The Journal: The Series Bible

In today’s Journal

* A great deal of good information
* Topic: The Series Bible (and the Reverse Outline)
* Of Interest

There is a great deal of good information in today’s “Of Interest.”

I strongly recommend you get your beverage of choice and settle in to read. You might even want to try a few of the things they recommend in the different articles as you go.

Topic: The Series Bible (and the Reverse Outline)

One of my favorites in “Of Interest” today is James Scott Bell’s post on the creation and use of a series bible. As some of you know (but we’ve had a lot of new joins recently), I go a step farther.

For every novel I write, I create a “reverse outline” as I go. If the novel happens to be in a series, the compiled reverse outlines quickly become a rough series bible, the source material from which I can easily create a sleeker, more quickly useful series bible.

Note: This is NOT the same as the outline some create well ahead of writing the novel. It’s more of a diary of what happened than something to which you must adhere. In fact, you can’t adhere to it. The reverse outline is the characters telling you what happened as the story unfolded rather than you telling the characters what they have to do.

That said, the reverse outline is a tool you might find indispensible whether you write off into the dark as I do or orchestrate every minuscule situation, every action and reaction of every character, and every word out of every character’s mouth.

The mechanics—You can create the reverse outline on a physical notepad lying off to one side of your writing computer if you want. That’s what Dean Wesley Smith and Stephen King do.

Due to an affliction, I can’t read my own handwriting, and writing at any length is painful for me. So I use an open Notepad (.txt) document. If the manuscript file is named Novel.doc, I name the reverse outline file Novel Notes.txt. That way they stay together in the folder even when they’re closed.

The technique—Whichever method you use, the purpose is to keep track of useful information that you might need later.

For example, at the top of my reverse outline I start a list of Characters. I add to the list as new characters appear, major and minor. Alongside each character, I add basic physical attributes that I might otherwise forget: eye and hair color, for example, age, type of hat worn (if any) and so on.

Next comes a list of Place Names, which is exactly how it sounds: a list of places that I might need to remember later. This can be towns, buildings, a bridge or ford or outcropping, an intersection, etc. Again, alongside each I add any necessary physical characteristics (grey stone, whitewashed wood facade, heavy double doors, or whatever).

If the novel is SF and it contains made-up gadgets, I might include a list of those and their attributes too, again, just for reference.

Below either the list of place names or gadgets, I run the chapter numbers down the left side. As I finish a chapter (or two or three), I write a brief sentence or two synopsis of the chapter alongside the appropriate number.

Then, in Chapter 18 if a character reappears from Chapter 3, I can glance back at my reverse outline to see that character’s eye and hair color, etc. and how she was dressed in Chapter 3, if that’s still applicable in Chapter 18. You can see how a particular room is furnished, whether a stream bends north or south at a particular rock outcropping, and whether the alien who somehow came aboard your generation ship in Chapter 4 had blue or green skin.

Whatever information you choose to include, a quick glimpse at a reverse outline is a whole lot easier that scrolling back (or searching) to find a character’s full name or the color of her eyes or hair or whether a guy’s hat is a sombrero, a wide-brimmed western fedora or a bowler. Just sayin’.

But as I always say, don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Some Updates” at

See “Creating a Series Bible” at Very Important Post.

See “A+ Content on Kindle Direct Publishing” at

See “I’ll have what she’s having” at About “creating emotion” in your fiction. Maybe of use.

See “A Preview of the Exciting 2022 Writers’ Police Academy Classes” at

See “Boston’s Monstrous Molasses Massacre” at

See “Books Published 4th Quarter” at A look at what’s possible.

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.