Farley’s Friday: It’s a beach day

Farley here,

Some of you know I spent 5 years of my life living on a sailboat.  You’d think living on a boat meant I spent most of my days on the beach. However, I had to bark at my human as he windsurfed by me. I was letting him know it was time to hit the beach.

Farley Mattina

Now I’m a land lover – but I still find time to go to the beach. My plan for the long weekend – here’s what it will look like.

Farley at beach


Someone tell Kristina she might need sunscreen, as I’m going to stay on the beach the whole day.

Woof Woof


11 Steps to Find and Connect with Other Authors in Your Genre #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 week, I’ve chosen to do something a little special for everyone.

Even before you publish your first book, building an online network will help you when the exciting moment of releasing your novel to the world arrives.


Today, Donna Galanti, an expert in building a network for authors, is here to share her advice and she has a very generous offer for you (you can find it at the bottom of post).

11 Steps to Find and Connect with Other Authors in Your Genre

-by Donna Galanti

I’ve befriended many bestselling authors, online and in person, who want to help new writers. They’ve advised me, allowed me to guest post on their blogs, and have written blurbs for my work. They pay it forward. Someday you will too.

Remember, this is all about community and you are an author (or will be!) and you need to surround yourself with your author community. You are a member of the party now. And every party needs people to make it successful! 😊

Act respectful, professional, and positive in your reaching out to other authors and they will reciprocate. These people can be your biggest influencers when it comes to industry advice and connections with agents, editors, and publishers.

First — how to FIND Comparable Authors

1. Start with authors you are familiar with in your genre and connect online and in-person.

2. Conduct research to find other successful authors in your genre. Create a list from this and research these authors to connect with online.

3. Are you a debut author? Connect with other debut authors. Search online for “debut authors” and the year your book releases, plus “your genre,” to locate comparable debuts. On Goodreads, search in Lists for debut books by year and genre to match yours.

4. Go to the Amazon page of a similar author in your genre. Click on their books and scroll down the page to see books readers also bought like theirs. Hop on over to those book pages and check out those authors to see if a good fit for you to connect with as well.

Second — How to CONNECT with Comparable Authors

5. Add new author connections to a special private Twitter list called “Comparable Authors” and connect with them there on a regular basis and give them a shout out.

6. Engage on their Facebook author pages with useful, positive comments. Share their posts to your audience.

7. Comment on their blog posts with a useful remark or refer to something that you connected with in their post. This is a helpful tactic to draw the author and their followers into a conversation there, and they may connect back to your website and follow you online.

8. Connect via a conference, book event, or convention. In connecting with authors online, check out their events page to see what events they may be attending in person. Are any local to you or ones you have an interest in also attending? Be sure to connect in person at the event. Share why you love their books or follow their blog. Ask them a question that shows you’re interested in their work or ask for their best bit of advice for new authors on how to build a reader audience. Email them or post on social media after the event, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and thank them for their time.

9. Ask the authors you engage with to guest blog on your blog. Authors love to be interviewed and provide guest posts, if they have time. It’s exposure for them and you — and content for your website!

10. Ask if YOU can guest blog on their blog and pitch an article idea that fits their audience (most folks love content for their blog!). I’ve had authors on group blogs ask me to fill in their monthly date spot if they are too busy, like The Kill Zone and Jungle Red Writers.

11. Join a group of debut authors. Start your own group if none! A book marketing collective is a strong way to help boost other authors and your own books. There is power in numbers. Banding with similar authors is a wonderful way to reach potential new readers while building a writer community as a resource

Be Sure to Avoid This Rookie Mistake:

Spamming an author’s Facebook wall and tagging them with your book or other promotion.

Go the Extra Mile:

Reach out to co-author blogs in your genre and ask if they are accepting new members as well as guest posts.

Banding with similar authors is a wonderful way to reach potential new readers while building a writer community as a resource.

Have you banded with other authors to build your influencer network? What worked for you? What are you willing to try that you haven’t done yet?

