Creating a Series Bible
Writing a series of books can become unwieldy quickly if you don’t have a method of organizing relevant information and continuity details. A series bible is simply a process of gathering this information in a simple, accessible form that you can update easily with each new story in the series. A series bible is invaluable to the series writer and a lot easier to create and maintain when used from the very first book.
Who needs a series bible?
Anyone who intends to write more than one story in the same universe can rely upon a series bible to keep track of the pertinent information such as timelines, subplots, and settings. But even the writer of a standalone story can use an abbreviated guide to keep track of easily forgotten details like the color of a character’s eyes. It’s easier to find specific details in a duly organized series bible than to trawl through each previous book each time you intend to write a new story in that world.
Starting a series bible
Starting a series bible is simple once you figure out the best layout for you. Many writers keep their bibles digital for easy maintenance, while others prefer hard copies. Using both options is best for safety reasons. Either is easy to lose, but using both provides a backup of sorts.
Beginning with the first story in the series or world, the writer must read the entire story and take notes. Vital information can include character appearance, timing, unfinished threads, locations, deaths, significant items, and the shifting of relationships. It’s up to the writer to decide what’s relevant to them for their particular world, but details from past books can be used in future stories to pepper the new material with connections and resonance.
To save time in future, using bullet points to create an easily read synopsis of each book in the series can be the refresher needed to start a sequel. In a character-driven series, it can help to give each character its specific file, divided by the book, to stay on top of the details.
It’s best to find an app or program that you are comfortable using that can organize the series bible appropriately, print out your necessary details, and then divide them into a binder by section. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Options for digital organization can vary from Word to Evernote to Scrivener. It depends on how in-depth you want to go when keeping track.
While the bible can be divided up into sections of your choosing, it’s a good idea to keep track of when a character appears or dies in a story, and their appearance and how it might change over time, for example, new scars, tattoos, or aging. Fantasy writers, in particular, might want to keep a section devoted to valuable relics or items. The series bible can be perfect for updating the lore, mythology, and cultures of the world. These methods can even be used to keep a plot thread running across multiple books without slowing down or getting stale. The key is to decide what kind of organization method will benefit your story.
In short, a series bible is a handy companion that makes writing a series in particular easier to manage. Researching the history of past books becomes quick and straightforward, and the bible can hold as much or as little information as you think you will need. It’s never too late to begin creating a series bible, and it could help you avoid the niggling continuity mistakes that push a reader back out of your world.
Some chapters of my Series Bible exists on this website under Tech Almanac so check it out