If you plan on writing a novel, at your own pace or during NaNoWriMo, now is a good time to start pulling all your ideas together. Novels are filled with details about characters, settings, plots, and scenes. But how can a writer organize all of these thoughts without going insane? Dedicating a space (or many) for your novel ideas is a unique process for each writer. What will your story bible look like? This two-part series will lay out the ins and outs of creating a story bible to help you successfully write a novel.
Why use a Story Bible?
When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. For a long time, I was a self-proclaimed pantser. However, the more I reflect on my writing process, I realize now that I was a plotter, I just didn’t have an outline like some of my writing friends. I had a story bible.
In my other life, I’m an art teacher. Every school year, I teach at least 45 different, multi-level projects to six diverse grades. For me, novel writing became another project filled with notes, pictures, research interviews, maps, drawings, and other idea-generators to help move my story along. Combined, these bits and bobs became my story bible.
The following steps are designed to help you create your own story bible in a way that makes sense for you. It’s designed to help you hone your concept-wrangling before you start writing. That way, you can focus on writing during the writing process. Here we go.
First, Gather your Story Bible Tools
Go all old-school and do things by hand or, employ the use of electronic media. The choice is yours. Go crazy and utilize both. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s all about what feels right. The following suggested tools are easily accessible for a writer with even the cheapest budget.
You should enjoy this process and choose items that spark joy for you–thank you Marie Kondo. If unicorns bring you joy, then splurge and get that unicorn binder. You’ll be sitting with these items for a long time. Therefore, they should do double duty and make you smile.
- Index cards
- Post-It notes
- Notebook or Journal **Moleskin is my favorite**
- Binders with divider sheets, pockets, and loose-sleeve paper
- Bulletin boards
- Butcher Paper or Craft Paper
- Pinterest – make boards for anything related to your novel! Now that you can create sub-sections, it’s even easier to organize ideas. Here’s a link to a board I made while developing my second book. You can see the tone I was looking for as well as visual character prompts for future writing.
- Scrivener – My favorite writing program. Click this video link to see how Scrivener can keep notes, photos, and research right where you write!
- Google Docs – Think of this as a virtual binder. You can make folders for days with notes inside!
- Instagram – Bookmark posts that inspire you and organize them into Collections. There are plenty of characters on Instagram.
Second, what will you put in your Story Bible?
This next step is a breakdown of your Story Bible contents and sections. You might not do all of the following categories, but I strongly recommend you at least do a comprehensive character section. If you’re writing a series, I can almost guarantee that by your third book you’ll forget crucial details, like a character’s childhood nickname. Messing with your continuity is annoying to both readers and fans and sometimes they will call you out on it.
In part 2, I will give you section specific points and discuss how to put all this crazy stuff together into a cohesive plan. Stay tuned …