About Donna:

Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Roadseries. She is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and regularly presents as a guest author at schools. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna has long been a leader in the Mid-Atlantic writing scene as a workshop presenter. She’s taught on writing craft and marketing at writing conferences, retreats, regional writing organizations, and colleges and is also a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com. Donna also loves teaching writers about building author brand and platform through her free training series at yourawesomeauthorlife.com. Visit her author website at donnagalanti.com

Special Promotion For Writers!:

Donna is offering a special deal just for Fictionary readers. Get 50% off Donna’s online course, Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors. Are you a debut novelist or a writer seeking publication? Then this course is perfect for you.

Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors (CYAC) is Donna’s proven complete step-by-step system designed to take you by the hand (as in step 1, step 2, step 3) to create community by connecting and collaborating with readers and writers for author platform and brand success. Reach more readers and sell more books! No ambiguity or confusion. Literally, step-by-step nothing is left out.

Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors includes instant access to:

  • Kick Butt Step-By-Step Modules
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For all the course details, including a peek in-depth into each module and bonus, and to take advantage of this 50% off special deal visit:https://www.createyourawesomecommunity.com/special

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

Why, When and How to Beta your Book.

Sharing your story can be frightening, so I’ve asked the experts at BetaBooks to talk about how to get the most out of beta readers.

Please welcome guest writer, Paul Kilpatrick and learn the best practices in beta reading. In this context, beta reading is having someone else read your novel and get them to give you feedback that helps you make it a better story.

Check below for a special deal…

Over to Paul.

Why, When and How to Beta your Book.

by Paul Kilpatrick.

Hi, I’m Paul Kilpatrick. My partner Andrew Burleson and I founded BetaBooks, a software tool to help authors organize their betas. Since it launched, our software has helped authors beta over 1000 books. We’ve had countless conversations with authors and readers about why they choose to run or participate in Betas. So let’s get into it.

Why to Run a Beta

There are at least four great reasons to beta.

1. Big-Picture Editorial

You can use your beta to identify oversights and problems in your book. This is what comes to mind for most authors when they think of beta-ing their books. For beginning authors, it is one of the most valuable reasons to beta. A group of people can spot character inconsistencies that you have overlooked, draw attention to plot problems you can’t see, and let you know when you are straying from genre conventions. What you do with that information is up to you.

2. Market Research

Movies have test screenings before they open, bands test out new songs on good crowds before they go on albums, and plays schedule out of town runs, all to get early reactions so they can make their final product as tight as possible, giving them the greatest chance of success. Authors should always be looking for ways to do the same, and the beta is an amazing tool for that. What if someone just released a book in your genre with a similar twist? What if people are reading subtext into your story you did not intend? What if you are unaware of that go-to plot move that people are tired of? Getting your book in front of people in a low stakes setting is a great way to gather that information.

On top of all that, if you are starting out, it is a fantastic opportunity for you to test out different ways of selling your book. Experiment with and keep track of what you said to convince different people to read your book. Those techniques will help you sell your book to the world.

3. Community Building

You want fans who are invested in your books, and beyond that in you as an author. Inviting them into your process and making them feel important is a hugely powerful way to build reader engagement with you and nurture long term relationships. The beauty of beta readers is that they are important to your process. There is no artifice of marketing necessary here. A direct interactive relationship with the readers who are most invested in your work is invaluable. Don’t pass that opportunity up.

4. Sensitivity Reading

If you are writing outside of your own experience, it is essential to seek out people who can give you an honest response to characters like them. If you are not a lawyer but have a lawyer character, get a lawyer to read your book. Many people are so tired of seeing laughable versions of what they do represented in media they will be happy to give it a whirl. This can extend to any experience outside of your own. Write whatever you want but take the opportunity to make sure you are doing it respectfully by seeking out people who are like your characters.

