Two Powerful Editing Tools for The Smarter Novel Writer

Today, I’m wearing my Fictionary CEO hat and sharing an awesome offer we’ve put together with ProWritingAId.

Fictionary and ProWritingAid — Two powerful editing tools that work beautifully together for just $99 (a $260 value).

  • Fictionary makes story editing a breeze.
  • ProWritingAid ensures your writing is clear and polished.

Until May 29th, get annual subscriptions to both Fictionary ($200) and ProWritingAid Premium ($60) for just $99.

Buy this amazing bundle now


The ProWritingAid Team Loves Fictionary!

Read their great app review here..


What if I’m already a ProWritingAid Premium user and just want to buy Fictionary?

We’ve got you covered. Click here to get 1-year of just Fictionary for $89 (reg. $200) with coupon code PWA89.


What if I’m already a Fictionary subscriber and just want to buy ProWritingAid?

We’ve still got you covered. Click here to get 1-year of just ProWritingAid for $30 (reg. $60)

ProWritingAid: Grammar Guru & Style Editor

In case this is your first introduction, ProWritingAid is an online grammar guru and style editor.

Exceptional writing depends on much more than just correct grammar. You need an editing tool that also highlights style issues and compares your writing to the best writers in your genre. ProWritingAid does this.

Read our review and see how ProWritingAid Premium works within Fictionary. You can perform a story edit and polish your words all in one place.

ProWritingAid Premium: All of ProWritingAid’s editing power; no limitations.

If you already know and love the ProWritingAid editing tool, we thought we would take a moment to remind you about the extra perks you get when you go premium:

1) No word count

If you don’t write that often, you will probably get along just fine with their free version and its 500-word limit. If, however, you want to analyze full chapters, articles, reports or essays and get a wider overview of your work, then ProWritingAid Premium is for you.

2) Integrations

The team at ProWritingAid has done a great job integrating their premium version with other tools. Besides working online, you can also use ProWritingAid on your desktop, as a browser extension, as a WordPress plugin, in Google docs AND in Fictionary. So yes, we’re pretty excited about that — both as authors and as Fictionary.

3) Full Word Explorer functionality

Their Word Explorer has fast become one of their most popular and most-used features. Premium users get a more in-depth exploration of their vocabulary, sparking creativity and more dynamic word choice.

Still unsure? Take a free trial of any of ProWritingAid’s integrations here.

Fictionary: The Story Editing Tool for Fiction

Developed by Kristina Stanley (me), best-selling author and editor, Fictionaryhelps writers tell better stories with online software that simplifies and automates story editing.

Story editing is an in-depth manuscript evaluation that improves the structure, characters, plot, and settings of your story. A must-do step when you’re revising your manuscript.

How it works

Fictionary analyzes your entire manuscript and creates powerful visuals such as the Story Arc and your Cast of Characters. 11 additional reports help you visualize your story like never before.

Fictionary then guides writers through a scene-by-scene evaluation of their manuscript against 38 story elements and provides insightful rewrite tips for improving your story exactly when you need it.

Beautiful together

Fictionary works seamlessly with the ProWritingAid Chrome extension. That’s right, you can use Fictionary and ProWritingAid at the same time! Learn more at Two Powerful Editing Tools.


Buy this amazing bundle now


 

Story editing is complex and time consuming. Fictionary makes it easier and faster to turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Do you need to test out Fictionary first before buying the bundle? Start your 14-day free trial, but remember the offer with ProWritingAid is only good until May 29th, 2019.

Be your own editor, tell better stories.

Advertisements

Founder of DIY MFA, Gabriela Pereira, Tells Us A Secret

Let me introduce Gabriela Pereira, the founder of DIY MFA. She’s funny. She’s sincere. She’s serious about her work and helping writers. So, I’ve interviewed her.

This is a different kind of interview where I put Gabriela in the hot seat. No boring questions…only ones that give you the inside scoop on the life of a creative entrepreneur.

Let’s start out with a bang.

If you were told you could only give a fiction writer ONE piece of advice, what spectacular wisdom would share?

