Saturday, June 27, 2009


I'm sure I'm not alone in having started a project by jumping-in, feet-first. Unfortunately, it never worked for me. Whether writing a short story or a novel, a little preparation can go a long ways.

There are numerous approaches to planning a piece. Some people use detailed outlines. By starting with a sparse outline of only the main points and adding details along the way, the outline continues to grow until all that is left is writing the connecting material. It is an organic process which some authors find keeps them on-point.

These days, publishers are looking for series more than single works; you have a better chance of getting your book published if the subject matter is open to sequels. For this, you need a bible. A bible is a folder, or other filing system, listing all of the pertinent details of an author's fictional world.

The more details you know about your setting, the more comfortable you are with it - and the more comfortable your characters will be in it. No matter where your characters go, you know enough about where they are that you aren't having to make things up on the fly. Without this information, it's easy for a writer to get lost and make continuity errors. that make editing a chore. Instead of compiling these niggling details after you've written about them, create a bible detailing them before you begin your project.

But a bible is not just about physical setting; this is where you keep all the details concerning your project - the main and supporting characters, notes on atmosphere and mood, political machinations and alliances, groups and organizations, larger world notes - literally anything and everything in your fictional setting.

Even if there is no way your characters will ever directly interact with certain elements, if you can detail those elements, go ahead and put them in your bible. Not only do you never know when those details may come into play directly, they will have an indirect effect on other elements in your story. While there may be no way for your characters to interact with people or events which occurred in the past, these things constitute the history in your fictional world, and so helped shape the world of your setting.

Organization is crucial. Develop a color-code and use colored dividers to separate major sections, as needed (examples include Religion, City Details, Grandma's House, Use color-coded tabs to further divide your information. You need to be able to find any little detail at a moment's notice, so almost no amount of organization is too much. Also, do not "file" loose notes - such as ideas jotted on a lunch napkin - and do not include pages with notes pertaining to several concepts. Take the time to record every note in the appropriate place so you can find it easily later.

A bible combines the thriftiness of the outline approach with the fun of writing-through. It allows writers to maintain continuity and track developments, creating the cohesive world in which your characters live.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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