When to Run a Beta

It’s best to beta after a few thorough self-edit drafts (possibly done with the input of a writers group or mentor), so the work will be clean enough for readers to enjoy. It’s also best to do it before a final meticulous copy edit and type setting, because you may make substantial changes based on the feedback you get.

That having been said, we have seen people beta their books at just about every phase of writing. Some authors beta chapters as they write them, and use that super early feedback during their first editorial pass. We have also seen authors use their beta as a last stop before publishing to give them just a little more peace of mind, or as a perk for their core fans to help build buzz before the launch.

There are two questions you should ask yourself before you decide to run a beta:

Am I mentally ready to accept feedback and make changes based on what an outsider says about my book?

Too late in the process and you may dismiss something because of the amount of work it represents. Too soon and you may not be happy enough with the story to avoid feeling attacked and hurt.

Is this draft in good enough shape that I am respecting my readers’ time?

The people we know who invite beta readers super early are practiced and know that what they write in their first draft is close to their final product. Other authors we know won’t show anything to a reader that hasn’t gone through half a dozen of their own revisions. This is not a statement about author skill, merely about process. Do not conform to anyone else’s timetable if you feel it encourages you to waste people’s time.

How to Run a Beta

There are three things you need to do to get the most out of the process. These are macro principles to keep in mind. If you want an in-depth step by step, we have written one here.

Have your book ready

There are authors who invite people to beta a few chapters of a work they never finish writing. Please don’t be that person. Not only are you wasting people’s time with your actions today, you may be turning potentially great beta readers off forever. Do everything you can to make sure you draft is in good shape. This will mean that a) your readers are getting the best experience possible and more importantly b) you have an easier time accepting feedback.

Set clear expectations

Clear guidance about what you, as the author, are looking for is essential. Kristina Stanley, for instance, has a blanket “Tell me when you skimmed” request. Other people ask readers which character they liked most in a chapter. Still others ask about specific beats, tone and believability. Ask 2–3 questions to start and then decide if your readers can handle more questions at a time. Giving a deadline is also a good idea, as a lot of people work better when they’ve got one.

After all of this, know that if you are building a beta team for multiple books, which I hope you are, you should be thinking of this as an opportunity to train and grow a part of your team so that the process can be better for everyone in the future.

Be ready to Engage Honestly

The final piece of macro advice I can give you has to do with your state of mind as an author. You are asking people for their honest feedback, so be ready for that feedback to hurt sometimes. Don’t blame the reader or try to defend yourself. Say, “Thank you,” and either move on or to try and fix the problem. Do not be discouraged. A beta that reveals a lot of problems you had overlooked is not a bad thing, it is an opportunity; and it means you did not release a subpar book into the world. Conversely, if you are getting a lot of positive feedback, take note and see what you are being praised for. Accept and enjoy it, but try to learn what you are doing that people like so you can lean into that in the future.

On Finding Readers

Now that we’ve covered, the WhyWhen, and How of running a beta, I want to delve briefly into how to find readers. Betas can contribute greatly to a book’s success, but many beginning authors have trouble even getting one off the ground because they are intimidated by finding readers. Don’t be one of those authors!

The two most frequent complaints about betas I hear from authors are: “It is impossible to find readers.” and “I just can’t find any good beta readers.” On both of these, I call baloney.

“It is impossible to find readers” is code for “I’m afraid to ask people to read my book.”

Asking people to read your book is uncomfortable, but it is also the job. Most people who are driven to be creative have a host of baggage that goes along with their creative drive. Imposter syndrome is real. So is introversion, self-doubt, self-loathing, low opinions of our own work, and a collection of other negative internal voices making it difficult to ask people to read our books.

The truth is, to find a good group of beta readers, you are going to have to ask a lot of people. It isn’t impossible. It isn’t even difficult, not really. It isawkward at first, and tedious and repetitive, and it opens you up to rejections. Those hurt, but accepting them is also an essential part of any writer’s journey. Hand-selling your book to someone is the most basic element of what makes a person an author. Many people write, but not all of those are authors. Convincing people that your work is worth reading and eventually worth money is what makes you an author.