Wow, you’re not holding back with these questions. Love it!

If I could only give one piece of advice or “spectacular wisdom” I’d say this: Don’t try to be spectacular. Or wise. In other words, don’t allow other people’s impressions or opinions to dictate what success means to you.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that each and every human on this planet has a story to share and the capacity to achieve their version of excellence on the page. The problem is that many writers let other people’s definition of success derail their creative process. They listen too much to criticism and give up before they have the chance to see any breakthroughs.

Writing is an act of faith. You have to believe that the verbal spillage you’re accumulating on the page today will become a coherent story tomorrow. You have to trust that this story that means the world to you will also eventually find a home in the publishing universe. You have to be a little bit delusional to succeed as a writer and if you buy into all that “common sense” advice from those non-writers in your life, you’ll never start.

So my advice is don’t try to be spectacular. Just be you and trust that it will be enough.

What is the most DIFFICULT feedback you’ve ever had to give to a writer?

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to give difficult feedback. This has to do both with quality of the writers I’ve had the privilege of working with and also the type of feedback I give.

When it comes to caliber of writers, the word nerds in the DIY MFA community are a cut above. This has nothing to do with how “advanced” they are; in fact, we have many first-time writers in our signature programs. Instead, it’s all about the mindset they adopt toward receiving feedback. When writers approach critique with curiosity and a deep desire to improve their skills, it’s easy to give feedback, even if it means telling someone they may need to do a major overhaul.

The other reason that I rarely have to give difficult feedback is because of how I approach the critique process. I don’t consider myself an “editor” or a “coach.” I’m a diagnostician. My superpower as a writer and teacher is being able to look at a small sample of someone’s work and identify telltale signs of bigger problems. My job isn’t to criticize, it’s simply to notice patterns and bring those to the writer’s attention.

It’s very hard to be truly critical when you give feedback this way because it’s an objective approach. It’s not about passing judgment, but about helping writers see what they’re doing on the page and the effect it has on a reader. It’s up to the writer then to decide whether they want to “fix” it or not.

When you first started DIY MFA, was there a MISTAKE you made (perhaps one that is a funny story) that you’re willing to share with us?

Oh gosh, I made so many mistakes when I first started! One doozy was when I thought the way to build an email list was using a Google form. (I know, lunacy!) When I look back, I don’t think of this so much as a mistake but as a learning opportunity. Yes, at the time, it was devastating to rebuild my email list from scratch, which meant losing all my subscribers (all 12 of them!). It’s funny, nowadays when people unsubscribe from my newsletter, I take it as a badge of honor. I think: “Yesssss! 100 unsubscribes this month! I’m zeroing in on my superfans!”

There were some happy accidents, too, like that time I went to a writing conference when I was nine months pregnant to the day. I’m not kidding. My son was due to arrive the day after the conference ended. (He was actually a week late so it all worked out fine.) But the happy accident is that it was at that conference that I met my publisher and this connection eventually led to my book deal a few years later.

Can you imagine if I hadn’t gone to the conference? I could have so easily decided I was too tired or too pregnant or too whatever… and I would have missed out on a huge opportunity! Sometimes the smartest move you can make is doing something everyone else thinks is completely insane.

What is the BEST comment anyone has ever made about DIY MFA 101? By best, I mean one that warmed your heart and made you do the happy dance.

There are so many, but I think one of my favorite comments—and perhaps one of the ones I hear most often—is: “Before DIY MFA, I didn’t think I was a writer but now I do.”

I had one student in a workshop years ago who couldn’t write a sentence much less an entire story. This was back when I did some of my teaching at live, in-person workshops, and whenever we did in-class exercises, this writer would end up with a blank page. Slowly, he started dipping his toe into the writing. Eventually he was writing short stories and essays and even got published! This is my absolute favorite thing—when I can help someone go from muggle to word wizard.

