Excel at Tracking with a Book Bible
See what I did there? Made a pun about Excel, which really does need some puns. This accounting spreadsheet program (or its open-source versions) can be used for more than numbers, including a nifty Book Bible, so called because it is a place to keep track of … well, everything (that you want to keep track of).
What to track
I use my Book Bible to keep track of:
· Character names
· Physical descriptions
· Back story
· Music (they like or that reminds you of them)
· Setting details (which can be its own sheet—which I’ll explain below)
o Life events (at those locations)
The list could really be endless and that can be a problem. You might want to think like a reader to decide on which details to include. I know eye color, for example, makes readers a little crazy if it changes from book to book (unless they’re an alien or something).
I also try to copy and paste verbatim good “nut” graph descriptions into my spreadsheet. These are ones that capture hero/heroine, setting, etc. in just a sentence or a few words. I can then re-use a version of it to describe the character in future books.
If you’re writing a mystery or a story with a longer arc, you may need to include plot points, red herrings, or other non-character details in the Bible.
The bolts & nuts
Whether you use the “real” Excel or an open source spreadsheet program, the basics are the same..
· Open a new Excel document*
· Save it as whatever your series name is.
· Rename the tabs at the bottom of the document (which in Excel is called a workbook) from Sheet 1, Sheet 2, etc., to a book title and/or a setting for a book (I write small town romance so setting is really, really important).
*I’ve included a jpeg of one of my books and a filled out Excel sheet. I know visuals are always helpful. (Disclaimer: I do not use this program to its fullest)
When I gave this presentation at my local writers group, another writer/editor suggested that characters be listed down the left-hand column and the items you want to track along the top, including in which books the character appears.
The point of the Bible is to have all of your details in one place so that you don’t need to re-read books to confirm parentage, age, or favorite song.
I also have created calendars through an Excel template to keep track of a pregnancy in a book as well as birthdays and characters’ ages over the time span of the series.
The bottom line is that a Bible will not write the book or fix every mistake, but it will make life easier when you’re on book six of series and you need to know the shape of the scar on your hero’s cheek when he showed up in book one.
A former innkeeper and radio talk show host, Heidi Hormel has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle. Her Angel Crossing, Arizona series for Harlequin Western Romance include cowboys, cowgirls, llamas, and kilts (not necessarily in that order). Her latest books are THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY and THE BULL RIDER’S REDEMPTION. Visit her online: HeidiHormel.net; Facebook, Heidi Hormel, Author; Twitter, @HeidiHormel; and follow her on Goodreads, Heidi Hormel.
Thanks, Heidi, for sharing. So how about it IWSGers, do you use a series bible? Do you use Excel for keeping everything straight? What other kinds of things do you keep track of in your bibles?