When it comes to creating a new book, my book bibles are the most precious things imaginable. They’re not always pretty – in fact, they usually end up looking decidedly tatty – but I protect mine like bejewelled medieval manuscripts.
Last Tuesday, I handed in my 2018 book to my publisher (rah!). There’s still a long process ahead – revisions, line and copy edits, proof reading and more – but the hard slog is done. Although labelling that book a slog is a gross injustice; I loved every paragraph and cannot wait for it to hit shelves.
With that book delivered, it’s time to focus on the next, and this is where my book bibles come in.
What Is A Book Bible?
Every author has a different process when it comes to writing, so I can only speak for myself. The way I operate is that I get struck by a brilliant idea (usually at the most inconvenient time, like when I’m up to my neck in another project and can’t afford to be distracted by this shiny, sparkly new thing) and before it goes flittering off into the universe to be snatched up by some other author, I write it down. Sometimes all I have is a hook or a brief premise, other times it’ll be a synopsis, covering the entire plot, and occasionally it’s as vague as just a character or setting. It varies.
Now, if the idea has real legs I’ll keep thinking about it and make more notes. Then I’ll either slide these notes into a folder or keep them together with a bulldog clip, and then file that into one of the nooks I keep for this purpose.
If I’m feeling really excited, I might order some non-fiction books for research or start reading novels with similar themes. I might start actively hunting for newspaper and magazine articles too, and photos of scenery or characters.
If this continues long enough, and my thrill over the idea doesn’t wane, then it’s clear the story is a definite go-er and one I’m going to write. At which point I start a book bible.
What Does A Book Bible Look Like?
Well, like this:
Yeah, I know. Hardly exciting, is it? But it is, believe me, because contained in these books is everything important to the story I’m going to write.
Mine contain everything from those initial notes, to photographs, draft paragraphs, character outlines, settings, research, name lists… all sorts of weird and wonderful things. They end up loaded with information and scribbles, but apart from draft scenes and names, much of what they contain never makes it into the final book. That’s not the book bible’s point. Its point is to be a kind of stimulus, a physical thing that acts as reminder of all that made me passionate about the story idea in the first place.
Book bibles are vessels of inspiration.
To give you a better idea, here are sample pages from a few of my book bibles, some published and some still in progress. As you can see, they’re loaded with all sorts of things.
I used to use softcover books but they tend to fall apart so I’ve swapped to using hardcover sketch books. Much nicer.
Not Every Book Needs A Book Bible
Stories are weird things. Sometimes my passion for them is so strong they just pour out. April’s Rainbow was one of those for me, as was Santa and the Saddler and Wayward Heart. Novellas tend to not need book bibles because they’re shorter and less complex, and I make do with a document wallet stuffed with notes. These usually contain scribbled scenes and character name lists, and must-fixes for second drafts.
Stories are also strange in that – for me – they form at different rates. I have piles and piles of ideas, many of which I adore and feel strongly about, but not all are ready to be written and some might never be. But if a story has made it to the book bible stage, then there’s an excellent chance it will.
Some Stories Demand Special Attention
I have a couple of non-romance/romantic elements ideas I’ve been churning over for a while now, one of which has just made it from the folder-of-scrappy-papers to the book bible stage. But this particular idea is so special, so different, so make-me-hug-myself-with-glee-brilliant, that I’ve decided it needs a book bible to reflect that.
This is going to be my book bible for Briarcliffe, complete with a matching fountain pen for extra inspiration. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I bet you’re intrigued as to what this one could be about. Sorry, not telling!
As I said in the opening, with my manuscript delivered, it’s time to start a new one, and that means sifting through my collection of stories that have made it to the book bible stage and seeing which one calls the strongest. Easy-peasy, yes? Err, no. The problem I have at the moment is: they’re all calling.
The examples above are just a few of the stories I have on the go. I have a giant list of books that have made the folder or book bible stage, and every one is a contender.
Which will win? Stay tuned!