Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My Book Series Bible ~ Hints, Helps and Musts!!

A series bible?  Yep, if you're writing a series, then you need this. Seriously. 

When I mentioned the need to have one at a recent writer’s meeting, there were a lot of nods indicating agreement. But in another, unscientific, survey, I found that although the writers I’d polled knew it was needed (sadly, including me) they hadn’t started one, in fact, most didn’t know where to begin. It felt like a daunting task.

My aim today is to help you start.

I currently have 4 series and a new cozy mystery series about to begin, and I’m making a stand-alone book into a series!! So that will be 6. And yet, I hadn’t started on any of my bibles. I told myself umpteen times that I needed to but failed to do so. Sound familiar?
Well, now I had to get cracking, as my latest WIP begins at a house you’ve met before, with characters you’d grown to love, and the timeline was nearly simultaneous with the beginning of Believe In Me This Christmas Morn

I knew if blew details, my readers wouldn’t forgive me. Nor did I want to repeat names. In seven books I have more than 100 names. Some names are important, some walk-on parts. 😊 But still, I need to know.

So long story short, I’d begun learning how to use excel to plot out my new Jenna Hart Jewelry Mystery series, as well as creating a spreadsheet for the business end of my writing, sales, and listing links to nearly everything that is needed. Blogs, publishers, HTML links, etc. (A huge task, but oh-so-easy to find my info now.)

So I dug in and created an Excel spreadsheet for my bible. My writing friend Amanda Cabot creates a table in Word instead (she kindly sent along a sample, see below), and uses it as a hard copy, adding mostly by hand, but eventually entering the data into the computer and reprinting and then adding as necessary.  You’ll find a method that works for you, BUT the key is to start. 
Since I procrastinated doing this as I was writing the books, I now have to reread each of them for my information which is very time-consuming.  And believe me, you think you’ll remember all these details, but I can pretty much guarantee you won’t. Sorry.

As I began to create the columns for my sheet, I realized I needed more information than simply their name, hair/eye color, and age. I needed kitchen details, house, garage, office, favorite stores, music, phrases, friends, the old boyfriend, favorite foods, drinks...

And I needed to know which book they appeared in. If they were in more than one book, I highlighted the title they were introduced in.

Currently, my column headers are; Character Name, Book, Profession, Town/State Born, Town/State Now, Age in Book, Physical Traits, Misc. Info, House, Office. (Not all shown.)

Here's a tip, sometimes I simply add a page number in the proper column to show me where I can find the best specific information on a character and since the book is highlighted I know which one to look in. 

After I listed everything I could find during my reread, I realized that not only did I need the main sheet, but one for each book because the main sheet had already become a bit cumbersome to scroll through (and this was only after ONE book.)

I had to learn how to copy and easily move the data from the main sheet to each individual book's worksheet.  I found this tutorial on YouTube and it works well (our needed info starts at about 44 seconds in.)

One super thing about the main sheet is that I can select and copy the column of names, paste that into a Word document and sort it alphabetically.  This way I won’t repeat a name unless I want to. 😊

I soon realized that having so many rows and columns made it hard to see where I needed to add info as I scrolled up/down/sideways, so found a great tutorial on freezing the header and the first row so it moves with you, called freezing panes. Here is the crux of the info;

If you want to freeze both rows and columns, you need to freeze them at the same time.

To lock more than one row or column, or to lock both rows and columns at the same time, choose the View tab, and then click Freeze Panes. You will want your cursor to be below the row(s) you want to freeze and to the right of any column(s) you want to freeze.

I warn you that my spreadsheet is still a work in progress, and as I work, I'm thinking that mostly I’ll be working on my individual book sheets, with character names and main info copy and pasted into the main sheet. But I'm uncertain yet, and the nice thing about Excel is that it's easy to add columns and rows, so I can be uncertain yet still make it work as I change my mind. 

If you have any suggestions on how to make this spreadsheet better or tell me what you do that works, I’m all ears, so comment below.  Creating this document or spreadsheet may be a bit of work to start, but in the long run, it’ll be invaluable as a source document.

And remember, save, save, save, and BACKUP your data religiously.

If you want a blank Excel workbook but formatted with headers to start your bible, let me know in the comments below along with an email address and I’ll send you one. 

Hope this helps.

Warm Regards, 


  1. L.A -- I love your idea of a single, comprehensive place to list all important details, including which books have appearances by a specific characters. My chart is designed for an individual book, but I can see a distinct benefit to your approach. Thanks for the idea and for the excellent post.

  2. Hi Amanda,
    I love that you still work pencil/pen to paper. I miss that. In fact don't you outline on paper and then move to the computer?

    When I problem solve for a story, I always go back to paper, but otherwise, I'm either on the computer, dictating into the computer or my recorder and transcribing. Almost too much digital.


  3. And Amanda, thank you for giving me the permission to post your worksheet.

    Hugs, L.A.

  4. Thanks for sharing your insights and organizational schemes LA. Cheers

  5. I live by my spreadsheets. Ever since I gave one character another character's car (in a different series), I have a column for cars. I like the idea of adding the page number. I haven't done that. Thanks!

  6. Like many authors, I was certain I'd never forget the key points of my book. Wrong! I've spent hours thumbing through the books in my series to make certain I have the details correct. I love how you've condensed the critical info into an easy to use spreadsheet - complete with pictorial instructions to make my life easier. YAY!!

    Thanks for sharing, Leslie. I've started the spreadsheet for my new series and have slipped it into my Scrivener program so I'll always have it handy.

  7. This is great, Leslie!!! Thanks for posting it!

  8. Love it, thanks, L. A. Love working with excel files.

  9. Thank you, Leslie! Perfect timing for me. I only need to reread the first in the series since I'm already doing the revisions for the second. This is a critical too -- I can't remember all my characters names in the first! Now I just need to learn excel. Any tips?