Farley’s Friday: Service Dogs

Farley here,

My life is about to change. My humans are thinking about becoming puppy raisers for BC & Alberta Guide dogs. At first, I thought this was all talk, but then I noticed Kristina going out in the afternoon to puppy training classes – just to watch, she said.

She’d come home all excited and talk about the dogs in the class. That’s when I got suspicious. She doesn’t have a puppy, and I’m fully trained – you all know how well behaved I am, so why go to classes?

I bark my displeasure.

She scratches my head and says, “Don’t worry. You’re my favorite. If we bring a puppy home, it’s temporary. Just for 18 months or so.”

The next step in getting a puppy is a home visit from the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs supervisor.

A supervisor arrives with a dog named Canuck. Canuck is a service dog in training. The first insult happens–I have to wait outside while Canuck explores my house.

Canuck 2

I’m a little miffed and I cry, well whine really.

Kristina explains that Canuck is working, and he’s not allowed to play with me while he’s on-leash.  She knows I’m very friendly and play with every dog who walks into our home. But still, I’m left peering through the window, looking as sad as possible.

After an endless stretch of time, the humans let Canuck into the backyard. We’re both off leash and get to play. I like this part. Canuck is gentle, and we get along right away.

What do you think? Should I allow Kristina to become a puppy trainer, or should I keep her to myself?

Woof Woof.


Top 10 Story Issues: Learn What to Avoid #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This month, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learnt from reading first drafts.


As the CEO of Fictionary, I read a lot of draft novels, and it’s one of the great pleasures of my job. It’s also an amazing learning opportunity.

Today, I want to share the top 10 issues I find in manuscripts in hopes that you can learn from them.

Here we go…

1. Word Count — Doesn’t follow the genre requirements

Inappropriate word count is the issue I see most often. For example, a 200,000 word mystery novel means the writer doesn’t know the expectations for the genre.

I also see random scene lengths, instead of scene lengths used to control pacing. Scene length can be shortened to increase pacing and lengthened to decrease pacing. This is an often underutilized method.

Learn more…

2. Point of View — Confused, inconsistent, unbalanced

A scene is told through a character’s eyes. That character is the POV character for the scene.

I often see a lack of control when writers change POV characters within a scene. This is called head hopping, and it’s jarring to a reader.

The order the POV characters appear, the number of times they appear, and consistency within a scene are all important. If an author hasn’t put enough thought into who has the POV for each scene, the novel can appear disjointed.

Learn more…

3. POV Goal — There isn’t a clear one

A character goal is simply what a character wants. The goals will drive the story forward.

The POV goal is what the POV character for the scene wants.

When you know the goal, you can start thinking about all the ways the character will fail at achieving the goal, what obstacles you can put in the character’s way, and how the character will feel about failing.

A scene where the POV character doesn’t have a goal will lack tension. And without tension the reader gets bored.

Learn More…

4. Purpose Of Each Scene — Isn’t clear

The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If the scene is not driving the story forward or developing your characters, then ask yourself why the scene is in your novel.

If you don’t have a reason for the scene to be in your novel, think about cutting or rewriting the scene.

Learn More…

5. Scene Anchoring — Without it the reader is lost

A writer can be too close to their story and not “see” that the reader is lost. The mistake is to not anchor the reader in the point of view, the timing of the scene and the setting.

You know who has the POV, where the character is, and the timing of the scene because you wrote the scene, but does your reader? If the reader can’t figure out the POV, timing and setting within the first couple of paragraphs, you may lose them–the reader I mean and not the character.

Learn More…

6. Scene Entry And Exit Hooks — No exciting hooks

The beginning and ending of each scene is a chance to keep the reader engaged. This mistake is to ignore having entry and exit hooks for each scene.

When creating a scene entry hook, consider:

  • Starting in media res (opening in the middle of action)
  • Foreshadowing trouble
  • Using a strong line of dialogue
  • Raising a question
  • Not wasting words on extraneous description

The exit hook is the magic that will keep your reader wanting to begin the next scene. Types of Exit Hooks:

  • Cliff Hanger–perhaps your protagonist’s life is at risk
  • Revelation–show the reader something that will change the course of the story
  • Setback for the protagonist or antagonist–one of these characters should be very unhappy about the latest event
  • A secret revealed–you can either reveal a full secret or only part of a secret
  • A question left hanging–this will tease the reader, making them want the answer
  • An unexpected plot twist–this will keep the reader guessing

Learn More…

7. Tension — Not enough

A lack of tension in a scene may mean the reader puts your book down.

