Thursday, May 15, 2014

Whining About the Series Bible

Whining About the Series Bible
By Annabel Aidan

I’m whining.  Boo-hoo for me, right?

I just turned in my final edits for a novel set to release in a few weeks (under one of my other pseudonyms).  It’s the first of a four-book cycle, and I’m at work on the second one, working from my Writer’s Rough outline, while I juggle delivering 15 episodes of a work-for-hire script in 8 weeks, dealing with the four releases I have coming out between April and August, a new part-time job at a library (which, for me, is like letting a cocaine addict roll in a mountain of powder), and holding offices on two boards of director, and doing things like keeping the lawn from looking like a vacant lot.

In order to effectively write Book #2, I have to keep some things consistent from Book #1 -- even such small details as hair length, eye color,  and how the characters like their coffee.  In other words, I have to be careful to be consistent on the details that drive me nuts and cause me to cross an author of my “To Read” list when I come across such mistakes in their books.  When I deviate from a detail in a previous book, it’s because I’ve built a specific plot twist onto it, not because I’m careless.

So I do the Series Bible.  I teach classes on how to do a Series Bible.  I have a topic workbook out on Smashwords (under the Devon Ellington name) on how to create and maintain a Series Bible.  It is an important part of my writing life.

Especially since I’m always juggling more than one project (the life of a writer who pays the bills with writing instead of someone who does it around the bill-paying job), and I’m usually juggling more than one series and/or developing a new one.

As my final edits head out the door to galleys, I sit down and do the Series Bible for a new series or update the Series Bible for an ongoing series.  As I write, I keep Tracking Sheets so I know what I’m doing in the draft, but once they’re finalized, I add the details to the Series Bible.  If I immediately added them to the Series Bible, I’d have to have the Bible open and change things at each round of edits, which slows things down considerably.

But it’s still slow going.  If I’m creating a new Series Bible, I’m opening a character template each time a new character enters, and adding information each time something is revealed about the character in the piece.  If I’m updating, it’s about opening the correct sheet, opening, making the changes, and then, when the whole Bible is updated for that particular book, printing out whatever’s changed and replacing the sheets (I learned a long time ago to keep both electronic AND hard copies).

Then, there are location sheets.  In some cases, there are costume plots (similar to the costume plots I worked with in theatre, film and television -- because a change of clothes can indicate a change of day/progression of time/support or contradict an action/reveal character).

There might be family trees (more likely in an historical saga, or in a series that rotates different sets of protagonists to the forefront in each book while keeping the rest of the ensemble around, such as Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle/Jane Ann Krentz or Mary Balogh).

There are copies of the FINAL version of the Chapter-by-Chapter outline and synopsis (Not the writer’s rough, or the one that landed the contract, but the one I would have submitted with the draft).

It’s a lot of paperwork, whenever a book is done.  But it saves so many hours of aggravation and research in the drafting of the next book AND in the editing rounds.  Because the CORRECT information (meaning what’s been in previously published volumes in the series) is in the Bible, and deviations are a CHOICE, not a MISTAKE.

There’s a huge difference, even when it works subtly on a reader.  As someone who writes non-stop and deals with editing clients on a regular basis (and is grateful when my own editors catch inconsistencies), I notice these details.  They change my response to the book.  As a writer, I also want to show enough respect for my readers to take care of the details.  As a reader, it’s the details that set a book apart from others in its genre -- the details that bring it alive or kill it.

So, while I may whine in the PROCESS of setting this up and updating -- I will be grateful down the road that I took the time when it’s 3 AM, and I’m trying to figure out a detail that will make or break a plot point in a chapter, and I’m on deadline.

--Annabel Aidan publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, and is an internationally-produced playwright and screenwriter.  She is a full-time writer and a part-time librarian down on Cape Cod, MA.  Her paranormal romantic suspense release with Champage is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT.  Her webpage is http://www.devonellingtonwork.com/annabelaidan.html

2 comments:

Big Mike said...

Thanks Annabel. Always appreciate your insights.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

What you are creating is a concordia!

More power to you. As a reader and a writer, I appreciate how hard that is.