
Then I got more water boiling and RE-Set the timer and realized I hadn't printed out the recipe.
Then I went BACK to the computer WITH the timer and printed off the recipe.
Then I went back to the kitchen and made the broccoli salad.
Then I came back in and realized I'd never swatted the wasp.
Then I went BACK to the kitchen and got the flyswatter.
I can't find it anywhere. :(
But the salad is done and chilling in the fridge.

Tricia Yearwood's Broccoli Salad

This is why I may not make a style sheet. I tend to forget what I styled!
Then I stop following it, change eye color or family history
Then I forget that I changed it and go to the style sheet to double check if it was his YOUNGER sister that died or his OLDER BROTHER who died in a wagon wreck.
But I didn't make the change to the style sheet because I forgot to.
So now he'd an only child with blue eyes in chapter two.
His LITTLE sister with brown eyes dies in chapter four.
His older sister with hazel eyes dies in a fire in chapter seven
His older brother with green eyes JUST LIKE HIS died in the Civil War.

and I've got a continuity problem that requires me to re-read the whole book...every few days.


Erica Vetsch said...

Janet, you are looking as glam as ever! #Forever29!

Mary Connealy said...

PS that's more running around than it sounds like. My house is small.
Which is why I should've heard the timer!

Erica Vetsch said...

DebH, in the words of Indiana Jones, it's not the years, it's the mileage. :)

Next year will be 30 years for me since graduating high school. Hard to believe, since I don't feel a day over 29!

Erica Vetsch said...

Janet, I called upon all the memories I had of Seekers in person, then delved deeply into what I could find on your websites and this blog. :D :D :D

Mary Connealy said...


I'm shutting up before some one rescinds my writer license.

Erica Vetsch said...

Glynna, had you not noticed Tina's cute little ears? :D

I love how all authors have their own methods, and how we can learn from each other. I would love to see one of your "Wanted Posters".

I imagine the style sheet we kept for the 7 Brides collection was very similar to that kept for a continuity series with LI.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Wilani! Isn't it handy to have the details at your fingertips? I wish I had done this with my earliest books. I would've saved a lot of time and my crit partners a lot of work! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Tracey, the older I get, the more I appreciate the old maxim that Youth is Wasted on the Young! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Barbara, yellow sticky notes totally count! Use the method that works best for you. I feel the same way about journaling as you do about style sheets. I love empty journals, all the promise of beautiful thoughts flowing from my brain to the pristine page...and I never get around to journaling!

Erica Vetsch said...

Sandra, those pesky eye colors!!!! My heroes tend to change eye colors more than my heroines. Silly boys.

And I don't even know what pickleball is!!! Perhaps you can enlighten me.

Erica Vetsch said...

Marianne, good morning! 29 is a great age for all of us to be. Young enough to be optimistic and old enough to know better. :D

Sherida Stewart said...

Erica, your style sheet ideas are great! I recently finished a manuscript and had story information notes scribbled on various sheets of paper and on assorted sticky notes. I'll be using your plan to formalize my "style sheets" as I do the editing....but not on a spreadsheet....those intimidate me. And YES----I changed a million details between Chapter One and Chapter Twenty!!!! Eeek!

Loved your sample sheet for the Seekers. Remind me to stay away from the roads in Nebraska! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Myra, I wonder what it is about eye color that makes it so flexible to change in a character? It's the trait I am most likely to swap without realizing it.

I had such a good time creating the Seeker style sheet. And I'm glad you all have a good sense of humor. :)

Mary Connealy said...

ps I am an excellent driver.
I have never killed anyone either inside or outside my car.

Erica Vetsch said...


:D Perhaps we were writing about some of your distant relatives. We had a blast creating these Texans. Austin, Bowie, Travis, Houston, Crockett, Chisholm, and Hays...all named after famous Texans. I think readers are going to love the Hart brothers.

Linda Tillis said...

Just last night I was having trouble keeping a timeline of events, moving from character to character! I think this will help me organize a little better. Thanks!

Barbara Scott said...

Mary, I feel your pain! They keep telling me it's my age, but I choose to believe my overactivce brain is always thinking of more important whether I killed off that brother back in chapter three. That's why for my Chrismas novella, I stranded my main characters with an ice storm and added his aunt as a chaperone and for comic relief. In the country, you'd be amazed how long you can be cut off from civilization...but I'm sure you know that already living in cattle country. ;-)

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Helen,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you find something helpful in it! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Sandy Smith, style sheets are especially helpful when you've been away from a story for some time! I am currently blowing the dust off a couple of old manuscripts that I wrote before I started keeping style sheets...and now I'm having to reacquaint myself with these story worlds, and I have no shorthand document to help!

