So you want to write a novel? Got an idea that has been brewing in the back of your mind? Great!
Congratulations, you have taken the first step towards being an author.
Now here is the tricky part: How do you keep yourself on track while on this journey?
For me personally, I put together what is widely known in the writers' community as a story binder, although I more affectionately call mine a manuscript bible.
A story binder will hold everything a prospective writer could need in order for him to write their first draft from start to finish.
Today I am going to break down all the parts of my binder and why they help me in order for you to get an idea of what could help you set up your own manuscript bible.
My binder is broken down into six tabs: general book information, goals, outline, character profiles, world lore/world building, and other information. Keep in mind that I tend to write fantasy novels so what may work best for me isn't what would work best for you and ay tips I suggest can be tweaked to fit your needs.
General Book Information
Under this tab, I have the bare bones of the book itself. I list working title, my target age demographic, genre and sub-genre for my book, word count goal, the dated I started my first draft, my target deadline date, the date I actually completed the first draft and the final word count.
Basically, this is the tab that would sum up my novel into a couple broad sentences.
I personally find this tab important for my work so I can have a general idea of what I am trying to accomplish and a place to reference when I am questioning myself on something.
I am a goal driven person. I like being able to see myself hit marks and because of that, I like having a goals tab in my story binder. I am also completely scatterbrained so having goals is vital for me to thrive while I write.
I give myself a daily word count goal of 1,000 words and I keep a monthly tracker sheet that lists my goal as well as leaves me a place to write in the number of words I actually write on a daily basis. At the bottom of the chart, I have an area where I enter my word count for the month.
On top of that, I also have a thermometer that shows what percentage of my monthly writing goal I have accomplished. I generally shoot for 30,000 words in a month's time. Although that sounds like a lot, if you break it down that is only 1,000 words a day. For every 3,000 word, I write, I get to mark off 10 percent of the thermometer.
This method gives me a visual on how well I am doing and honestly I get really excited to color in every ten percent I fill.
My outline tab is one of my most favorite to fill. This is where I lay out what happens throughout my manuscript (yes, you do need to know where your book is going). For some people it's just a general outline with a few major plot points listed and for others it's a highly detailed outline for every bump and bruise that takes your main character from point A to point B.
I tend to be a detailed outliner. I list major plot points adding details that I know I want to see during that part and I divide mine down into what chapter it should be happening in. For me personally writing my outline gets me hyped up to write my novel, kind of like how football players listen to music that gets them ready to play. It makes me excited to see what is going to happen when I start writing at great lengths.
This is the single most important tab out of the whole binder. If you don't write a single tab, this is the only one you HAVE to do. This keeps you organized while you write the story and it will give you a clear destination while you are working on your story.
Character profiles are also a fun part of my prewriting ritual although it is far from necessary.
These are where I list physical, emotional and personality traits for my characters so I can feel like I truly know them and round them out in my stories.
Again, some people have short profiles with a character's basic stats and others have more elaborate ones. (Can you guess which one mine is?)
Now I did not come up with my own character profile. I found one that fit the type of story I was writing on Pinterest and filled it out. Mine is about seven pages long but I only profile main characters.
World Lore/World Building
This tab is another important tab for the types of stories I write. I have a story map page that I include so I have an idea how my characters travel, a history of mythical beasts that roams the lands, little tidbits of the character's culture.
This tab is one many will find optional. For me it is important because my story is set in a fantasy realm: I create the religion, countries, histories, and lore for my story. If you are writing a contemporary romance or young adult novel this may not be an important step because of you a writing about the world and culture you live in.
This tab is where all the other junk for my novel gets thrown so I can stay organized.
I like to keep a name list under this tab for any random secondary characters that might pop up as I am writing. I find name meanings and what certain names are associated with important so if I let myself get distracted I can waste a whole afternoon of writing because I find names important.
My book is set in a fantasy ancient world and the two main characters wield swords, but because of physical differences they cannot be the same type of weapon so I have information on the type of weapons that both of them use so if I have any questions while working on a scene I have a quick reference that will not suck me down the internet rabbit hole.
This is how I set up my story binder to increase my own efficiency and increase my chances of finishing my book.