It’s important to know the difference between tension and conflict. I often see a lot of conflict but not enough tension.

Learn More…

8. Backstory — Too much, too early

Backstory is the story that happens before your novel begins. Sometimes during the story, you need to inform the reader of something that happened earlier in a character’s life. You may have files upon files of information you store elsewhere that you use to develop your characters, but what we’re concerned with here is what the reader needs to know.

Too much backstory early on will bore your reader. Don’t risk it.

Learn More…

9. Timing — Confusing timelines

This issue occurs when a story jumps around in time — meaning the story is not told in a linear fashion. This can be great, but only if the reader can follow it.

Learn More…

10. Story Arc — Key scenes are in the wrong place

I’ve read many manuscripts where the story arc is not followed. When the author rewrites the story and move the key scenes to the correct place, the story goes from mediocre to good, or good to great. Who doesn’t want that?

Learn More…

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you address each area listed above. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

Mystery Mondays: Author Tracy L. Ward on Historical Fiction

Today on Mystery Mondays we have bestselling author Tracy L. Ward to talk about history – Canadian History – so that’s fun for me 🙂 Check out her latest book below…

You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar I Did My Research

by Tracy L. Ward

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “Canadian history just isn’t that interesting,” I could retire a very wealthy woman. It seems, in comparison to the oft romanticized aspects of American history (a rebellion for liberty from British rule, a civil war to free the enslaved and multiple presidential assassinations) any history Canadians have been a part of feels downright yawn worthy.

How did we become a county? We held a meeting and signed some papers. Yawn.  How did slavery in Canada end? Well, Britain ended their involvement in the slave trade and we just kind of followed suit. Both these major events seem passive on our part, nothing revolutionary, nothing to write home about.

A lot of our apathy toward our own history comes down to how it’s taught.  It’s standard practice to focus on dates, politician’s names and outcomes of battle. But what if I told you this is exactly the WRONG way to approach history?

I certainly had my fair share of “read this, fill in the blanks on this” history classes. If this is the only type of history class that young people are exposed to no wonder adult Canadians aren’t that particularly interested.

How did I get hooked on history? It certainly wasn’t memorizing a list of Canadian prime ministers and writing historical dates on flash cards. I started by reading about people, learning about their individual lives, their goals, their struggles and learning about how they were restricted by society (particularly women) or even constricted by limits of the technology available to them.

I remember reading in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s journals that one winter Prince Edward Island had been hammered with a horrendous amount of snow. The Northumberland Straight, the body of ocean separating the island from New Brunswick, was choked with ice. Ferry service had been cut off for weeks and even the dog sleds used by the postal service could not get through to the island effectively cutting off the people of Prince Edward Island from the mainland for weeks and weeks, much longer than any other winter the locals could remember.

She wrote of the isolation, as no one from the village of Cavendish or beyond ventured to the post office Montgomery ran with her grandmother and grandfather. The boredom was immense, the cabin fever soul crushing. This is riveting history. And probably wouldn’t play out the same way today now that we have Confederation Bridge, automobiles, snow ploughs and this amazing invention called the Internet (you may have heard of it).

I recently read a book titled “Wilderness Sisters” by Charlotte Gray, who wrote about Susanna Moody and Catherin Parr Trail, two sisters from the upper classes of England whose genteel husbands decided to brave the journey over the ocean to claim a homestead in Canada’s bush. It’s amazing to read of their optimism, their belief that the estate homes they lost in England could be re-established in the Canadian wilderness, large homes replete with an army of servants, high tea at 4 in the afternoon, and expansive gardens to rival any back home.

