I’m a big fan of indirect sequels, where each book tells a standalone story but incorporates many of the same characters as other works and is set in the same world. Sharon Creech did this with Walk Two Moons and Absolutely Normal Chaos: the main character from ANC was a minor character in WTM.
The thing is, I write space opera, which means that each novel spans at least two or three different star systems. After four or five novels, it can get really hard to remember where all the stars are in relation to each other. So, taking my own advice from an earlier post, I drew up a starmap for my universe.
For a pattern, I used these maps of the region of space local to Sol. I’ve since forgotten where I got them; I think wikipedia, or maybe the atomic rockets site:
Since they’re only 2-dimensional, they have some obvious shortcomings, but for my purposes they work just fine. The thing I like the most about these maps is that they show rough distributions of interstellar gas and dust. In my Gaia Nova universe, areas of high density (such as the interiors of nebulae) are off limits to the FTL technology, so finding a way to show that was absolutely critical.
And so, after playing around with MS Paint and The Gimp, this is what I came up with:
It’s definitely a work in progress (seeing as I’ve only got about a dozen stars up so far), but I’ve got to be honest–I geeked out hardcore when I was finished with this thing. Whether you’re writing fantasy or science fiction adventure (which I’d argue is a branch of fantasy), there’s just something about having a map…
The best thing is that it’s REALLY easy to update. If I want, I can throw up half a dozen new stars in fifteen minutes–or rearrange the current arrangement of stars with the simple click of a mouse. That’s good, because I don’t want to spend all my time drawing up maps–the map is just a tool to help me write the stories.
And oh man, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell!