There has been a lot of talk on Twitter lately of Series Bibles. When reading series, readers can tell the authors who use them and those that don’t.
So what is a Series Bible?
A Series Bible is what you, the author, use to keep things straight in your head. It’s a dictionary of characters, descriptions, cars, locations, terms, plot threads that didn’t quite get closed, foreshadowing thoughts that didn’t bloom.
So how do you keep all that straight?
I’ve tried journals.
The problem with journals for me, was that they lacked organization. There were lots of sticky notes and tabs and highlights and taped-in pages. It was a mess for me!
This could work for you, though! If you need a paper journal to jot down your notes, do it! I would recommend having different sections and keeping it as organized as you can!
I’ve tried story boards.
This worked out really well! I could organize it, re-organize it. It was color-coded, which is important for me, and I could easily find what I needed.
Except when I was out. This approach worked well if I were at home all the time, but I’m not. I write when I can, which means it happens at lunch, at supper if I’m treating myself to fallafel, or to a coffee.
I tried a Word document.
That helped me with my mobility, but I had a hard time organizing it. It was just a jumbled pile of pages. I have a lot of details in some of my series; a lot of characters to keep track of, names, places, dates.
When you’re writing, and you need that one piece of information right then, you have two options. You can blow through it and catch it later, or you can pause, dig for it, and continue.
The problem with blowing through it and “catching it later” is that you don’t always remember what you were supposed to catch unless you flag it. Highlight it, put a comment on it, something! If you do that, then blowing through it is a great option.
I don’t do that because it reacts adversely to to my OCD. I keep seeing it and I just can’t IGNORE it!
So I needed something that was mobile, but something I could organize well.
It finally tried an Excel doc.
A lot of people are afraid of Excel, but for this, you’re not doing anything that’s scary. There are no formulas…*thinking*…and that’s really what scares people about Excel.
I have several tabs. My first tab is my Quarter Outline.
I look at what needs to happen in my structural plot and my character plot and jot down where it’s going to happen.
This helps me keep track of what came up during my brainstorming events.
Then I start on my chapter outlines.
These are filled in and completed after I’ve written the chapters. As you can see, it’s set up very similarly to my quarter outline, but at the left, there are some additional columns with ratings.
I keep my eye on flow this way. When things are dropping down to 1 – “I’m asleep!”, I get concerned. However, this is a romance, so it’s kinda okay that there isn’t immediate plot. The characters and the setting are rated pretty high (I feel excited and engrossed), so those structural elements are carrying the story through the first chapter. By the end of the first chapter, though, the plot jumps up to a 5 because I land a foreshadowing of the inciting incident.
Next is the character tab.
This tab is so important. I always forget what color of eyes my characters have. Hair, sometimes, too, but eyes…always!
If there are other elements you need to keep straight – maybe they wear one jacket all the time – jot this down here. You may remember that detail in book one, but as soon as you enter into book two, trust me, you’re going to forget.
Next is my definitions tab.
I do a lot of world-building because I write a lot of fantasy. There are some series that have very little here, like the Demon Talker Series, but most of them, this tab is very busy! You should see the one for The Hands of Tarot!Wow! That one was amazing!
Even if you just have “Granny’s grimoire”. Whatever. If you gave it a name, put it here and show how you emphasized it, spelled it, and used it.
Last is Notes.
This can be anything. I throw in things that need to be carried over into the other books. As you can see from this snippet, I’m keeping track of how different characters curse.
But further down, I’ve also listed a few things that need to be carried through from The Dustman, which had NO Series Bible. Recreating this is painful! I literally thought I’d remember everything in this one, and there’s a lot that I do!
The things I’ve forgotten? How old is Nali? What is Nick’s favorite color? What subject is Nali struggling in? What color are Telfgar’s scales?
These are just silly things, but digging through The Dustman to find these simple answers is ridiculous.
There’s no limit to what you can have, though. For Devices of War, I have a tab for each language because we speak in those sometimes. I also use that as the place to put Arabic names in case I get a new character. Also, ship lingo. It’s hard to keep it all straight, so I have a tab for that.
You can use whatever method that works best for you. But I recommend you do it! Stay organized and on top of your Series Bible! It’ll help you be a more productive writer!