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.

 

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?

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).

Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery #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 thought I’d focus on my favorite genre – Mysteries (my fav ’cause that’s the genre I write in).

Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery

Self-editing a mystery is one of the joys of the writing process. You get to use your imagination to lead the reader through your story.

 

If you’re a mystery writer, it’s important to keep track of your story, and not only in the context of what you share with your readers but also what your characters know.

You don’t need to keep track while you write your first draft, but once you’ve written a draft, go back through your manuscript and rewrite it with the following 5 key elements of fiction in mind.

1. CLUES

A clue tells the readers something that will help them solve the mystery. You don’t want to give clues too early and have the reader guess who the villain is. You also want to give enough clues, so when you reveal the villain, the reader is surprised, but also feels the choice is logical. You can also call this a revelation. Any you let the reader know that’s important to the story.

2. FORESHADOW

Think of a clue as a piece of a puzzle. You need all the pieces to solve the puzzle. Foreshadowing is hinting at some future event. It’s not solving the puzzle. Foreshadowing will keep the tension rising throughout your story. It’s the anticipation of something bad happening that will draw your reader in.

Usually, I’ll put foreshadowing as the purpose of a scene if it includes foreshadowing. Then I can quickly check where I’ve done this.

3. POINT OF VIEW CHARACTERS

You need to decide early if your antagonist will have the point of view (POV) for any scenes. If your antagonist has a POV scene, you cannot let the reader know everything the character is thinking.

In a thriller, the reader often knows right away who the villain is, but in a mystery, the villain is kept secret until the very end.

4. WHAT PROTAGONIST KNOWS

Keep track of everything the protagonist learns. You need control what she/he knows versus what the reader knows. Your protagonist can only act on information she/he has.

5. WHAT THE READER KNOWS

This is very important if you write from multiple points of view. Keep track what the protagonist knows and if the reader knows something from another POV character that the protagonist doesn’t know.

Happy editing!


Check out Fictionary’s  free 14-day trial  and tell better stories.

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing.

Plot Point 2 In The Context Of The Story Arc

It’s the end of act II and all is lost. Your protagonist must work hard to get what she wants or lose everything.

The story arc has been around for over 2000 years, and is a proven way to tell a good story. It’s not the only way, but it does work.

Evaluating your story arc in the context of the three-act structure should spark your creativity, not box it in. Use the story arc to make your story better by understanding why certain key events happening at the right time will engage your readers.

The story is yours. The arc helps you make it better.

Today, we’re talking about Plot Point 2.

Earlier posts cover the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1 and the Midpoint.

 


What Is Plot Point 2

Plot Point 2 (PP2) signals the end of Act II.

Plot Point 2 will be a low point for your protagonist. Her actions since the middle have caused disaster. At PP2, she becomes more determined to reach her goal.

 


Famous First Plot Points:

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

Gone Girl: Amy comes home and lies about being kidnapped. Nick wants nothing more to do with her, but can’t get away. Amy will frame him for attempted murder if he leaves her. Life looks bad for Nick.

The Martian: Mark leaves his base for the final time and has to cover 3000 km in a hostile environment. If he misses the window for the crew to pick him up, he’ll die on Mars. This is serious motivation.

The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry encounters the Voldemort in the Dark Woods. Voldemort tries to kill Harry, but a centaur rescues Harry. Harry will have to confront Voldemort at some point if he’s going to survive.

Twilight: A vampire is going to go after Bella for her blood, and Bella must leave Fork. Bella wants to survive.

 


Placement Of Plot Point 2

Plot Point 2 should be somewhere around the 75% mark in your novel. If this plot point comes too late, the story will feel like it’s dragging. If it comes too early, the story may feel rushed or lacking in depth.

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.

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).

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

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary.

The Midpoint Of A Novel In The Context Of The Story Arc

Act II is underway, and your story is dragging. What do you do?

A dragging story is not what we want as authors, so let’s look at how to fix this.

A good story contains key plot events. To create a story readers love, these events must happen at the right time — including the midpoint.

If you’ve written the inciting incident and plot point 1 well, then at the midpoint, you’ll be taking your readers on a journey where the protagonist moves from a reactionary mode to a proactive mode.

The midpoint of your novel happens at around 50% of your story’s total word count. It’s also about halfway through the second act. So that was a little obvious…but had to be said.

The events following your midpoint will lead the reader to plot point 2 (at the end of Act II), and then on to the climax.


Key Scenes In The Story Arc

The inciting incident is the moment the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way.

Plot point 1 is the point of no return. The character can’t back out of the central conflict. This is the moment when the setup of the story ends and Act I is over.

The midpoint is when the protagonist changes from reactive to proactive.

Plot point 2 happens when your protagonist discovers something that allows him to finish his mission, or he thinks all is lost. This depends on the type of story your writing. Act II is over.

The climax is where your protagonist faces the biggest obstacle in the story. She may or may not win…


How To Make Your Midpoint Sparkle

At the midpoint, make something terrible or life-changing happen to your protagonist. This will raise the stakes.

Your protagonist needs to find the strength to deal with whatever horrible thing you’ve made happen or she’ll lose everything.

Because of this, she’ll decide to do something and take the rest of the book to do it. Meaning, the event has to be significant.

At the midpoint point, your reader should understand the story is moving in a new direction.

Depending on the type of story you’re writing, the event could be emotional, spiritual, or action packed. It must fit your story. Even though the midpoint is an exceptional event, remember the climax has to have even higher stakes.


Famous Midpoints:

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 wants to improve his image and gives a press conference. Amy’s “secret” best friend attacks, demanding to know what he did with Amy. Nick must now get proactive if he’s going to save himself.

The Martian: Mark Watney finds out his supplies are going to be delayed and believes he’s going to die on Mars. This results in kicking him into action to figure out how to live long enough for the supplies to get to him.

The Philosopher’s Stone: During a Quidditch match, Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broom takes Harry on a ride. Snape casts a spell. Hermione lights Snape’s cloak on fire. Harry can’t ignore all this and must become proactive

Twilight: Bella sees Edward’s true power. This strengthens how she feels about him, and she’ll do anything to be with him.

See Inciting Incident In The Context Of The Story Arc and Plot Point 1 In The Context Of the Story Arc for more on these stories.


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).