Thursday, February 20, 2020

What is a series bible…and why do you need one? by Lisa Phillips

Hello, fellow writers! *waves*

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lisa Phillips. That is a COMPLETELY ACCURATE photo of me. (Guess who just realized she needs a headshot that’s not five years old?)

I love writing series novels almost as much as I love dogs. Don’t even get me started on my giant adorable Airedale ball of crazy. I’ll be here all day. I write for Love Inspired Suspense, and I indie publish on the side.

That’s two whole blogs right there. And who wouldn’t want to read one about dogs? I’d love to write about being a hybrid author—it’s a great way to make this writer career thing work. But it probably wouldn’t be as good as the dog one.

So…series bibles.
Instead of telling you why you might need one, I’ll do the writerly thing and SHOW you.

Here’s a quote from a book I wrote a few years ago. My first full series (so be nice, lol.) The first book is called Sanctuary Lost:

John looked at the guy in line ahead of him. Early thirties but he was nearly bald, his glasses drooped on his nose and he gripped his plate of mostly bread and green beans. “I’m Terrence Evangeline.” He pointed at an older couple by the salads. “That’s my mom, Shelby and my dad, Aaron. They run the town’s community arts programs.”

Now here’s a quote from book three, Sanctuary Breached:

“There is also the problem of Andy.”
Nadia glanced at the man for the shortest possible amount of time. Sure enough, Andy Evangeline was staring at her. Why, Lord? He’d been nursing a terminal crush for months now, and it didn’t seem to be easing off. Nadia was the focus of his attention every second he wasn’t at the recycling center. Who knew what he thought about when he wasn’t watching her or following her around. It was the last thing she needed in the middle of this.

See the problem?
Somehow *cough-distracted mom writer-cough* a secondary character who was Terrence Evangeline in book one, was suddenly Andy Evangeline in book 3.
Oh what, oh what, is a writer to do?

Here’s where genre came in super handy. See, I write romantic suspense. This particular series? It’s about a town of people all in the witness protection program, also known as WITSEC (witness security). People change their names in witness protection all the time, right?

Enter the solution. Book 5, Sanctuary Forever, we were back in town and ready to wrap things up—which of course meant I needed a solution.

“Hi, Andy.”
He crossed his arms on the counter and smiled. “It’s Terrence. I’ve decided to go back to my first name again instead of my middle name.”
He looked like he expected her to say something, but she didn’t. Why would she care if he was having an identity crisis? She didn’t even like the man and never had.

Two more series and a lot of books later, I’ve decided to make life easier for myself.

This is my new series. Aren’t my covers AWESOME? Seriously, my cover designer (now that I’ve decided to quit doing it myself *blog post alert*) is so good!
Me? More like, meh. But that was a solid business decision.

Another business decision I made with this series?

One designed to save me hours of headache?

A series bible.

Right now it looks a lot like a messy spreadsheet, but the moment the first character walked onto the page in Expired Refuge, I wrote down her name. Age. Occupation. Hair color. Defining features. Key personality traits. Family members who live in town.

And so on, and so on.

Every time I open that first draft document, the spreadsheet gets opened too. Is it foolproof? No, because I’m a human and we all make mistakes. But this will cut down on SO MANY continuity problems I don’t need and don’t have time for.

Businesses in town. Street names. People who lived there years ago. The name of the vet, who won’t get a novel about him until next year? All of it gets noted down.

So how about you?
Do you have a series bible, or a way to keep track of these details? I’d love to know your secret. Or maybe you could just tell me what the plural of “series” is, because clearly I have no idea.

And after you’ve left a comment, feel free to swing by Amazon, KOBO, Nook or Apple Books and grab a copy of Expired Refuge!! You can find out more at


  1. I have a spreadsheet for my new series, but I have to confess that I don't keep it up as I should. Thanks for the reminder, Lisa. Jumping right on it!

  2. I definitely could not write my series without one :)

  3. Thanks, Lisa. I needed your post today!

  4. I've never learned how to set up a spreadsheet properly (ducks behind her monitor) so I use a Word doc where I list all characters with the same kind of above information; streets/buildings/names of businesses, etc. on each page and I keep updating them. I have one long doc for each book but I keep it printed out in the back of my binder (ahem, have never learned how to use Scrivener either!) and can refer to it easily. If anyone has a spreadsheet already set up that they want to donate to a worthy cause, lol - as in ME - I'd love to send you my email addy! :)

    1. I love hard copies! I do this sometimes for sure.
      Really all I do in excel is use the boxes and columns to organize me - like a table in Word. Hope that helps!

    2. It does, I meant that I've never really figured out how to make the cells ready to change themselves with new info, etc. But I should try it with my third book.

    3. Ah.ooh, should figure that out as well...

  5. I haven't used any kind of record-keeping system for my longest-running series (eleven books and two more to go). When I'm working on one of the books, I normally have the previous book or two from the same series minimized on my computer. I've lived with the characters for so long, that they're ingrained inside me (a group of friends who do volunteer work together). The most difficult thing to keep in mind are the current (and increasing) number of offspring--names and ages (I really stink at math). For the spin-off series, I'm definitely keeping better notes! :) Thanks for the fun post and best wishes with your writing, Lisa!

    1. Thank you, JoAnn! Best wishes to you as well. You sound like you're ON IT. :)

  6. When I saw the title of your post, I thought there must be a new type of Bible study, but I was game to read about something new. Ha! Yes.....a series bible!

    I do need one. For some reason, my mind thinks ahead to creating more stories evolving out of the book I’m writing. I NEED A SERIES bible! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

  7. I keep a file with all the names and occupations, how they're related to the main characters, and place names in my series. I guess it's like a bible, though not organized in a spreadsheet.

    1. My spreadsheet is very not organized, lol. Good for you, keeping track of everything :)

  8. Welcome, Lisa!
    As Sherida Stewart posted above, I also thought this post would be about a new type of Bible study. :) So glad you shared with us today, because you've reminded me (thank you!) that I need to update my notebook! I'm "old school" and prefer hard copies, LOL, so I keep my info in a large, 3-ring notebook. But I've gotten way behind in updating my info. so your post has reminded me to get caught up!
    Thanks again for sharing with us.
    Blessings, Patti Jo

  9. Oh, my goodness, yes! I created an extensive spreadsheet for my series, Daughters of Riverton, and it SAVED me many times! So many details to keep track of!

  10. Good job, Lisa. I'm a hard copy lady with a running list doc I keep open while writing that lists characters, place names, ship names, crew names, and even horse and dog names as they appear for each book in my historical series. It works pretty good. So far.
    Blessings on your writing,
    Elva Cobb Martin, Pres. ACFW-SC

  11. Great advice, Lisa! I use a spreadsheet for names but I love the idea of adding in the details for characters/places/etc. :)

  12. Lisa, thanks for such a wonderful post! Series are my favorite things to read and I'm striving to put on together now. That makes your timing perfect. Believe me, I would have started without a series bible and been rereading constantly and still have missed things! I'm going to tryout your spreadsheet methodology.


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