My other favorite comment is when word nerds say that DIY MFA is more than a writing program, it’s a lifestyle. For many creative people, we can be our own worst enemies, so the biggest hurdles have nothing to do with the mechanics of writing. Instead, it’s all about mindset and attitude. This is why in our DIY MFA programs, I always focus first on the bigger mindset issues like building resilience or developing a writing habit. It’s a lot easier to master the craft when you’ve managed your mindset.

In fact, I have a free video series starting Monday April 22nd, 2019 that digs deep into some of the biggest mindset hurdles that writers face. This series is only available for a limited time so hop on over now while the series is available.

How will a writer BENEFIT from DIY MFA 101? So they too can do the happy dance.

The goal of DIY MFA 101 is to help writers get the “knowledge without the college” so they can simulate the graduate school experience without actually going back to school. That’s the fancy description, but really the strength of this program is that it grows with the writer.

You see, a central component to the DIY MFA philosophy is that there is always more to learn, more skills to master. Writers who join 101 aren’t just looking for some one-and-done solution to all their writing problems. They crave learning. They want expand their skills not because they want some external marker of success but because of an internal drive, a curiosity, a craving to expand their intellectual horizons.

DIY MFA 101 does not focus on “information transfer.” Yes, there is plenty of information in the program, but the focus isn’t on me transferring what I know from my brain to that of my students. Instead, my goal is to give writers a framework so they can continue their learning journey for the long haul. The course is structured so that writers can revisit the material again and again, and continue to learn and grow from it.

Let me share a concrete example. Many traditional MFA programs require students to take literature courses. In those courses, the professor often predetermines what books go on the syllabus or reading list. At DIY MFA, we don’t assign a specific reading list. Instead, we offer a framework so that writers can create their own syllabus.

The advantage of the DIY MFA philosophy is twofold. First, writers can focus on reading that is relevant to their goals and that serves their writing. They don’t have to waste time with reading that feels like an exercise in futility. The second benefit of this approach is that it empowers writers rather than simply spoon-feeding information.

I often tell people that DIY MFA 101 is not for the faint of heart. It takes a particular type of intrepid determination to embrace this program. Thankfully, most writers have this “fire in the belly” already, and when they join the course, they’ll feel like they’ve found their home.

At what stage in their WRITING JOURNEY should a writer take the course?

Don’t be fooled by the “101” in the course title, this course is not only for beginners. I developed this program so that it would grow with writers. This is why we don’t cut off access to the materials after the term is over. What you get from the course as a new writer will be very different from what you learn as your skills increase and you can come back and revisit the materials again and again.

This program works equally well for writers who are complete beginners and for those who are “in the trenches” working on drafting or revising a project. The difference lies in how these writers use the materials. New writers might want to focus their attention on the first few sections and build up a solid writing habit, whereas writers working on a specific project will get better results if they apply the techniques to their work-in-progress. The later lessons give an overview of platform and publishing for writers who are ready to start sending out finished work.

The only writers who might not be a fit for this course are those who are already published and are focusing more on the marketing and business side of writing. For those writers, we have a more advanced course Pixels to Platform which is due to reopen later this year or early next.

What is your biggest CHALLENGE in being the head instigator of DIY MFA?

My biggest challenge is that I have unrelenting standards. My perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing, of course, is that I put a lot of care and attention in everything I create. This may be a big reason why so many writers are drawn to DIY MFA and why so many writers keep coming back to our programs year after year. The downside, of course, is that these super-high standards have made it very difficult for me to delegate tasks to other members of my team. Heck, just the idea of having a team at all was a challenge for me in the beginning.

But just like with writing, building a business is a learning process, and I’ve definitely “mellowed out” over the years. Having kids helped with that. It’s impossible to achieve perfection when you have an infant spitting up on your shirt or a toddler sneezing snot onto your manuscript. Now that my kids are school-aged and more independent, it feels almost miraculous to reclaim my work time, and I like to think that I’m a bit more relaxed now than I used to be about making everything perfect.

Tell us a SECRET…

Here’s a dirty little secret: I vehemently dislike reading literary fiction. (Blasphemy, I know!) You would think that as someone who studied literature in college and grad school, that literary fiction would be my jam, but it so isn’t. In fact, for the longest time, I thought the reason I disliked it was because I wasn’t smart enough to “get” it.

