Finding success as an author often comes down to finding the right tools. Kristina Stanley built Fictionary to be the go-to tool for authors looking to raise their story-editing to the next level.
Can software make you a better writer? Kristina Stanley, who combined her degree in computer mathematics with her success as a bestselling, award-winning author and fiction editor, is sure of it. She created Fictionary to help authors improve the structural editing of their long-form fiction.
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Kristina Stanley, Kevin Tumlinson
Kevin Tumlinson 00:03
Well, hello, everybody out there in internet land. Thank you for tuning in. We’re glad that your pixels could say hi to our pixels. So today we’re actually chatting with, I was enjoying a nice chat with her before the show, so I’m glad we can key you in on this as well. But we’re gonna welcome Kristina Stanley from Fictionary. Hi, Kristina.
Kristina Stanley 00:24
Kevin Tumlinson 00:25
Thank you for being a part of the show.
Kristina Stanley 00:28
Super excited. You know I’m a Draft2Digital fan. So I’m very honored to actually be on here speaking.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:33
It’s really nice when we have someone on who’s actually using Draft2Digital. Sometimes we get folks on here who are like, yeah, I’ve heard of you guys. And they go off on some tangent. But that’s not you. So how long have you been using D2D?
Kristina Stanley 00:53
Oh, three or four years now? Yeah, I’ve got several books up there. And I’m going to come out with a new nonfiction book in early 2023, which will also be on Draft2Digital.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:05
Okay, we want to push that too. Will people find that if they go searching for you, or is that going to be, do you link to that from Fictionary? Do you link to that from the Fictionary website?
Kristina Stanley 01:16
Um, do I? No, Fictionary is all about our software. I’ve got Kristina Stanley as my author site and Fictionary as my business.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:25
Okay, we’ll have to figure out a way to drop your URL in there as well, just so people go check your stuff out. So speaking of Fictionary, what the heck is Fictionary? Is that a segue or what?
Kristina Stanley 01:42
What a great segue. So, Fictionary is my creation. And it is. well, we have several things. But our main thing is, we have software that helps writers perform a story edit. So we look at the very highest level of a story, the story arc, characters, plot, and setting. So no copy editing. It’s all about, how do you evaluate your story? And to help writers really create a great story, we’ve got a community, we’ve got courses, and we’ve got software. And so it all comes together. And I created it out of spreadsheets that I built to do my own story edit, that it’s really, really hard. And so I built this thing, and my husband went, what are you doing? I’m like, oh, I’m writing. And he’s like, oh, in Excel? I’m like, yes, in Excel, because I need to keep track of all this stuff. And I need to draw these things. So he said, I’ll find you an app for that. Okay, great. And of course, there wasn’t one. And so we decided, if I have that problem, others must. And so we built Fictionary from that and started it, our first beta came out around 2018.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:53
Wow. You know, one day I’m gonna just sit down and I’m gonna start listing out all the great services I’ve encountered that started as an Excel spreadsheet. Because that’s like the best kept secret in the software development world, I think. It’s just build it in Excel, and then turn it into a product. So yeah, you’ve been doing that, and I’m sorry, I missed the timeline. When did you say you first launched that?
Kristina Stanley 03:19
We launched in 2018. And our very first, I don’t know, beta, was super super simple with a small group of writers and stuff, you know, standard stuff when you’re launching a new company. And yeah, and then it grew from there. So we started with Storyteller, which is a product for writers. And then editors were really poking us saying, you know, how come you don’t have something for us? And so then we built Story Coach, which is for professional editors who are doing somebody else’s manuscript. And then we got the push of, well, how come you’re not teaching us how to do this? Right. Okay, so then we created courses/ And then we got the push, well, how do we meet writers? And how do we meet editors? And so we started a community and we kinda get pushed around a lot by the writers.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:59
Yeah. Tell me about it. Isn’t it interesting though, this to me, it’s always been very interesting that somehow there’s a group of us that all we really want to do is write. I’m not gonna speak out of turn for you. You can contradict me here. But it’s like, oh, well, I really want to do this right. But, you know, somehow I ended up building something thatmakes me very author facing ,and now I’m in the author business. Yeah, is that what it kind of felt like for you as well?
Kristina Stanley 04:29
That’s certainly that’s what happened to me. Absolutely. And, you know, with Zoom, thank you Zoom, and Streamyard and all of these fantastic technologies, we have writers all over the world that I talk to regularly and so it’s very motivating working with writers. It just is. It’s such a creative, fun experience. And you know, I live north of Kingston, Ontario and, and daily, I’m talking to people anywhere in the world. Sometimes you have to get up really early which I don’t really like, but it’s okay. It’s worth it. Just to keep things, to keep writing from being lonely, really.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:07
Yeah. Yeah, it’s that community aspect. That’s one way to build a community, is build a product everybody wants. So there we are. Yeah, you came, you’ve come with gifts, we’re actually gonna take a look at some of what you got going on. So did you want to go ahead and share your screen now and start?
