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Using Scrivener collections and Project Search to populate your series bible

four books in seriesI’m trying to finish up book three in my Men of Steele series, and I can see why so many authors swear by a series bible. In case you haven't heard the term before, a series bible is a collection of key details about everything and everyone in the world of your series, from the characters’ eye colors, birthdates, and the cars they drive, to their family history, the name of pertinent streets, and the timeline for major and minor events (current and backstory).

While I keep track of a lot of information for main, secondary, and even minor characters in the Project Notes section of each book, lately I’ve been having to refer back to previous books to look for all kinds of things: thoughts about one character by another, characters’ personality/reaction to events, details about their car/plane/home, what time of year something happened, what I said about a secondary character’s background, and on and on.

character list in project notes

Sample of character info list from Blind Ambition

If I’d been more savvy, I would have started tracking this information from the moment I began writing Blind Fury, and probably kept all the books in the series in one Scrivener project (more on the pros/cons of that here). That, or created a separate project solely to serve as the series bible.

Since I don't have a series bible yet, Project Search and Saved Search collections in Scrivener have been extremely helpful for tracking down details about secondary characters (who might now be primary) in past books. I used the search to find documents in which Scott—the hero of my current book, who was introduced in Blind Ambition—appears. Since he wasn’t a main character, these will be instances where he’s either talking, or being talked/thought about. Here’s the process I used (Mac and Windows).

  1. Open project for Blind Ambition.
  2. In the Project Search text box, type Scott.
  3. Click the magnifying glass to change the search criteria to search Text only, only documents located in the Blind Ambition folder (I renamed my Draft/Manuscript folder). I also limited the search to be case sensitive, so I’d only get references to his name, not parts of another word (e.g. Prescott). I chose Exact Phrase rather than Whole Word, because Whole Word would miss things like “Scott’s” (but will catch words like “Scottish”).project search menuA list of documents that match my criteria appears in the left sidebar.
  4. Click the magnifying glass in the Project Search text box and choose Save Search as Collection. Name it Scott Mentions. saving a search as a collectionThis saves the group of files as a collection that I can view any time without having to recreate the search. (A collection is a subset of your documents, either based on search criteria or manually created by you. The documents are not copied or moved from the Binder when put into a collection.)
  5. Clear the Project Search text box to see the Binder again.
  6. Click the Collections button or go to View—>Collections—>Show Collections (Mac) or View—>Collections—>Collections (Windows). The Collections pane appears in the upper portion of the left sidebar.collections pane
  7. Click the Scott Mentions tab to view the list of files with “Scott” in them. Each instance of “Scott” is highlighted (red on Mac, yellow on Windows).viewing a collection's contents

From here, I can go through each document, noting down any important info about Scott for continuity, e.g. how he reacts to Tara and Dan, what kind of coffee he drinks when they see him in the break room, how he dresses, any offhand mentions about his past or where he lives, and the color of his eyes. This process can be used to search for anything from characters to locations to types of events, as long as you can narrow it down with a word or two.

Once you have a collection, it’s also a cinch to select and drag the files from the collection in one project to the Binder of another. Now you have them in the new project and don’t have to keep opening the old one for a quick search. Or, you could create a project to serve as a series bible (info only, no story text) and make that the repository for all new data about the series.

NOTE: Click the X at the bottom of the Binder to close the Collection. Click the Collections button or go to View—>Collections—>Hide Collections (Mac) or View—>Collections—>Collections (Windows) to hide the Collections pane.

To create a thorough series bible, I’ll need to reread my previous books. For now, the process outlined above is working well.

What do you include in a series bible? Got any other helpful tricks for creating one (with Scrivener or not)?

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.

Mug Shots

I’m not big on collecting things. Clutter doesn’t fit my personality, and living lean makes moving regularly a heck of a lot easier. Mostly, I collect experiences, and along with them, I sometimes collect mugs.

Mugs work for me because they have utility. They don’t just line a shelf turning dusty—because, uh, I do collect dust—you can use them. And we do.

Between my mint green tea habit, The Engineer’s weakness for java, and our morning oatmeal routine, we go through a lot of mugs in our house.

Some of my favorites are those we’ve picked up on our travels. There’s nothing better than a cup of hot tea—okay, really, really warm tea, is lukehot a word?—and a tactile reminder of a fun adventure.

The mugs are a daily reminder of some of our best trips. Here are a few of my favorites.