Over the years, I’ve realized that this response has nothing to do with the capacity of my brain cells and everything to do with personal taste. It took a long time, but I’ve finally given myself permission not to like literary fiction. What do I like to read? Pretty much anything genre and I love children’s books and YA.

Our flagship program, DIY MFA 101, has received rave reviews and has helped over 200 writers to:

  • Get their words on the page so they can finish a draft once and for all.
  • Master the craft, so they can write the best book possible.
  • Understand the publishing industry, so they can get their stories out into the world.

Writers who’ve completed this course have gone on to reach impressive goals, like: signing with literary agents, winning awards, or being published in anthologies or literary magazines.

Fictionary and DIY MFA

So why am I so thrilled to have Gabriela here? Well…since you asked, I’ve taken the entire DIY MFA 101 course, and Gabriela and I are kindred spirits when it comes to editing a novel.  It’s kind of like finding a new BFF.

DIY MFA gives you the theory that lays the groundwork for using Fictionary to edit your story. Take the course and apply the knowledge you learned in a practical way specific to your manuscript using Fictionary. Salt and pepper, Ketchup and mustard, moon and the stars, DIY MFA and Fictionary. You get the idea.

 

 

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

Kristina

P.S. I only promote people that I can stand behind 100%. I know that you’re in good hands with Gabriela which is why I’m a proud affiliate for her programs! I took the DIY MFA course before deciding to partner with DIY MFA.

Creating a Strong Story by Rebecca Monterusso – Certified Story Grid Editor

I’m thrilled to host Rebecca Montrusso, a Story Grid certified developmental editor, as a guest. Rebecca is sharing her expertise on how you can become your own story editor.

Creating a Strong Story

(Before you call in an editor)

by Rebecca Monterusso

I am a developmental editor. Meaning, I help people learn to tell their stories better by focusing on the fundamentals (read: story craft and structure). I like to say that I help people write masterfully, read actively, and live intentionally because I believe they are all necessary to live as a creative person. I also teach people how to practice in the right ways to be the writer they’ve always wanted to be (see my latest post), but that’s beside the point in this case.

What’s most important is that I study how to write effectively, do so myself, and use those skills to help other people improve their work.

That said, it might be surprising when I tell you (beg you, perhaps) to become your own editor. And I mean before calling in someone like me to take a look at your work.

Wouldn’t it make sense for me to tell you I can fix any story no matter how rough? Shouldn’t I have you send me even the most cursory drafts so that I can earn a comfortable living? Perhaps, but that’s not how I run my business.

There are a number of reasons you should write and edit your own story before hiring an editor. 


First and foremost, I don’t want to take your money if I can’t help you make significant changes that will bring your workable draft closer to being finished.


Lying about how good or bad your novel is to make you feel better won’t make you a better writer and won’t allow me to do my job effectively. A draft that is so rough I can’t even begin to improve it (meaning, it lacks structure, consistency, movement, active characters, etc), isn’t something I feel good about taking on. I want to feel like I’ve made a difference in the work of the authors I help and I can’t do that if I can’t actually help. Save your money.

When you become your own editor, you learn, improve, and remember that knowledge for your future drafts.

I’m not saying you’re going to be able to write a perfect draft that will require no edits. But, your first drafts will (probably) require fewer and fewer edits the more you improve your craft. That’s because you’ll know where your novel is going and be more likely to get it there when you understand what your audience expects. Do the work now and you’ll be able to grow that much more when telling future stories.

Other writers self-edit themselves.

Not that I’m telling you to do something just because others do it. But, think of the most prolific authors, the most well-told stories. Chances are, those authors learned how to improve their own work before sending it to someone else. Compare that to the masses of people who write a novel in a month (or any designated amount of time) and send it off to an agent without even reading it through themselves. If you’re going to copy any sort of strategy, the one that gets authors published and out of the slush pile should be adopted.

Your next drafts will be better.

