"NaNoWriMo-Ing": Part I

Monday, November 17, 2014

Have I mentioned that I've always wanted a typewriter? I have to resist buying one every time I go to a vintage store or flea market but I know I don't have the space for it :(

That's beside the point. As you probably already know, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year and I'm about 1/2 through now (which means I should have over 25K words but nay, I do not. Let's not talk about it). Let's talk not about word counts or the act of actually writing a novel at all. Let's talk about prepping a novel, specifically creating a story bible.

Creating A Story Bible

I've been writing for as long as I can remember, short stories, attempted novels, you name it. And unknowingly, I've been story bible-ing (made-up word) for almost as long. So a few months ago, when I decided to commit to nanowrimo-ing (another made up word), I began researching and working on a full-fledged story bible for my novel.

Did you know that television shows use "show bibles", a collection of details about the show from location and character descriptions to much more? It makes perfect sense when you think about the nature of writing a show. A television show, unlike an average novel, usually has multiple writers that form a writing team. Think about the flow of the story in your favorite show, like The Vampire Diaries, and then imagine what it would be like if a writer forgot to curl Nina Dobrev's hair to play Katherine or if Jeremy's hunter tattoo was on the wrong arm next episode? All details maintained by a show bible.

This little fact was brought to my attention by Rochelle Melander, writing for Jane Friedman, who wrote a very informative article about all of this a few years ago. In the same way that show writers use a show bible to "keep track of details about the setting and characters to preserve continuity", a novel writer can benefit from the use of story bible in this way. A story bible can be a useful tool for keeping track of settings, characters, plot twists and a great place for jotting down notes or dialogue that pops into your head. My story bible is full of my scribbles that don't quite fit but may just work later on.

In her article, Melander writes about the multiple formats that a story bible can take. While most writers prefer a purely electronic story bible, I combine electronic and physical copy. I like having an actual book in front of me to flip through, but I print quite a bit of it's contents from my computer documents. I just really like stationary and pretty things :) (You should see my planner!)

Now that I've flooded you with all this information on what a story bible is, let me show you how I create and manage mine.

(Note: many of the pages in the following pictures are blurred purposefully. Not that I think any of my ideas are worth stealing but they are mine. I'm protective!)

Technically, I have 3 versions on my story outline in my bible. First, we have what I call my quick outline. I adopted the 3 Act method from Katytastic (although I'm sure it's widely used by the writing community) and made it work for me. If you want to know more about this method of outlining, click the link above. Behind that I have a print out of my full outline (see picture above), which is essentially just bold headlines for the general point of a scene followed by a few sentences describing said scene. Lastly, I have individual pages for each chapter where I handwrite what scenes go where. This serves as the most detailed order of events that I use and it's the document I work from when I'm actually writing. Here I'll jot down any dialogue that I know works for that chapter and every other detail I can think of when I'm setting scenes.

Behind all the outlines, there are character sketches, location information and other descriptions for the story's progression. There are very many pictures in this section, but I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to inspiring images for my novel. Each character has their own page where their physical characteristics, personal values and beliefs, family connections, relationship and a whole host of other details are listed. (I even have a separate page for the town my story takes place in because the town is almost a character in my novel.) For example, below is a character page for my main character Lea.

I'm constantly adding to my story bible as I write and think of interesting, new dynamics to the story line that I hadn't seen before. Quite frequently, I'll think of a scene or a statement that doesn't fit what I'm currently writing, sometimes I'm not even sure it belongs in the same book, so I'll scribble it somewhere in the back pages behind my sketches. While writing during NaNoWriMo, my chapter pages have been invaluable in keeping me writing and not getting me stuck, at least so far.

If you are also nanowrimo-ing or you just need some motivation for writing, check out my Instagram, where I'm daily posting about writing for the month of November.

Are you a writer? How do you keep track of the many little details that go into writing?


  1. I love this so much, and it makes so much sense. I hate when I notice things out of order on TV shows, clearly they didn't look at their bible. I also always wondered how authors who write series (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) kept everything straight. I have this idea for a novel in my head - I get ideas all the time, actually, but I just know I'm not as talented as you and I can't figure out how I would resolve the idea in my head. If that makes sense. Who knows, maybe one day I'll write it just for me. Cannot wait to read your book girl!

  2. Love this! If I ever write a novel again I will do things sooooo differently. This time I basically winged it. No outline, no nothing except I did keep a list of characters and their description and things about them. It was totally not organized well though. I'm sure I made things a lot harder for myself.

  3. Love this!! I suck monkey balls this month! Yes I am writing but writing about writing takes me away from writing ... if that makes any sense whatsoever ....


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