Approach it as a challenge and accept it as necessary for your development. Sure there will be rejections, but these are the small rejections that help you build up your author armor. Finding beta readers is a numbers game. Posting an open call for people to do you a favor on your facebook page or on a forum will not get great results (and is another way to avoid actually opening yourself to specific rejection). Instead, ask everyone you know what kinds of things they are reading then see if they will read your book and give you their feedback. Be ready to get nine “no’s” for every “yes,” and know that only a third of the people who say yes will even finish.

It is worth repeating: finding a group of readers isn’t impossible or difficult. It is tedious and requires persistence, but with each person you ask it will get easier.

“I just can’t find any good beta readers,” is code for “I just can’t find a developmental editor who will edit my book for free.”

This one is really amusing to me because, duh. A beta reader isn’t an editor, and if what you want is an editor, go hire one. Beta reading is about gathering and sifting a reasonable amount of feedback into helpful and actionable changes to your book, not finding a silver bullet to save you time and money.

Wrapping Up

Each author does things her or his own way. It is one of the joys of being your own boss. Experiment with your beta so you get the most out of it and so your results complement your goals and process. This blog post lays out ideas we frequently see authors using to get the most out of their betas. If you are curious to read more about betas, you can check out the BetaBooks blog. We also tend to talk about betas a fair amount on our podcast How Authors Work. If you are running a beta soon, why not look at BetaBooks, and take the free trial tier for a spin? It might help you out.

Thank you for your time and good writing!


Kristina here…

Thanks to the team at BetaBooks Fictionary has a special offer for you. You can sign up to BetaBooks for free, that’s a given.

The special offer:  Use the coupon code “fictionary” and receive 20% off any BetaBooks subscription plan. It’s easy! Sign up for the free plan and if you decide to upgrade your plan, enter the coupon code, can voila, you get a discount.

Farley’s Friday: Restaurant Behavior

Farley here,

Last night I went to a pub with my peeps. We have a visitor staying with us, and I wanted to impress her.

I’m a pretty restaurant savvy dog, so I show her where the pub is and how to get to our table.

Farley at pub

But really, some dogs don’t know we should be dignified when visiting a pub where people eat dinner.

This puppy felt standing on my head was appropriate.

Farley and Pub

And she was so cute, I didn’t put up a fuss.

Woof Woof.

Mystery Mondays: Kelley Kaye on Writing Idiosyncrasies

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Kelley Kaye (also known as Kelley Bowles), The exciting news…Her second novel Poison  by Punctuation (Chalkboard Outlines Book 2) is being released tomorrow!  If you’ve read Death By Diploma, you won’t want to miss Poison by Punctuation.

Little Idiosyncrasies

My ideas for Character Development.

by Kelley Kaye

I’ve been told my strengths as far as writing fly in voice and character. So I wanted to take a minute to kind of examine a couple of neat things I’ve been finding out about, and trying for myself, as far as character development. Do they work? I can only go back to comments I’ve heard about my strength as a writer being in voice and characterization… So here we go:

As far as character goes, I think small is big. While it’s great if you have a big idea for the trigger that shapes your character’s basic personality, like a traumatic event from his youth or a colorful uncle from her present, that’s important. But I think it’s in the idiosyncrasies—the little habits or the minuscule events, all combined in to one big personality that make the character most memorable.
Does your character press her left toe into her shoe all the time? Left toe only? Why does she do that? My character was stung by a bee on that toe when she was four, and there’s a little scar there. Maybe it tingles when the phone is going to ring, if you’re looking for a small paranormal bent, or maybe she has to take off her shoe to rub the scar as the only way she knows to calm herself down. If she takes off her shoe to rub the scar before her calculus test or before the goodnight kiss at date’s end, it’s a small thing. But either scene tells the reader something about the character.