As you learn to critique your own work in an honest way (not too gentle or harsh), the future drafts of that story that you produce will become better and better. This is because of brain science and the fact that knowledge is cumulative. Taking time to study and you’ll gain more and more knowledge along that way that will enable you to challenge your initial ideas and build upon them to create unique stories.

You’ll better appreciate the books you read.

Learning how to write well and understanding the mechanics that make a story work will change the way you read. Reading stories and analyzing them will improve your writing, just as improving your understanding of the craft of writing will improve your understanding of the books you read.

All that aside, how do you improve your story before sending it to an editor?

Showing your work is a necessary step. Feedback is irreplaceable. That said, you could find an editor or coach who works with beginning writers (which might seem counter-intuitive, but there are people specifically interested in that). Or, use beta-readers or family members who read a lot and might be able to help. (Though I don’t recommend that route because they could do more harm than good, it is an option if you trust the people you send your work to.)


You could study every craft book you can get your hands on. The Story GridStory GeniusStory, Story Engineering, to name a few. Take the time to peruse websites like www.thecreativepenn.comwww.janefriedman.comwww.storygrid.com, etc. Listen to podcasts. Figure out and act on the habits of successful writers like Steven Pressfield, Stephen King, etc. Plenty of writers outline their learning methods in books for you to find. Or, you could attend events like Robert McKee’s Story Seminar or take Masterclasses by Margaret Atwood or Dan Brown.

Finally, you can use the tool at your fingertips and subscribe to Fictionary. Not only will you have access to the computational analysis, but you’ll get emails on craft to continue to teach you. Using this tool will enable you to take learning into your own hands. You’ll see your novel laid out in many different forms and learn what that means for what you’ve crafted. Then, you can act on that analysis and keep working to improve what you’ve learned. Though that doesn’t replace hiring an editor, it is a great first step to improve your first drafts immensely.

Rebecca Monterusso

Rebecca Monterusso is a Story Grid Certified Developmental Editor, which is a fancy way to say that she helps writers learn to tell their stories better by focusing on writing, reading, living, and practicing with intention.

She spends her time traveling the world, writing whatever takes her fancy, and deconstructing the many stories she reads on her blog to better understand the craft of writing. Ultimately, she believes that stories are the only way to change the world, which makes writers mighty powerful people.

Rebecca Monterusso Workbooks

If you’re looking for a method to get that book started and written well, Rebecca has a couple of workbooks that will help you.

Practice to Improve Your Writing workbook will help you learn by doing, by actually writing. It will help you practice in the right ways so that you improve, turn writing into a habit, and story stories you want to emulate. Use it to take actionable steps towards your goals.

Write A Story in 7 Days walks writers through the steps they need to take to come up with a fully-formed story that works. It helps them get words on the page and continue to improve their understanding of craft as they learn.

Free 10-Day Story Editing Course

I’ve partnered with Reedsy  and created a free course on Story Editing.  Reedsy has a series of courses for writing, editing, and publishing. All are free. All are 10 days. You’ll receive an email each day with your course material.

Here’s the blurb from Reedsy for the Story Editing for Authors course.

Story-editing-1-573x300

Want to learn how to perform your own story edit? Go scene-by-scene and evaluate each story element to learn how to improve your whole story and make everything flow together.

In this email course, author and Fictionary CEO Kristina Stanley shares her method for ensuring that your story is well-told, well-paced and highly effective. Over ten lessons, you will be guided through the process of reviewing your story, scene-by-scene, with the help of a downloadable resource that you will receive in lesson one.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • Why you need to perform a story edit
  • How to choose the best location for a scene
  • How to identify problems with tension and conflict
  • How to effectively deploy flashback and backstory
  • How to engage your readers with the story arc

If you take the course, I’d love to get your feedback. The course will help you if you decide you use Fictionary for your story editing.

 

Perform An Awesome Author Reading #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Thank 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!


Writing means learning — all the time — for the rest of your life.

And in the modern world of publishing, writing a great novel is only the beginning of the journey if you want your work to have a wide audience.

