Ciao, amici. Lately, I’ve been in planning mode. I’m one book into a five-book series, and if you’ve ever written a series, you know there’s a lot to keep track of and a lot to plan.
The best way to keep track of everything is to create a story bible.
I do most of my writing in Scrivener, but I tend to plan in notebooks or Word. You can make your plans anywhere that works for you, but I suggest eventually you consolidate everything into a master file and keep it in or as close to your master document as possible.
So, what goes into a series story bible?
- Series Premise
- Character Sheets
- Setting Descriptions
- Book Outlines
There’s no point in starting a series if you don’t have an idea of what you want to accomplish in it. There needs to be a reason this isn’t a stand-alone book, a premise that will take you from the first word in the first book to the last word in the last. In the Lord of the Rings, it was getting the ring from the Shire to Mordor to destroy it and defeat Sauron. In Harry Potter, it was to defeat Voldemort once and for all. The point is to step back and look at the big picture, not to look at what needs to happen in each story.
You can’t have a story without characters. And every writer knows, the bigger the cast, the harder it is to keep track of everyone. How many times have you been reading a book to find the hero’s eye color changed or the hero’s hair went from close-cropped to licking his collar? I’ve done it in my own work, but at least I caught it before going to press. Some authors aren’t so lucky. Character sheets let you keep track of the details.
Just like characters, settings need to be kept track of. Whether your focus is on cities (did you make Franklin east or west of Pottsburg?) or on rooms (was the kitchen flooring hardwood or tile?), you should take a moment to track these things. Readers seem to have a better sense of our worlds than we do, and they will notice if you get a detail wrong.
Those of you who are pantsers have been on the fence to this point. Now, you’re ready to rebel. I get it. And I don’t believe in insisting that an author needs to do something in a certain way. If you don’t outline, then by all means, skip this step. You might want to write a sentence or two, though. Just in case. If J.K. Rowling confused the order of books three and four, she’d have had all kinds of plot problems. The longer your series is, the more it makes sense to have something that reminds you of what each book needs to accomplish. (And I know some of you think it’s not possible to lose track of what needs to happen where in your own series. Trust me, it is possible. I’ve done it.)
Sooner or later, you’re going to need a blurb for each book. If you keep them all in your story binder, you can make sure they all follow a similar pattern and you won’t have to look through dozens of files or visit different webpages/sites to find and copy it for promotions.
See, story bibles aren’t difficult to assemble, and you pretty much need all this stuff, anyway. In the coming weeks, we’ll go into each of these in more detail. When you’re writing or planning a marketing push, you’ll be glad you have everything in one place.