Why do I have such trouble with continuity?

Consistency and continuity is a problem that I find quite perplexing.

Why can’t I remember whether I made a character’s eyes green or brown or how a particular action scene played out. I would consider that being unable to keep all of this in my head is understandable, except for the fact that I am a continuity-monster when it comes to other people’s writing. As a reader I seem to be able to keep an entire world in my head, even between novels in a series, so when internal inconsistencies occur I’m all over them with teeth out.

Why can’t I do the same with my own writing?

I think I’ve figured it out. As a reader only one world exists for me – the one presented in the finished novel. As a writer each novel I write contains a multiverse – hundreds of tiny variations in plot, location and character that have traipsed through my head during the writing process. The pencil lines of these ideas will, for me, always be visible under the finished drawing. Not all chosen, but all considered. And for the considering, they are burned in deeper. Which of the options I chose sometimes seems less tangible.

This is why any long writing project finds me paging back through old material or scattering notes-to-self in angle brackets through each draft.

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