They arrived grossly unprepared for the harsh winters, thick wilderness and primitive lifestyles. Lace gloves were soon traded for calloused palms and cracked fingernails. Both Catherine and Susanna were some of Canada’s first female writers, composing works of non-fiction to hopefully better prepare British citizens looking to emigrate to Canada. Their work continues to be published today as a testament to the early days of Canadian settlement. When you read their stories it’s not about what happened when and what laws were changed as a result. Instead their legacy is of an average citizen, brought to Canada because of a dream and vision many other Canadian hopefuls shared.

I had published six novels set in England before I set out to write my first series set in Canada, Mercy Me, and you can bet your bottom dollar I did my research. I pored over maps of early Toronto. I studied the social climate. I visited museums and memorized early photographs gleaning them for clues as to what people wore, how they stood and what was important to them. But what I didn’t do was memorize dates, or names of men who held political office.

My story was not about them but rather about Mercy Marigold Eaton, a character of my own creation, a single mother to a biracial fourteen year old living in a society that would never accept either of them. You won’t find rote facts or many historical nuggets woven amongst the prose. My story wasn’t about repeating what has already been written about in non-fiction. My story is a human story, the best sort of history lesson. While my characters may be a figment of my imagination, their tale is inspired by those of real Canadians, the everyday people who paved the way, and shaped our country helping making it what it is today.

History can be taught through both fiction and non-fiction and need not be limited to factual recitation. If you haven’t read a historical novel in a while, boy, are you ever missing out.


Mercy Me

MercyMeFrontMercy Marigold Eaton has a special connection with the dead, able to piece together the lives of those who have passed on with a single touch. When an injured man nearly dies in her arms she isn’t given much time to work her magic before Detective Jeremiah Walker arrives and places her and her fraudulent fortune telling business under suspicion.

A day later the body of a woman matching a description given by Mercy is found in Toronto’s derelict neighbourhood The Ward, leaving Walker no choice but to involve her in the case. Wary and fighting her own demons rooted in mistrust of the law, Mercy uses the skills she herself doesn’t fully understand to give the detective the clues he so desperately needs.

Thrust together by circumstances even Mercy couldn’t predict, the pair soon finds themselves falling for each others’ charms. In an effort to remove temptation Walker pushes forward without her, not realizing the killer has already darkened Mercy Eaton’s front door.


Author HeadshotA former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward is the author behind the best-selling Marshall House Mysteries.

Mercy Me is the first book in a new series set in 19thcentury Toronto. Currently, Tracy lives on a rural property outside Barrie, Ontario with her husband and their two teenagers.



Selling Books To Non-Bookstores #Sale

The Author’s Guide To Selling Books To Non-Bookstores is on sale. You can get it for 50% off through Smashwords.


Published by Imajin Books

Imagine walking into a grocery store, gift shop or other non-bookstore and seeing YOUR book for sale.  This wonderful experience is within your grasp—if you’re bold enough to pursue it.

Selling to traditional bookstores and making a profit can be extremely difficult, but there is an alternative. In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show YOU how to move beyond the bookstores and sell to other retail outlets. Every step is detailed, from formulating a plan to collecting money.

I sold more books through non-bookstore retail outlets than through traditional bookstores, and YOU can too.

This was my favorite moment with the Author’s Guide…


Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 12.08.10 PM

Farley’s Friday: Woo Hoooo!

Farley here,

I love, love, love running down a hill.

Here’s the game. I let my humans scramble down the hill ahead of me while I wait patiently at the top. And I mean patiently. They’re really slow.

Then, I let it rip…

Farley Running

This hill is as steep as it looks in the photo. But I’m not scared.  I keep going until the flat bit below.  I may not live in the  mountains anymore, but I can still handle the terrain!

Woof Woof

The Story Arc & Why Stories Captivate!

Are you struggling to make your story work?

The story arc can help you.

The story arc is made up of the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1, the Midpoint and Plot Point 2, and the Climax.

There are those who think the story arc is a formula to follow and that it will stifle creativity. I don’t believe this. I think the story arc is about form, not formula, and it inspires me to tell better stories.

Writing a novel is a personal story arc.

Inciting Incident: You’ve been living your life, but something just isn’t right. AND THEN…your brain tells you that you need to write a story. You don’t know yet how hard this is going to be, but the world has changed, and you’re going to roll with it. So here’s the problem. How are you going to write 80,000 to 100,000 words and get people to like it?

