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NaNoWriMo Prep: Creating a Story Bible Step 1–Pick Your Poison (or Software)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

NaNoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) starts in 23 days. Now that we’ve taken a reboot look at the processes that go into becoming a writer, let’s get you prepped to actually take that step and write.

I’m going to spend some time over the next few weeks helping you get all your ducks in a row and get everything ready so that you can concentrate on actually writing and knocking out some word count in November. Each one will be a small, bite-sized activity you can do that day. Think of it as your daily training for your marathon.

And the first thing we’re going to do is create a story bible.

What is a story bible?

Something that all writers (should) do is to keep a “bible” for your book/series (even more important in the case of a series) in order to keep up with all the trivial—and not-so-trivial—details going on. This is how you make sure that you’re always spelling unusual names/words the same way. How you keep track of what eye color you assigned to what character. How you know when and where things take place in your story (or your series).

Determine how you will keep/organize your book bible. You can do this the old-fashioned way, in hard copy in a three-ring binder or series of file folders in a drawer. Or you can employ one of a myriad pieces of software and do it electronically.

I personally use OneNote to contain all of my information for my book—and the program I use when I’m figuring out backstory or forward story (i.e., brainstorming), as well as keep all the info about my characters, setting, etc. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

NaNo Prep Assignment for Tuesday, October 8, 2013:
Determine and share with the “class” (i.e., leave a comment) how you intend to keep up with all of the details/background info for your Story in Progress. Will you use a notebook? OneNote? Scrivener? Evernote? Or do you have some other method of keeping track of your story/series details? Tell us what it is—and share links if you use a specific website or software.

  1. Tuesday, October 8, 2013 10:47 am

    I have been using a notebook for a lot of my details.


    • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:23 pm

      There is something to be said for hard copies. This was how I did it for years and years and years. The only problem was that it was hard to take all my info with me when I traveled (going home for holidays or whatever). But having something tangible, something I could step away from the computer to look at sometimes really helped when I was blocked. Writing long-hand helped, too.


  2. Tuesday, October 8, 2013 10:55 am

    I am using a combination of yWriter and Evernote. Most of my notes start in Evernote, because I am usually nowhere near my computer when an idea hits. I have Evernote on my phone and I can log in to it from any computer, so it’s easier to jot my ideas down there. Then I add those notes to my novel in yWriter.

    It has been working well, but all I have so far is a rough outline and some character notes. As I get more detailed, I may need to adjust my strategy.


    • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:24 pm

      Hi, DJ–welcome!

      I’ve never heard of yWriter. I’ll have to look into that.

      Can you give a little more info on how you use Evernote? I tried it, but found that I prefer OneNote–but probably because I was trying to make Evernote work the same way, and I know it doesn’t.


      • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 1:19 pm

        yWriter is a free novel writing software. It has places to put infromation about all of your characters, locations, and other notes. It also breaks your novel up into chapters and scenes. This is my first novel, and yWriter is helping out a lot. I am guessing that it is similar to Scrivener, which I have not yet tried. The link is

        In Evernote, I have set up a notebook for NaNoWriMo. I added 3 notebooks to that one: Notes, Outline, and Scenes. I have several notes in each Notes and Scenes. I transferred the Outline to yWriter.

        I have one note that is devoted to questions I have about the plot that need to be answered. I have another with potential titles. Any little thing that pops into my head can be put into Evernote. I always have my phone with me, so I just use the app and put it in. If it is something that can go into yWriter, I can put it in when I get home.

        I have a feeling that I will have some more ideas of how my workflow will need to be set up by the end of November.


        • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 1:24 pm

          There’s nothing like actually being in the process of writing to teach us how to set things up better after the fact. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:12 am

    I am a NaNoWriMo rookie and a planner to my core. I have fallen in love with Scrivener. I have also found a lot of good information from a site called Fiction Writing Help, I wrote a review of the site on my blog:


    • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:26 pm

      Thanks for the link–and welcome to you, too!

      I’m going to have to set aside some time to really dig into that website. It looks like it’s chock-full of tons of great information!

      Do you use Scrivener on a Mac or on a PC?


      • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:34 pm

        Scrivener on PC. And yes, Fiction Writing Help has a lot of good stuff, the part on plotting alone lost me a weekend, but it was worth it.


  4. Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:37 am

    I’m using Evernote to store all my notes. This will be my second attempt at NaNoWriMo and I’m going all in this time!!


    • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:27 pm

      You can do it, Diana! Hopefully, a few weeks of prep work will help get you ready to go full-steam-ahead with the writing starting November 1.


  5. Carol Moncado permalink
    Tuesday, October 8, 2013 3:51 pm

    /wanders into class late and looks puzzled/ We’re supposed to plan something?

    /ducks the wads of paper thrown her way/


    This will be my… 7th NaNo. I’ve won every year, so far. I started using OneNote earlier this year, just in general but haven’t done anything for NaNo yet. Mostly because I’m not ONE HUNDRED PERCENT sure which project I’m working on. The first line of the project I think I’ll work on hit me Sunday night while I was trying to sleep. I’ve been a smidge obsessed with the backstory of that one since, trying to figure it out because I KNOW it’ll be important to how the story as a whole plays out.

    I’ve tried Scrivener and yWriter [a bit] and a couple of others whose names I’m forgetting at the moment, but mostly, give me a blank document and yell “GO!” and I’m good.


  6. Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:36 pm

    Reblogged this on TamBorgia's NaNoWriMo and commented:
    Time to put the tools and toys in place!


  7. Wednesday, October 9, 2013 7:45 pm

    I’ll be using a folder with notebook paper. Whether the notebook paper be attached inside the folder hasn’t been decided yet. I like being able to rearrange my notes at a whim.


  8. Friday, October 11, 2013 12:01 pm

    I will be using Scrivener. This will be my second attempt using it. This first time was a bit overwhelming, but this go around I am a bit more prepared after doing some reading on it. This is my first NaNo. Thankful for your blog, Kaye! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. Friday, October 11, 2013 11:24 pm

    Lately, I’ve been using Pinterest boards to hold all the pictures and things that make me think of my stories. It really helped me out on my last NaNoWriMo adventure, and I will be using it this year too ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Saturday, October 12, 2013 3:19 pm

      Pinterest is a huge part of my process, too, for collecting images of settings, characters, etc. But because so much of what I do in the pre-planning stage (in the subsequent posts after this one) is so text heavy, and because I’m not always working where I have an internet connection, using OneNote is great because I can always access it, and I’m not limited on the number of characters I can use.

      Since I’m working on a fourth-story in an already existing story world, I actually have two Pinterest boards I’m working from—the board I already had for the published Brides of Bonneterre books and a private board that I can pin to constantly for an hour or more and not feel guilty for flooding my followers with images that don’t mean anything to them (yet).


  10. Stuart Wakefield permalink
    Thursday, October 17, 2013 6:14 am

    I’ll be using Evernote and Pinterest for my Story Bible. I skipped NaNoWriMo last year but I’m glad to be back in the game ๐Ÿ™‚


  11. Carol permalink
    Thursday, October 17, 2013 12:25 pm

    I’m currently using One Note. Although I don’t much care for the mobile app.


    • Thursday, October 17, 2013 1:06 pm

      I tried the ON app on my phone–but when I realized I couldn’t open my ON notebook which was in my Dropbox–that it was going to force me to use the cloud storage–I deleted the app.


  12. Thursday, October 24, 2013 6:12 am

    Ack, I only just found this! I’ve done NaNo several times, won some, lost some and some were rained out. I just wish I can remember how much prep I did for the winners and how much I did for the not so winners.

    I have used 3 ring binders and printed out anything I found. I also used word docs and excel spreadsheets and printed them out.

    I actually think the times I did not finish and the times I did had noting to do with prep work, but more to do with time available in November and how much I thought I knew the characters and story. When I was confused I did more prep, but if it doesn’t click then it doesn’t click.

    I’m trying EverNote this year, I think. I’m looking for a good, simple but step by step plan for using EN.

    I’ve also started using analog notebooks (moleskinesque) and I wanted to try to get those involved. I can scan pages of those into EN and have them eAvailable as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Tuesday, November 26, 2013 1:27 am

    I am extremely interested in understanding. how to write my non fiction story about my life and have no idea where to begin


  14. Book Worm permalink
    Thursday, October 19, 2017 4:08 pm

    I’ve started prepping with a bullet journal. I’ve never done a journal or a story bible before, but I’m finding that it’s becoming incredibly handy to have it in one place and having it as a physical manifestation is keeping me engaged and it allows me to pull out of the technology overload I usually end up in by the end of the day.


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