Kristina Stanley 05:30
Yeah, because what I thought I would do, Kevin, is I want to give just a little bit of a talk about how you perform a story edit, and what that means to a writer. and why it’s so important. Before, you know, going to beta readers or going to an editor or your proofreading, or whatever in your process before publishing. And I’m going to, it’s a really in-depth topic. So what I’m going to do is just do some very key points that people can take away and actually apply to their novel today. I’ll show a little bit of Fictionary so people can see what that is and how it relates to story editing. I’m totally open to questions. If you want to ask while we go, that’s fine. If they want to wait to the end, that’s fine.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:09
This sounds like a good time to tell everybody to ask whatever questions you have for our guests in the comments. Go ahead and ask those and we’ll try to answer those live on air as we as we come to them.
Kristina Stanley 06:21
Okay, so are you still seeing my screen now? How to perform a story edit?
Kevin Tumlinson 06:26
I am. So should everyone else be.
Kristina Stanley 06:28
So if I click to who am I, are you seeing that? Perfect. I like to ask that first because sometimes I talk away and then someone will go, Kristina? We’re not seeing. anything.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:40
We are. But if there’s supposed to be other text on that screen, we don’t see it.
Kristina Stanley 06:43
Nothing yet. I’m gonna do it. So I created Fictionary. I’m the CEO. I’ll just say we just closed a funding round, which is really exciting. So if you’re go on LinkedIn, you’ll see it everywhere. Super, super happy about that. I’ve had best-selling and award-winning books and short stories. So that’s what led me into this. I’m a member of Editors Canada, and pretty active with them. I’m also the story editing advisor for Alliance of Independent Authors in the States. They’re so good. I combined my mathematics degree with my writing to create Fictionary. And my only writing education is from Humber College in creative writing. And I just love to show this picture. This is Candy. And I am a volunteer guide dog puppy raiser for the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. And I have a puppy sleeping at my feet right now, because they live with me 24/7 for a year and a half to two years before they go off to advanced training. So I like to share them just because it’s cute.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:49
I also have a puppy sleeping at my feet.
Kristina Stanley 07:52
It’s the thing, right? It’s very emotionally supportive. That’s why I volunteer to do it, so I always have a dog. Okay, so for us, how are we helping people tell better stories or write better stories? We have an online community, and I’m super jazzed about it. We’re at about 800 members right now. And we’re connecting professional writers and editors. And we have sections for Ask an Editor Anything. And so we’ve got professional editors answering writers’ questions live on whatever they have about their stories. We do live training, which is freeing the community and editors train on various story editing topics, so anybody can come in and learn whatever it is they want to learn about editing. And like I said, we have StoryTeller for Writers, StoryCoach for Editors. This is our website, fictionary.co. And here’s our gift, our Black Friday sale ended yesterday. But then I was talking to Kevin and thought, you know, we will just extend it for everybody here. Super easy coupon code, BlackFriday 2022. And it’s 40% off our StoryTeller, and we have a free 14 day trial. So you can try and see if you’d like it, if it works for you. Yes. All right.
Kevin Tumlinson 09:05
We’ll also share that toward the end, I accidentally clicked on the banner just now. But if you didn’t get the code, if you didn’t get the URL, don’t worry, we’re coming back around.
Kristina Stanley 09:15
Perfect. Now we’ll get into the nitty gritty fun stuff, which is what I’m sure everybody wants to hear. All right. So what I’m talking about is story editing. And that is a structural review and revision of your manuscript. And it’s looking at character, plot and setting and the overall story that you’re telling, so we’re very high level at this point. And often that’s referred to as a structural edit. And that to me fits really for nonfiction. And so we call it story editing, because it’s really just about the story. Right. So why story edit? And clearly this is something I’m very passionate about. So you’re doing a story edit so you as the author can answer three main questions. And the first is, do you have a story? And that seems kind of obvious. But lots of first drafts. the story’s not there yet. And I’ll explain to you why in a little bit, what I mean by that, but it’s a very important question for an author to answer. Then, what should you change in your stories? So if you’ve decided, yes, I have a story now, how do I make it more powerful? You have to figure out, what do you need to change to make it better? And then when you’re done, that’s the other important question to answer is, how do you know you’re actually done? And I’m going to show you how to do that too.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:30
Kristina Stanley 10:32
It’s magic, isn’t it?
Kevin Tumlinson 10:33
I’m done when I’ve run out of words.
Kristina Stanley 10:36
You’ve run out of words.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:38
I’ve gone cover to cover in the dictionary. I’m done.
Kristina Stanley 10:41
And that’s it. There’s nothing more. So I don’t need to say any more, do I, Kevin? Is that it?
Kevin Tumlinson 10:47
No, we’re covered.