Public readings are a part of that journey. They’re a great place to build your readership and sell books — but they can also be incredibly daunting.

The first time I read out loud was intense. It was 2014, and I was nominated for the Audrey Jessup Award for short story crime writing from the Capital Crime Writers. Part of being nominated meant reading aloud before the winner announcement was made. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I hadn’t read out loud before and had no idea how to go about it.

As luck would have it, I attended the Bloody Words conference in Toronto a week before the event and heard seven authors read there. Days later, I found myself at another reading, this time by three Scandinavian authors. That’s 10 readings I could learn from. Some of the readings were great and some could have used a bit of practice.

I watched and learned from these readings and thought I was ready. But not quite. There was a time limit of five minutes on the reading. I practiced and had my timing down perfectly, but I didn’t account for the time it took to be introduced and say thank you to my hosts. I was cut off about 30 seconds before I’d finished — literally. The hosts turned the microphone off. It stung a bit, but other authors were cut short too. (At least it wasn’t just me, and I didlearn from the experience.)

I won the Audrey Jessup Award, even though my reading wasn’t the greatest. After winning, I sold that story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. My first sale!

Since then, I’ve read in some strange places. One reading took place in a senior’s residence. Another in a ski lodge. One in a bookstore — which you’d expect. Each time I do a reading, I get better at it and I’m less nervous.

I’m here today to help you get comfortable with holding an author reading of your own.

How to prepare & practice

  • Don’t leave it until the last minute. Practice every day, even for short periods of time. If you can, read to an audience.
  • Practice pausing for commas, periods, paragraph breaks, and starting new scenes.
  • Practice until you can take your eyes away from the words and make eye contact with the audience. This will engage them in your reading. Reading to a mirror will allow you to see if you’re looking up.

Technical tips

  • Don’t staple the pages. Stapled pages are noisy when turned and awkward to hold in place.
  • Number your free pages in case you drop them.
  • Ask how many minutes you have to read. Then prepare for a few minutes less, the exact amount of time and a few minutes more. If other readers don’t show up, you may be given more time. If the proceedings are running long, you might be given less time. Be ready so you can end with a cliffhanger or a dramatic spot that will leave people wanting more.
  • If you’re reading from printed pages, print in font large enough to read. Remember: the lighting could be dark or there could be glare. If the font in your printed book is small, you can always print the pages you want to read and place your book in front of you while you’re reading.
  • Ask what the setup will be. Is there a podium where you can set your pages? Will you be holding a microphone? Will you be standing or sitting?

At the event, before you read

  • If you’re not first, watch the other readers for what works and doesn’t work. Standing with the microphone too close to the sound system can cause feedback, having the microphone too far or too close to you can make understanding your words difficult.
  • Have your material ready. Don’t start looking for the section you want to read after you’re at the podium. This distracts the audience.

During your reading

  • Once you’re on stage, thank the hosts of the event. This will make you look professional and give you time to let your voice and your nerves settle before you start reading your story.
  • Breathe. This sounds obvious, but breathing will make your speech clear. During my first reading, I was so nervous that I couldn’t bring air into my lungs. At the end of the first page, when I had to flip to the next page, I moved the microphone away from my mouth and took a deep breath. This helped me calm down.
  • Don’t explain your work in the middle of reading. Let your words speak for themselves.
  • Only brief the audience about the story if you’re not starting at the beginning.
  • Speak slowly.

Remember: the audience came to hear you and they want you to succeed, so smile and have fun.


Fictionary: Tell Better Stories

I’m the CEO of Fictionary, and we help writers tell better stories. Fictionary is software that simplifies story editing and helps you improve characters, plot, and settings. After a Fictionary story edit, you’ll know your story is ready to share with others.

Fictionary is an automated approach that helps you evaluate your story against 38 key elements for Characters, Plot, and Settings.

Fictionary draws your story arc and compares it to the recommended story arc. You can see how to improve the structure of your story within seconds.

This week we’ve teamed with ProWritingAid to offer you an amazing bundle. Check out how Fictionary and ProWritingAid work together.