Erica Vetsch said...

Sharee, I love that you're experimenting with different methods. Every author has a unique system that is a compilation of things they've learned and tried. Creative people being creative! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary, darlin', you do know that I love you, right?

Thanks for ordering the books. :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Edwina, so glad you found the post helpful! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary, that's what's cool about the style sheet. You can make a quick change on the style sheet and not forget what you decided to alter. The trick is to change the style sheet right away when you discover something new about your character.

Erica Vetsch said...

Pam, somehow I knew you'd be all about the spreadsheets! :D

I tried Scrivner, but the learning curve was so steep, and I couldn't get a feel for the program. I'm glad there are so many tools for authors so we can use what works for us!

Erica Vetsch said...

LOL! Mary! Now I can make a little sense of your WASP are hysterical.

Meghan Carver said...

I love this idea, Erica, but I didn't know its name. Just yesterday, I made up my own, starting with the Wanted Poster that appeared on Seekerville a while back. Then, I deleted what I didn't need and added other pertinent questions I've gleaned from other posts about character lists. Thank you for the suggestions! I'll look back at mine today and edit some more. What a helpful document to refer back to throughout the writing process!

Erica Vetsch said...

Sherida, bless you as you make sense of sticky notes and margin notes and story notes! Hopefully putting it all together will make your editing easier and make it easier to find those million changes. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Linda Tillis, timelines are my nemesis. I find printing a calendar for the year when my story takes place, then circling dates when scenes take place helps me a lot.

Erica Vetsch said...

Meghan, I must've missed the wanted poster post on Seekerville. I'm off to find it now! Thanks for the heads up!

Mary Connealy said...

Erica I KNOW i can change it, but I forget.
It's the LITTLE things that get you.
I always remember details of my h/h but the name of the guy who operates the General Store.
And the sheriff's name (referred to maybe once or twice in each of three books.

And if the barely existent grandma's last name was .... what??? What was their name?

And so the search begins. You can't do a FIND on a name you dont' remember. But you can search for Grandmother and hopefully at some point you ......

Oh forget it. I'm a dork.

The wasp just flew by my face again.............

Erica Vetsch said...

LOL! It IS hard to search for a name you don't remember...

We are both having us a day. You have a wasp in the house, and I ran out of conditioner! My hair is a MONSTER!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, so I just followed a day in the life of Mary.

In between these adventures you write ten books a year??

This is so unfair.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thank you. Bought Scrivener. Took the class.



Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary dear, you are a driver with an angel riding on the hood. You are a maniac.

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Erica, you are so organized! Everyone I know who took your plot board class at Wordsowers is eagerly putting theirs together!

Great tips for the style sheet. I use Scrivener, so character details are stored in each character's file, along with photos of who the character looks like (Chris Pine for my heroine's love interest!). However, this would be really handy to help keep clues in my murder mystery straight. I keep having to look back at the chapters I've written to remember details, and a style sheet would make this clearer.

I had to laugh about everything you are keeping straight for the Seven Brides collection. When I was 14, I attempted to write my first novel, and I remember creating a floor plan for the house, grounds, and even a family tree! I MAY have spent more time on the planning than actual writing!

Have a great day!

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, it hardly seems fair, the 10 books a year AND the adventures.

We are Scrivner soul sisters, I think. I tried.

I don't believe one angel is enough... ;)

Mary Connealy said...

Tina you think my children are RIGHT to not let me drive with their children in my car????????????????

I've nurtured this injustice for a while now. Maybe I should let it go.

(excuse me while I sing the Frozen Theme Song for a while. :(

Mary Connealy said...

That's not a Day in the Life...for heaven's sakes. That was about twenty minutes....well, or.....three hours. I lost track.

Erica Vetsch said...

Stephanie!!! I am so glad folks found the workshop helpful!

It is tempting to get lost in the pre-writing and not get to the actual writing. I have to put down the research books and prep work and get to writing the story.

Erica Vetsch said...

Great, now I have that stupid song from Frozen stuck in my head. #BlamingMary

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOLOL. Your kids did that? Oh, Mary, time for an intervention.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh My Gosh.
I can totally see #blamingmary become a THING.

It's my whole life.

Erica Vetsch said...

:D How about "I love reading Romantic Comedy with Cowboys" and I'm #BlamingMary. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

New tag line!!! I love it!!!

Julie Lessman said...