Yesterday I was clearing out a bunch of old books and I found a book on palmistry. I haven’t looked at it since I was a very young adult, I think I bought it because I had some sort of idea for myself, about reading palms for fun at parties. That never went anywhere, but now I thought, wow! Character who reads palms at parties. or at the breakfast table, or at Starbucks? That’s cool and interesting and could go all sorts of different places as far as plotline. Just from looking at a book on palm reading.

For my upcoming murder mystery—Poison by Punctuation—I continued with a tiny character trait for Leslie, one of the two main characters, but it’s turning bigger by the day. Leslie is super stylish, graceful, a fashion plate who (almost) always has every hair in place. But she has a sort of magic trick to correspond with her perfection, which works to help the reader know what kind of a person she is underneath. Whatever people around her need, she is able to produce. From where, nobody knows, but if it’s a Kleenex or a protein bar or…a pair of ski boots, somehow Leslie has it. She’s a little snarky, a little irreverent, and has no idea how intimidating she can be, but her magic whatever-you-need ability shows the big heart hiding in the sarcasm. It’s a small thing with a big impact.

The coolest new character trait I’ve decided to experiment with is a big thanks to YA Indulgences blogger Amber Barnes, and it’s called a character playlist. Thanks Amber! Seems like the most basic of ideas, but I never thought about it in terms of characterization. What’s your character’s top 10 musical playlist? Why are these songs in his top 10? We all know music triggers the most intense memories, so how can you use the playlist to help expand and define your (and your reader’s) knowledge of the character?

For me, all my characters have elements of me, but the playlist was nice because I could play with it beyond my own personal memories associated with the song. Anything by Peter Cetera transports me immediately to a dance in the gym of my junior high school, but Emma Lovett, my main Chalkboard Outlines cozy character, is only 27 years old. If I want Peter Cetera on her playlist, what cool little story is behind the reason she loves him? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing story, just something small. A little idiosyncrasy that can turn into big character relating.

Thank you for joining me today on the eve of my new release of Poison by Punctuation! I’m leaving you with Harper, my YA character’s playlist as an example, because I haven’t made playlists for Emma and Leslie yet… 😊Maybe I’ll make a list for Edward the librarian and Nate the skateboard-riding-through-hallways principal too, who knows?


  1. Belly of the Whale Burning Sensations ‘Belly of the Whale’   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3hoThis is, of course, Harper’s theme song. She feels so isolated in her body – like most teenagers do – that it’s like she is down in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean.

    2. Closer to Fine Indigo Girls Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3ho

    Harper‘s mom, Isabelle, introduced her to this song. Isabelle wrote a paper on this song when she was in college, and she’s loved it and the message ever since. Isabelle definitely feels this way—like the more you can go with the flow and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. Harper is trying.

    3. No Roots Alice Merton


This, again, reflects Harper’s life theme. Since she’s not even sure she’s in the right family, she certainly doesn’t feel like she has roots anywhere.

4. The Man The Killers


This song is for Harper’s Uncle Pasta—the gay uncle who lives in the basement. He’s hilarious and awesome—totally The Man! 😜

5. Uptown Funk Bruno Mars


  1. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic the Police The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Since Harper can envision her glorious future with basketball star Larson McCready—even though she’s never even talked to him—she can imagine him singing this song to her.

7. Breathe Anna Nalick- Breathe (2am)

The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important and as yet unrealized skill for Harper. This song confirms how scary it is to put yourself out there for others to judge, but the song helps her know she’s not alone in feeling that way.

8. Blackbird The Beatles


Harper’s father, Michael, is this intense and driven man with very strong ideas and opinions. He’s the one who introduced her to the Beatles, but he was careful to explain that there are only a certain amount of Beatle songs that are genius, and some bubblegum poppy kinds that are lame. This, thankfully, he considers one of the genius ones because Harper thinks it’s beautiful, and feels like she is only waiting for HER moment to arrive…

9. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen


Harper and Uncle Pasta like to headbang to this song.