Until September 22nd, get annual subscriptions to both Fictionary ($200) and ProWritingAid Premium ($50) for just $99.

Click here to get the Fictionary and ProWritingAid bundle now!

Thanks for reading.

Who Will Read Your First Draft And How Do You Help Them?

When I finished the first draft of my first novel, Descent, I was exhilarated and terrified. Exhilarated because I’d accomplished my dream of writing a novel, and terrified because I now had to share it with someone.

But who?

My lucky husband got to be my first beta reader. He understood how important my story was to me. He’d be kind yet helpful. So I took a deep breath and hit the print button.

I couldn’t be in the same room with him as he read. That was just too stressful.

Once he finished, he gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice that I still use today. It came in the form of a question.

“Do you know you start every scene in a doorway?”

I hadn’t noticed that. His question made me do a full rewrite of every scene, looking at the opening. This is when I discovered the term in medias res — start in the middle of the action.

Now, before I share my story with anyone, I check the beginning of each scene and choose the opening carefully. I try to open with a hook for each scene.

As the years have gone by, I’ve had many beta readers and received a lot of valuable advice, comments, and questions. I couldn’t write the way I do without these precious people.


What’s a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is a person who reads your manuscript before it’s published and provides you with feedback on your story. The feedback is usually on characters, plot, and settings. (Although you may get comments on copyediting and proofreading, too.)

A helpful beta reader gives you honest feedback, positive or negative, that you use to improve your story.

An ineffective beta reader says, “That’s a nice story. I liked it.” While that feels good, it doesn’t help you write a better story.


Tips for Getting Useful Feedback

Convincing friends to give you honest feedback is difficult. People who care about you usually don’t want to hurt your feelings and may be worried about beta reading.

Questions like “What if I don’t like the story?” or “How will I tell you if I find something I don’t like?” may swirl around their heads while they’re thinking of a way to say no.

Make sure your readers understand you won’t be hurt or offended by negative feedback. Feedback on what’s not working is the only way for you to tell a better story.

To make it easy for your beta readers to know what you want, provide a list of specific questions or instructions. This will help your reader know what you want from them.

I ask beta readers to do or answer the following:

  1. Mark anywhere you skim. This is an easy way to know that the writing is boring.
  2. Did you get confused on who a character was? Maybe you need more clues or dialogue tags.
  3. Did you lose track of who was speaking? I like to write with minimal dialogue tags, so this is critical.
  4. Note anytime you suspect a character of being the villain or know the ending. This helps to determine if you’ve done enough to too much foreshadowing.
  5. Mark each passage where you stopped reading. Get your beta readers to mark this each time, even it was to have dinner, go to work, etc. If all your beta readers put the book down at the same passage, there may be a problem with the story.
  6. Did you notice any story inconsistencies? To help your beta reader, give them an example of what you mean. I read a story where a dog was left at home in one scene, and in the next scene, the dog was still with the owner. The author had forgotten where the dog was.
  7. Avoid asking for copy editing or proofreading from beta readers. It’s ok if your readers notice errors and point them out, but what you want at this stage is input on your story, not on the grammar or typos.

Make Your Beta Reader Feel Special

Image Source: Pixabay

Once you’ve put a lot of time into finding helpful beta readers, you want to keep them for your next book.

The first time a beta reader gives you negative feedback, thank them. If you make the suggested change, let them know. A beta reader will put a lot of effort into reading your story and seeing that their comments resulted in changes can be very satisfying.

When you ask someone to beta read, make it easy for the author by asking what format he/she would like to receive the manuscript in. I offer a PDF file first, but some prefer a printed copy and others mobi. Some like to receive manuscripts in .docx format as it’s easy to convert and read on a Kindle. I try to send the manuscript in the format the beta reader prefers. I believe it’s a sign of respect for the person.

In the acknowledgment section of your published book, thank your beta readers. Mine all love to see their names in the book.

Make your beta reader feel really special and send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for working with beta readers. We’d love to hear from you!


Perform a Story Edit Before Sharing with Beta Readers

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

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?