I found the book bible for my first novel last week, and it reminded me of how useful one is to have.
A book bible is a paper or digital file that contains all the information collected before, during, and after the book is written.
Most mentions of a book bible come from authors writing a series, but one is pretty darn useful for a standalone novel.
In POWER’s book bible, I had drawings of the layout of the hero’s house complete with where all the secret hallways, trapdoors, etc., were located. The compass points were used so I wouldn’t have someone in a bedroom watching the setting sun when the bedroom faced east. The outside of the house and grounds had their own map.
The horses two characters ride at the beginning have their descriptions and names listed.
Because the main character has a cousin and a brother involved in the plot, I did a family tree.
Research sources were listed with Dewey decimal numbers and the library or the personal bookshelf where they were. (This was pre-Internet.) For later books, I created a file specific to the book in my browser's bookmarks.
I did drawings and descriptions of some of the magical memorabilia in the house, and I listed tricks I could use in various scenes.
One page was nothing but names I could use for random characters. Each name was dissimilar from the main characters so readers wouldn’t be confused by a similar sounding or spelled name. I also picked names that were common in the area where the novel was set.
Every character had their description, etc., with other details. If I “cast” the character as an actor I’m familiar with, I’d write that down, too, so I’d be able to hear the correct voice in my head when I wrote dialogue for a character who had been elsewhere for a lot of pages.
I started the novel with most of my info in the bible on the major characters, but I added info for them and others as I created it.
I usually added things to the bible after I finished writing for the day, or I’d go back over it before I started writing so I wouldn’t lose my writing rhythm.
Another handy page or two to have, particularly if your book is a fantasy, is a word bible. Each character’s name, made-up words with a brief definition, place names, and unusual capitalizations are listed. When your book is edited, this list will keep the copy editor from hassling you about words that may appear to be misspelled.
Some pages were there for thinking through various plot points, considering possible scenes later in the novel, and general mental doodling.
All this may appear to be a lot of extra work, but it will be worth it for rewrites, etc., and, maybe, that standalone may turn into a series, and the bible will be worth its weight in gold for the time saved.