Love, Love, LOVE the style sheet, both the blog AND the Seeker style sheet. That one made me laugh out loud!! And I'm with Tina -- you nailed us to the wall, and I can personally attest that Mary is a "crazy driver" since she took me down not one, but TWO one-way streets the wrong way once. You think I'm a passionate person?? You should have seen me THAT day ... ;)

The closest I come to your brilliant style sheet is a Notes doc that includes an age chart for all my books (especially since I have 15 recurring characters in the O'Connor clan), a chapter-by-chapter outline, pics, descriptions of characters, CMG, etc.

Although ... I DO do a tiny bit of style sheet, I guess, on my Notes app for restaurants. I list waitresses names that I like and their description, managers's names, what dishes I like, etc. With my colander brain, I've gotten to the point where I have to do that. Sigh.

OH. MY. GOSH!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Seven Brides for Seven Texans concept and how I wish I was a part of that. Who thought that idea up? BRILLIANT!!

Crystal, like Tina, I LOVE scones, so THANK YOU!!!


Erica Vetsch said...


It sounds as if you have a style sheet all your own! :)

As to the 7 Brides concept, Becky Germany at Barbour asked if I would be interested in heading up a novella collection based upon a 7 Brides concept and the ideas mushroomed from there. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, Julie, now you are scaring me. This reminds me of that Hallmark movie, Remember Sunday.

Jon and Vicki Marney said...

Erica, this is great! I have done this to some extent, but need to do a better job.

Mary, I can so identify with your description! In fact, as I read it I struggled with if I should go check the recipe first or keep reading & write a comment! (The recipe won. Because I figured I might have trouble finding the link for the recipe & I LOVE Broccoli Salad).

I also got a book written by a non-Christian author who created a template for making a 'Style Sheet'. It has helped me a lot--fill in the template--answer each question & you are doing well.
I like the idea of a spread sheet--a little more simple. Now I want to create a spreadsheet from that template...

Please add me to the drawing--I would love to read your book, Erica.
PS. I thought I posted this but came back to read the ongoing saga to my hubby & found it wait g to be sent! :-/
Also--about the hubby had knee replacement surgery & isn't allowed to drive ATM. So I get to do the driving...and I can't wait for him to be able to drive again--he says I'm a terrible driver and finds it necessary to critique me. You are going too fast. You are going too slow for this lane. Etc... Please God, let him drive again! (FYI--I do just fine when he is t with me--have t killed anyone or even had any accidents. My only accidents were dumb things like backing into a non-moving car that I couldn't see--yes, my vision IS bad!)

Erica Vetsch said...

Vicky, :) Yay for trying a spreadsheet style. Kick it around and do what works for you!

I hope your husband is able to drive soon. Then he can chauffeur you around!!!

Sherri Shackelford said...

Love this! I used to keep a binder for each book, but I got away from that. I need to go back. You've inspired me!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

She's inspired all of us! Thank you Erica, for being with us.

The insight into Mary Connealy was just icing!

Tina who is 29.

CatMom said...

Late stopping in today, but had to say HI to Erica (with the gorgeous fingernails)!!
Great post and super helpful I'm always looking for new and helpful ways to help me stay organized and keep up with those characters, LOL. ;)
Loved the Seekers sheet you made - - so cute! But isn't it amazing how they're all the very same age?! Wow! ;)
Hugs, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

p.s. Sheesh....just realized I ran 2 sentences together - - need coffee (never mind that it's almost 9 p.m. here in GA). ;)

Janet Dean said...

ERICA, with your prowess at sleuthing, I'm guessing you love to do research! I do. Too much.


Julie Lessman said...

TINA SAID: "Okay, Julie, now you are scaring me. This reminds me of that Hallmark movie, Remember Sunday."

You think it's scaring YOU!!! Try being in my shoes. And, no, I don't remember that movie, but yes, I did see it. ;)


Tanya Agler said...

Erica, Thank you for the style sheet info. I'm a plotter, and yesterday I was working on my outline and for the first time ever, a character changed in the outline from the GMC and character sketches, so while I'm not back at square one, I will have to go back now and revisit my character sketches and this style sheet will only help me with that.

Thank you for sharing this great info, and I loved the Seekerville chart.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Let's all remember #blameMary

Laura Conner Kestner said...

This was such an interesting post, ERICA! Currently, I have the names, ages and occupation of my characters on the very first page, for easy reference while I'm working (I delete them before I print a copy) but your way would be much better. Thank you for sharing!

Terri said...

I love this! I can see how handy it would be for any author working on a series. Thanks so much for sharing and thanks to Tina for inviting you.

Deanna Stevens said...

Thanks for sharing, the post was very interesting :)
toss me into the drawing please, would love to read it!