The Big Bad Bio

The Big Bad Bio

The Big Bad Bio

I’ve talked about Bio’s (Character Biographies) before in “Who’s who in the grand scheme of things”.  Now that I have a few books under my belt and I just finished my newest novel(Super excited) I wanted to talk about Bio’s again.  I’ve had some time to work out the kinks and hone the process.

I’ll start with my how.  Whether it’s a pad of paper, word document or my personal favorite a spreadsheet, I think it’s imperative to keep a Bio on EVERYONE in the story. Even if it’s the crotchety old neighbor who only shakes a fist at the protagonist and is in the story for all of one second.

Why?

Because, if I know what they look like, their quirks, age, DOB, family status, level of education, job status, pay rate etc. etc. then I can always make sure John, the Virgo barista has blond hair and brown eyes and doesn’t magically have green eyes and become the bartender who’s birthday is in January. Consistency is mega important and any reader who’s read a book and found something off… tends to never forget and never fully forgive, especially if they find two or heaven forbid more than two.

So what does a big bad bio of mine look like?  If I have a simple one page Bio, it will look like this:

BIO

I often don’t apply a year to the DOB because I don’t apply a year to my stories. This type of quick bio is good for quick references. If I want to go into more detail, I will create a full-page bio for each major and minor character.

Which details I put in are usually story driven. If I only ever have Jane wearing cut-off jeans and that’s important to the story I put that in her bio.

Here is a list of things I might have in the bio. Now if I have a lot, and I usually do I’ll have more than one page for the bio. I will either create an individual Bio page for each or I’ll group Bio Stats one page would be appearance another would be behavior and another might be education and employment.

Not all individual bio’s are equal. Obviously, the main characters will have much more detailed bio’s than Albert the hotdog vendor. Repeat or reoccurring characters get a little more TLC than Pauline the bitter angry bus driver who hits the brakes too hard at every stop.

Here is a list of what I might include

Name
Age
Weight
Height
Eye Color
Skin Color
Hair Color
Hair Style
Bad Habits
Good Habits

Ethnicity/Family origin
Religion
Birthdate or DOB
Education
Job
Tattoos
Scars
Quirks
Catch Phrases
Likes/Dislikes
Favorite Food
Hated Food
Type of music
Style of Clothes

The options are endless, ideally, they would be listed if there is a significant difference or if the character is minor and I might forget. Some of the things may never even be mentioned in the book. I’ll still give each character a full bio.  I’ll even give them a history or back-story. It’s important when I’m writing to be able to stay focused, and having to stop and go back pages or chapters to remind myself of one tiny detail is annoying and distracting.

My advice about Characters Bio’s.
There is no right or wrong way to create a Bio as long as you can read it and understand what’s what. They are very important and I think they can make things a lot easier if you decide to have a return visit from a minor or very, very minor character.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

 

 Focused

Keeping Track

It’s no secret that I’ve been querying agents like a mad woman hoping one will nibble and ask for more materials.

While the no’s pile up and the rejection letters pour in I will keep moving forward until I’ve exhausted every possible agent out there.

But with so many queries going out how do I keep track of them?  A spreadsheet is my first go to. There is a website called QueryTracker.net that a fellow blogger introduced me to and it is really cool, except if you want the ‘full’ experience and access to all their features you have to pay.  I’m frugal so I use their free service and still use my own method of tracking.

I try to keep it simple and clear so I can easily see what’s going on and as I update it’s not a pain in the ass. This spreadsheet did not start off this detailed. As I’ve gone along I’ve added, removed and changed columns. I use colour to help visualize important information as well. I’ll add more colour indicators if I need to keep an eye on something specific.

What I like to keep track of:

Date Submitted:  the date I submitted the query to the agent. This is important
The number:  I just like to know how many submissions I’ve done
The Email: Only if I emailed one specific or if It was listed on the online form
Agent: It is important to know which agent I’ve queried and when so I don’t repeat them.
Agency: This one is important so I don’t query any agency while an active query is                                   pending
Website: This way I can quick refer to their site if I need to.
What was submitted: Each agent/agency has different requirements. I like to keep track
               Q – Sent them a query letter
               S – Sent them a Synopsis (will indicate in notes if full chapter synopsis)
               Pages/Chapters how much of the manuscript did they ask for? blank=none
               Online form Used online form not email. no O means it was sent by email
Query Time Limit: Most agents/agencies will give timeline in days,weeks, months. Some                                          don’t and will say no response equals a NO.  I give these ones a generic                                        eight week expiry.
Expiry: This is important for me. I use timeanddate.com to determine when the query                          expired. A preemptive No automatically expires the query.
Expired: I like to make it obvious to myself when a Query has expired so I can move on.
Confirmation received: Some agencies will confirm they’ve received the query. It’s nice to                                                know they got it. (Don’t pester them if you don’t get one unless                                                      they specifically say to.)
Response:  Yes? No? No response? This is important to keep track of so I don’t break any                            rules. It also shows which agents didn’t bother to respond if the query expires.                        I make sure to highlight the entire line in red if I get a no, and in orange if it                                simply expired.
Notes: Some agencies have very specific rules or requests. THis is a good place to put this                   information. Also if an agency says No and NOT to contact any other agents. You                     dont want to be a jerk.

Here is what a snip-it of my spreadsheet looks like for ten agents (No these are not real listings and the real list is well over a hundred)query-listHere is a close up of what that form looks like. I hope you can see it better. If you want a file example contact me by email (in the contact me section of my blog) and I’ll email you this sample in excel format.

query-list-close-up

I’m sure there are ways to track more efficiently such as using Query tracker, but I’m not a fan of paying for something I can do myself with a bit of effort. I still use query tracker’s free service in conjunction with my spreadsheet. I have over a 120 queries out in the slush land of hopefulness. So keeping track of what’s out there is important. If an agency says only query one agent at a time and I screw up they will reject any and all future queries. Yikes!

My advice about tracking Queries.
DO IT!  don’t rely on emails or memory to remember who you’ve queried and not. What ever way you keep track, make sure you do. It’s also better to start the list immediately or if you haven’t, get one done asap. 

-Sheryl

Other posts that might be more fun than this one was

Building chemistry

Inviting innuendo

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