Lessons From Nano: 1- The Story Bible

Hi friends!

Today is the first day of a new project – I’m sure you guessed from the title, but Nano this year was a really big experience from me and I learned a ton about myself as a writer and about what works and doesn’t, for me at least, in the drafting process, and I want to share some of these things with you on Mondays at least through December. Some of it will work for you and some of it won’t, because everyone creates differently, but hopefully you’ll find some useful tips and tricks. As always, feel free to share your own with me in the comments.

Today’s lesson is about the Book Bible.

Being not the best planner in the world (pantser all the way!) I did not make one of these. I have a whiteboard with all the main characters and a tidbit about each and a scrap of paper with some main plot points scribbled on it, and that was all I had to guide my 22 days of creative madness.

Don’t do this, guys.

There’s pantsing, and then there’s crazymaking. I think you can all guess which one the whiteboard and scrap of paper fall into.

What you should use, plotters and pantsers alike: A notebook with a page for each of the following things: character, locations, timeline, tidbits, and one or two pages with things relevant to your particular story.

What should these pages look like?

1) Character: Include first and last name, whatever physical appearance details you state at any point in the book, and any particular personality traits you list. You’ll be amazed how much these can chance from page 1 to page 325 if you don’t have the notes to help you. Always include a last name, even if you don’t use it when mentioning the character in the book, so  you can be sure you will stay consistent.

2) Locations: Write the name of the place, any markers you give about it’s proximity to other places, appearance, and any comments about how long it has been in existence and what it’s history is. In my last book, the hardware store was a magical traveling store that managed to be in three different locations by the end of the book. Don’t have one of these, unless you actually meant to have one.

3) Timeline: This is a huge one. When you’re drafting, you definitely don’t want to have to stop and calculate out how much time you can say this thing or that thing takes, but eventually you’ll have to make all those pieces add up. You don’t need to put a month or day, unless you specifically mention one in the book, but make sure to write down any transitional statements such as “the next day” or “two weeks later” so that eventually you can add them up to make sure your time is consistent. As I learned the hard way, be sure and put page numbers so you can adjust the timing more easily than hunting through the entire book for a particular phrase.

4) Tidbits: I put anything on this page from how many times I talk about people’s eyes or how cold it is to very minor characters referenced, which books my MC reads, things I want to come back and add in later, and whether or not the silo has a rail or a roof. I find this page most useful in the first readthrough following the first draft, for noting things that jump out at me as I go along that will strengthen the story or that are blatantly inconsistent and need to be figure out.

And there you have it – my simplified version of a Story Bible, complete with all the unfortunate lessons gathered in the course of a three-week first draft. Do you use a similar system? What do you include?

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