And, for 10., Harper chose Michael Jackson, because, well, any playlist is incomplete without Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough


Poison By Punctuation

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 7.21.30 PMHigh school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.

Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.

Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.

Who Kelly Kaye?


Kelley Kaye is the pen name for the cozy mystery fiction of Kelley Bowles Gusich. Kelley taught high school English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 MS diagnosis has (circuitously) brought her, finally, to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores, and both of which were dreamed of clear back at stories surrounding her Barbie and Ken. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma  was released by Red Adept Publishing February 2016, and is first in the Chalkboard Outlines®series. Book #2, Poison by Punctuationis coming out April 24! She’s also writing YA under Kelley Kay Bowles with her novel Down in the Belly of the Whalecoming May 5. Yay, books!

Kelley is active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedinand GoodReads, with a combined over 3500 followers. Her website is www.kelleykaybowles.comwhere she’s valiantly attempting to blog once per week. She has two wonderful and funny sons, and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.




Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Flashback Vs. Backstory

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!

Flashback Versus Backstory

flashback takes the reader from the current time to a previous time. This usually happens quickly, and then they are returned to the present.

A flashback is told as an action scene.

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.

Backstory is told as narrative.


A reader lives a flashback is if it were a regular scene. Flashbacks can be a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, or an entire chapter.

The importance of a flashback should influence its length. So look at each flashback and ask yourself how important is it to the story. This is where the rewrite comes in. You may have a flashback in which a murder occurs, and the murder is the driving motive for your protagonist in this story. In that case, give the flashback time to develop on the page. Don’t shortchange your reader with only a few sentences.

Remember a flashback is a scene. It must be immediate. It must have conflict or tension. You’re taking the reader out of the story and into the past, so make it worthwhile.

When you’re revising your flashback, check how you got into and out of the scene. Did you give the reader a clue you were jumping back in time? How do you let them know you are back in the present.

You can use an object to do this. An object in the present can trigger a character to think about something in the past, and that’s your lead into the flashback.

A sound or loud noise can jar the character from the flashback and back into the present. Any of the senses will work for this.

Are the flashbacks clustered together or spread throughout the story. If too many flashbacks occur close together, maybe they could be repositioned or grouped into one flashback.

Flashback Checklist

  1. How important is the flashback?
  2. Is the flashback written as a scene?
  3. Did you give the reader a clue you were jumping back in time?
  4. How do you let readers know they are back in the present?
  5. Are there too many flashbacks clustered together.


By keeping track of the backstory, you can decide if you’ve started your novel in the right place.

If you have more backstory than current story, you may want to start your novel earlier in the character’s life.

A good backstory is an event that hurts your characters before page one. The backstory can create motives or character flaws.

You may be writing a novel that is over half backstory. In this case, you’ll be using a technique where you bounce between the present and the future. Do you give a fair balance to past and present?

If you’re writing a novel with a small amount of backstory, then you don’t want too much backstory early on in the manuscript. Only dole out the information as the reader needs to learn it. You don’t want to give too much backstory at one time. This can cause the reader to lose interest in the story if they are jarred out of the immediate story.

Part of re-writing backstory may include moving some of the backstory to later in the manuscript. If you find you have a lot of backstory in the first scene or chapter, consider moving some of it to later in the novel.

Ask yourself, does the reader need the backstory information? If the answer is no, then cut it from your story. If the answer is yes, ask yourself does the reader need the information in the current scene or can you move it to later?

Your characters need to do something interesting before too much backstory is included.

One final thought on backstory. Curiosity is what drives the reader forward. If your character has a past that’s driving their motivation, then don’t tell the reader too soon.

Keep the reader curious.

