Editing at the Midpoint (not really what this blog is about, but it is the impetus)

Posted by Sid

My word count isn’t going to change much for a while. It’s not that I’m blocked, but my co-writers have the first portion of Cursebreaker’s Dance for editing. Then I have to go over their edits, make additions and deletions, do some rewriting, and then I can start increasing word count by creating more story.

Normally, I’d just continue writing while they do their read-through, but this is a shared-world series, which presents some interesting problems. We have to be very careful with voices and continuity, which is one reason our weekly communal writing sessions are so important (and look, another idea for another blog!). Another tool we need to keep everything straight in our world is a series bible.

A series bible is everything. It includes detailed character sketches for both major and minor characters. The details of the world those characters inhabit: the geography, politics, religion, accents, history, magic systems – all of that and more. A list of places where the action takes place. A timeline for the book/books/series. The story arc for the book, and/or the overall story arc for the series, as it advances in each book. So you can see the necessity of such a thing, even more so when more than one author is involved.

One of the best ways to lose readership (at least this reader) is inconsistency. If a character changes looks, mannerisms, etc. from book to book, and this does not happen due to character growth, but because the author has forgotten the details, I put the series away and find something new to read. The same reasoning goes for magic systems, geography, religious systems – consistency is necessary from book to book. Lack of consistency is lazy writing, incomplete world-building, lack of character development, or a myriad of things, all with the same result — it throws the reader out of the story. It’s difficult to invest in something that the author doesn’t seem to be invested in.

Creating a series bible is a daunting task, and one I decided to undertake while my partners-in-crime were reading my words-to-date. I started out with a divided notebook and a pen. This got real old, real fast. Plus, I got a hand cramp. Not fun.

So then I looked at an Excel spreadsheet. This worked marginally better, but it was cumbersome. It got worse when I started trying to cross-reference characters and their positions in the different books. It really drove me bonkers when I tried to create a timeline.

Because I’m rather fond of my hair, and didn’t want to pull it out, I started looking at technology for a solution. Before I had a chance to pull on my hair again, another writer friend (who is not writing a Perfect Coven novel, but more of a space opera thing and hey, maybe we should have her guest blog-more ideas!) anyway, she pointed me at an app she’d found for her then-new iPad. It’s called A Novel Idea, and is available on both Apple and Android platforms.

I really love this app. It has some limitations, but I can hope those will be addressed in updates. For now, though, it’s the best I’ve found for a series bible. It allows detailed character sketches, world-building, location lists, cross-references on all levels – one of the most important things for a multi-book, shared-world series. Best of all, it is available on both the Apple and Android platforms.

So, series bibles. Very important. Plus, if the series is successful, the bible becomes a companion piece, showing all the things that didn’t get included in the story, but are fun and interesting anyway.

UPDATE: I have been emailing with the app’s creator; he is working on adding a feature where you can attach/upload pictures to the app, which I wanted in order to upload my floor plan and character drawings to the series bible. Also, he asked me to poll my writer friends about a web-based version; for myself, I told him, “yes, yes, yes!” because a web version would be perfect for what we are doing, a shared-world, multiple-author series. Having everything in one place, accessible (and updatable!) by everyone involved in the project would be perfect.

Next month’s blog will be posted by Mickie.

James says: This series bible has already proven itself invaluable to us. This has become our first go-to when we have a question about something we have decided include in the series. I will soon be getting this app so I can use it for my personal work as well as for our group project.

Mickie says: My edits are coming in and it’s not as bad as I thought. I’m going to make the changes that are needed and move forward. Word count currently unchanged!