When you present your fantasy manuscript to an agent, odds are, if he or she likes it, that agent will come back to you with a strategy to sell you as a brand. And part of that branding process inevitably involves turning your book into a series. Because let’s face it, sequels are the big thing in fantasy today. They make the publishers money. Readers like the familiar, and will buy what they bought before.
So how exactly do you write a Series Bible?
How To Write A Series Bible
The first thing you’ll need is the Series Arc page.
Take a sheet of paper, and draw a line down the middle. Label the left-hand side Plot Development. Label the right hand-side Character Development. Draw six equal horizontal lines down the page, and on the far left write in Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, etc.
Write down the major plot points for each book in the first column. Write the transformations that will occur for the characters in the second column.
- Gandalf tells Frodo to destroy the ring.
- Frodo begins the journey south.
- Frodo is attacked by minions of the dark lord.
- Frodo escapes.
- Frodo emerges from the mines and continues southward.
- In the final battle, Frodo is split from his companions, and journeys with Sam toward the territory of the dark lord.
[column_start width=”one_third last”]
- Frodo begins to go mad as the ring consumes him.
- Sam feels growing guilt for allowing Frodo to carry the burden of the ring alone
You’ll follow the Series Arc section with a 2-page synopsis of each book. The synopsis’ will delve deeper into the plot and character development, focusing on the relationships between these characters. If there’s any interest, I’ll cover synopsis writing in a later blog post.
Next, include the character sheets you’ve written for each character.
Finally, add a back-story document that details the history of your world and its major characters. If you’ve written a timeline for your overall universe, this is where you should include it.
If you have any other document, say for the magic system used in your world, include that after the back-story pages.
And that’s how you write a series bible. With the above, your agent will have pretty much everything he needs to sell your book as a series. The Series Bible will help you write it.
Your Series Bible should contain:
- Series Arc page.
- Individual synopsis’ of each book in the series
- Character sheets for all major characters
- Back-story document and timelines
- Any other documents–magic system, etc.
A Cautionary Note On Book #1
While it’s good to plan for a series, it’s very important that your first book in the series is self-contained. Don’t end that first book on a cliffhanger, or do anything else that might frustrate your readers. The first book is your chance to hook readers into the entire series, so you definitely don’t want to save “the good stuff” for later books. Put your best work into the first book, along with your best ideas. Now’s the time to build reader trust.
Are you working on a series or have you worked on one in the past? If so, did you create a Series Bible, or its equivalent?
Great tips you have here! Noted your post.
Thanks! May I ask where you noted it?
It may sound simple but in fact creating a work of art that will remain in history is so tough.
Good tips you have here! This will surely help other writers and those who aspire to write. 🙂
I’m liking the framework idea. I’m not planning a series of books but as a project management tool this sounds like a nice visual way of explaining something. I was thinking of adapting it for a podcast project I’ve got in the works, for example.
That should work out just fine.. visual tools like this are usually adaptable to many disciplines. Let me know how it goes for you.
I wished I’d known this was here when I wrote my recent blog post on the structure of the serial. I would have referenced it.
Are you aware of any other resources that deal with the deconstruction of the serial?
Also, I totally agree with you about putting your best ideas into the first book. It can be difficult at times, since it’s tempting to move them towards later peaks for added effect.
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Thanks Zachary.. if you google/yahoo series bible, you’ll find a few resources. Most of it is for TV shows, but a lot of the same stuff applies.
Yeah it’s really tempting to put your best stuff in later books, I find it hard too. But the nice thing is, it forces you to outdo yourself–or at least try–in the later books -)
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