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Since I’m in heavy edit mode this week, it’s going to be all about editing all week. You asked. I give. And so:
A story bible is a document beside your manuscript where you keep track of characters’ names, ages and details. It will keep you from screwing up too much and make your revision process go faster. It’s very frustrating, for instance, to go through a 450-page manuscript looking for the hero’s little sister’s eye color page by page. It’s the equivalent of losing a productive hour to search the house for a misplaced checkbook.
Keep your story bible close so you can add to it without interrupting your writing flow. I use a yellow legal pad though if you have the document on-screen you could search it, I suppose. (A bible that is too long goes unread but is an excellent device to keep you procrastinating instead of writing and revising.)
Even if you’re less of a planner (the seat-of-the-pants writer) it helps to have some minimal plan or a story bible so you can keep track of characters and key details. It’s better than losing a character along the way. It is embarrassing to write an entire novel and think you’re done only to have one of your beta readers ask, “What happened to Mrs. Haversham? Did she survive the fall to the bottom of the stairs on page 139? And what happened to the alien prostitute who got locked in the truck?”
It’s a huge problem in self-publishing because there aren’t teams of editors and proofreaders combing manuscripts. It happens with traditional publishers, too (and will increase becaus of cutbacks.) For instance, in Lucifer’s Hammer, an astronaut is described as short, but by the end of the book he’s standing tall and commanding in the bow of a boat. In Under the Dome, Stephen King introduces a supernatural element on the good guy’s side that is never explained and seems forgotten, as if the angels whispered in the hero’s ear and then got distracted and wandered away. (When you write a book that big, it’s easy to lose threads and drop stitches.)
As you edit, things will crop up and it will help you to add edit points to your bible. Edit points are policy issues. It saves you a lot of time, and money, to have a clean manuscript. Decide up front, are you basically going with the Chicago Manual of Style? AP Style? Canadian or American spelling? Serial commas or no?
By keeping a list, you’ll discover some idiosyncrasies will crop up and it may grow to a long list. For one instance, you might type gray when you mean to write grey. In your bible under a heading that reads Editing Points, write in bold GReY NOT GRaY!
When you think you’re done your manuscript, drag out your list of troublesome words.
Use the Search and Replace tool.
You thought you got them all.
Filed under: Books, Editing, Editors, getting it done, publishing, Writers, writing tips, American English, Chicago Manual of Style, editing points, editing tips, editor, keeping characters straight, Manuscript, Stephen King, story bible