Plot Point 1: You’ve written 20,000 words or so, spent hours doing this, and there is no turning back. You’ve invested emotion, time, brainpower and you won’t give up.

Midpoint: You’ve made it halfway. Now you really get working. Everything you have is going into the story. This is where you figure how hard it is to write a novel, but you’re determined to solve the problem.

Plot Point 2You can’t possibly go on writing. Your structure is a mess. Everything you’ve written since the middle is making it difficult to bring the story together. You don’t know how to end the story, but you know you must work hard to finish or you’ll lose the whole story — and maybe a little part of yourself, too.

Climax: You are going to overcome your demons and finish the story. Your adrenaline is rushing. You’ve got this. You just have to fight your way through and you can write the resolution. There’s the word count you needed, and you’ve solved your problem.

I searched for an interesting way to describe the story arc. And then I found Tomas Pueyo and had to share his video.

This entertaining and insightful video will motivate you!

It’s time to stop struggling to make your story work.

Why not evaluate your story arc and see if you can make the story better? You’ve got nothing to lose by learning and trying — as long as you save your work before making large changes…


Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary draws a recommended story arc and draws the story arc for your story. You can see how to improve the structure of your story within seconds.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

The Climax In The Context Of The Story Arc

The climax scene is where you get to shine as an author. Every word you’ve written up to this point is going to pay off.

What is the Climax?

You’ve built you’re story up to the climax with rising action, and now the climax scene (or scenes) will have the highest level of conflict, the greatest tension, or the most devastating emotional upheaval.

Up to this point there has been no scene as intense as the climax scene.

I read a book where the most intense scene occurred at the midpoint. A woman trapped in a car was slowly being submerged. The scene was wonderfully written and had me turning the pages. The book could have ended there. If I’d stopped reading there, I would have left the book feeling satisfied.

Unfortunately, I had no idea the climax was going to be a let down compared to the midpoint scene. The climax was less tense and less emotionally satisfying. The author built up the expectation by putting a ripper of a scene in the middle of the book and couldn’t keep the excitement rising. I felt let down at the end.

The protagonist must be in your climax scene, or you risk alienating your reader. The protagonist should face the biggest obstacle in the story and determine her own fate.

After the climax you’ll follow up with a resolution to the story.

Earlier posts cover the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1, the Midpoint and Plot Point 2.

Famous Climax Scenes:

Note: there are story spoilers, so don’t read this section if you want to read the book or see the movie.

Gone Girl: Nick plans to reveal Amy to the world in a novel that reveals the true story of what she did. He thinks he has the upper hand until she tells him she’s pregnant. In order to protect his unborn child, he’ll never be able to leave Amy.

The Martian: Mark is finally at the moment where he launches his space ship so he can intercept with the crew on the Hermes. The tension is built when his ship doesn’t have the range to reach the Hermes and he has to pierce his space suit to propel himself to the Hermes.

The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry, Ron, and Hermione must protect the Philosopher’s Stone from (they think) Snape. They want to stop Snape from giving the stone to Voldemort. Ron sacrifices himself during the climax, and Harry faces the final confrontation alone.

Twilight: Bella gets injured by James when as she tries to save her mother.

Placement Of The Climax

The climax should happen somewhere around 90% into your novel. This is a guide so you can check you’re not writing too much before or after the climax.

If the climax occurs too early in your story, the reader may get impatient with a long resolution and start skimming.

If the climax appears to late, the resolution may lack depth and the reader finishes the story without being satisfied.

Here’s an example of a story arc from Fictionary. The brown line shows the recommended story arc, and the green line shows the actual story arc for the novel.

Image Source: Fictionary

You can see above, the inciting incident occurs too late in the story, plot point 1 occurs too quickly after the inciting incident, and the middle occurs too late in the story.

After that, plot point 2 is reached too quickly, denying the reader story depth. By appearing too early, it also means the last act is dragging. Act III is going on for too long.

And on it goes until the climax is too late, and there isn’t enough time for a satisfactory resolution. Meaning the reader won’t read the writer’s next book.

I’ve love to know what you think and if you have any questions 🙂

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

Post written by Kristina Stanley, best-selling author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).