Backstory Checklist:

  1. Do you have more backstory than current narrative?
  2. How early in your novel does backstory occur?
  3. Does the reader need to know what you’re sharing in the backstory?
  4. Does the backstory cause a character pain?
  5. Is the backstory important enough to be shown as a flashback

How Fictionary Can Help You

Below is the Story Map in Fictionary for Look The Other Way (by Kristina Stanley). In Fictionary, you can select only the key elements of fiction you want to evaluate

In the Story Map, I’ve selected the POV character for the scene, backstory and flashback

You’ll notice I don’t have a flashback in any of the first 6 scenes. I have one later in the novel for a key event in Shannon’s past.

For Backstory in each scene, I’ll show why the backstory is included.

Scene 1: Shannon quit previous job. This is important to the scene because Shannon is being fired. Now she’s regretting leaving her last job.

Scene 2: Debi’s boat history. The story takes place on a sailboat and this lets the reader know Debi is qualified to go sailing.

Scene 3: Previous fight. Shannon and Lance are engaged, but I let the reader know there is trouble in paradise.

Scene 4: Jake was a cop. Now the reader knows Jake’s purpose in the novel. He’ll be believable when tracking a killer.

Scene 5: Jake’s past hurts. Here, I’m letting the reader know Jake is carrying a past that was difficult and it will serve as the reason why he has trouble getting close to Shannon.

Scene 6: Boy’s bedtime ritual. This backstory shows a closeness the boy feels to his father, so when the father dies, the reader will understand his pain.

I hope the above illustrates who using select backstory can engage your readers.

The History of Fictionary

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

Creating Fictionary began when I (Kristina) finished the first draft of my first novel. By then I’d read over 50 how-to-write and how-to-self-edit books. I’d taken writing courses and workshops, and had 100s of writing and rewriting tips swirling about in my head.

I knew I had to begin the rewriting process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work but I didn’t know how to go about it. How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? To address this problem, we built Fictionary.

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

Image Source: Kristina Stanley

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and Look The Other Way.

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary, and all of her books were edited using Fictionary.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

Mystery Mondays: Partnering in Writing by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Today on Mystery Mondays, we host a married couple who write books togethers. How cool is that? Check below for an excerpt of Slick Deal, their latest novel.

But first, her is Janet Elizabeth Lynn on

Partnering in writing

It can work


Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Early in my writing career I remember someone said gave me the following equation for completing a novel: Butt +Chair = Book.  It’s a simple formula, but it rings true every time.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylark Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, SLICK DEAL, begins at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, News Year’s Eve 1956. The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, on Catalina Island. This is the fourth of the series and people still wonder how we make it work.

Here are some things we have learned over the last four books:

  1. Character/Voice styles– Combining different styles when writing makes for more interesting character dialogue and personalities. So valuing the styleeach writing partner brings to the table is important
  2. DeadlinesSet deadlines and stick to them. Deadlines include: chapters, plot, character development, and public relations. Anything pertaining to the health and welfare of the manuscript should have a deadline.
  3. OrganizationEach meeting, regardless of what the meeting is for, needs to have a purpose. Agendas are great to keep the discussions on track. Be sure to keep copies of all meeting agendas and decisions for future reference. And not for finger pointing!
  4. SupportNothing beats having someone not only for “feel good” needs but someone to also pick up the slack when things come to a screeching halt, i.e. Writer’s block. We hit this at the same time once and it was scary. The only way I got through it was Will’s positive attitude that we could do it.
  5. And the most important thingWe agreed and practiced the above equation. Some people may call this dedication, we call it sweating.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

BW Janet Bill 01Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write  individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.


The next Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018 and yes…we are still married!


SD web coverOn the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.

His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.

Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.

A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018…and yes we are still married!


Website: Janet  Elizabeth Lynn     http://www.janetlynnauthor.com

Website: Will Zeilinger                 www.willzeilingerauthor.com



By Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger


Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.

I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two… Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.

It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife,Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.

A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”

I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case. Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.

Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.

Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.

“You were first on the scene?” one asked.

I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”

“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”

More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.

Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.

“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”

The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.

A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.”  I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.

“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”

“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”

I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.

The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.

“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”

“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.

“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.

I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”

I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”

“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”

My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.

Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”

Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.

I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.