Kristina Stanley 10:49
All right. So here’s one of the tips I like to give people. So before you begin your story edit, you’ve got your draft, you need to create a skeleton blurb. And the reason for this is so that you keep focused on your story while you’re editing. And the skeleton blurb will eventually turn into the blurb that’s on the back of your book. And so in the skeleton blurb, it’s who’s the protagonist? What must they do? So what’s the story goal? What is it that this character or group of characters is trying to accomplish in this story, and what’s at stake if they don’t make it? And so they could make it, lots of books end up positive, of course. But it’s what’s the reader going to worry about if they don’t make whatever it is in the story goal that they’re trying to achieve? And the protagonist is who they’re going to relate to while they’re being worried about what’s going on in this story. And what this does when you’re self-editing your novel is it keeps you really focused. And you can look at things like, why is this scene in the novel? Does it relate back to my blurb, yes, or no? And particularly your story arc scenes, which I’m going to talk about in a bit. And so I like to recommend you just have this up and always have it and then when you’re done, it may have changed. You can obviously update it as you go if you change your story. But this is what turns into what your book is going to be about when you put it up on Draft2Digital and then out on all the networks that are up there. So this is Evolution. It’s a book I’m working on. And I’ll just read you the blurb, because I want to pull out the skeleton blurb from it so you can see what I mean. Okay, so after her husband and dog die, Jazz Cooper, a woman with a debilitating fear of crowds, discovers she has a special connection with dogs and draws further away from human interaction. But when she discovers her husband was murdered, she must fight her need to hide and use her newfound skill with dogs to search for the killer, only to learn the new ability might get her killed. And so this is, you know, a working draft or a working blurb. But if we pull out of here, the protagonist is Jazz Cooper, her goal for this story is to find the killer. And if she doesn’t, she might get killed. And so if we turn that into a blurb, it’s Jazz Cooper must find out who killed her husband, otherwise her life is at stake. And that’s all you need to know before you start story editing. It doesn’t have to be super polished, a big long blurb. And in fact, when I edit somebody else’s book, I ask them for this and it tells me whether they know what their story is about or not. And I use it to edit other people’s novels to help me stay focused while I’m editing to always be looking at, this is the story they want to tell. Alrighty. So, when you’re looking at it, you need to pull out your protagonist. And the easiest way to do that is, who’s got the biggest challenge? So it’s a main character who pursues the story goal and has the most to win or lose. And if they don’t have the most to win or lose, it’s not the protagonist, it might be somebody else in this story. And there’s lots information on protagonists or group protagonists, like Game of Thrones, for example, or a combined protagonist like Thelma and Louise, so it doesn’t mean it’s one character, it’s really a character entity that is driving the story goal. So where to begin a story edit? And where to end? These are the things, so to answer the question, “do you have a story?,” you need to look at the story arc. And the story arc is, there’s many versions of it, but the simplest one is, you have an inciting incident, a plot point one, middle plot point, plot point two, and a climax. And then after you’ve done that, so let’s say you decide you have a story, then you go into scene by scene editing. And this is where you look at what you’re going to change on a scene basis. And this can include not just revising the text, but also moving scenes around or cutting scenes. I know, very sad. And then you want to look at the story arc and the story map. And this is what tells you in Fictionary if you’re done or not. And so you can really specifically look at, are my story arc scenes in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time? If the answer is yes, you’re pretty close to story. If the answer’s no, then there are revisions to be made. So here’s a view of the story arc. And I chose Beowulf, because it’s such an old story. And yet, it follows the five key plot points of a story arc. And when you start looking through history at all the big stories that have lasted through time, and even recent history with commercially successful books and movies, this is generally what they follow. And I say generally, because this is a form, it’s not a formula. It’s a way of looking at if the story does this great. If it doesn’t, it’s good to understand why. And there’s lots of examples of stories that are out of these boundaries. As an author, if you know why, then you know, you have a reason for doing this. And it’s not just something that accidentally was done that is bad for the story. So if we look at with Beowulf, he’s chosen as a warrior right at 10%, which is good. Anything before 15 has always been considered. that’s a good place. However, I want to caveat that with technology, in that readers now have the luxury of reading a sample. And it’s really great if that inciting incident hits in that first sample. It’s funny to write to technology, but clearly Kevin, you’re like, I get that.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:32
Oh, yeah, you gotta press your advantages. There’s an advantage there. Yeah.
Kristina Stanley 16:38
Yeah, for sure. So, plot point one, it’s right at 25%. For Beowulf, he kills Grendel. Then in the middle, he kills Grendel’s mother, it’s really quite sad. And then, plot point two, his home has been ravaged by dragons. So he’s at his bottom, and that’s at 73%. And then 85 is the climax, where he fights and kills the dragons. But you can see the green lines here, there’s a range in here. And it’s a loose range that it’s good to be aware of, and work to, and break it when you know why you’re breaking it. Okay, so the first step is finding your story arc. So how do you do that? It’s not as hard as it seems. Initially, it can seem like a bit of a daunting task. But if you have a process, you can do it. So you need to read through your entire manuscript. And then you have to name every scene. And what this is going to do for you is give you an after-draft outline. And sometimes it’s quite surprising what you see in there that you didn’t really realize what you’re writing. And then from there, you select which of those scenes are actually your five key plot point scenes, and then you can start evaluating them. So I’ll talk about the plot point scenes, and the inciting incident. And I’ve really narrowed this down to what these scenes are, otherwise I’d be here all day. And there’s lots of books on this that go in depth if you want more information on it. So really the inciting incident is the shakeup moment. It’s kicking off the main story goal that you have in your blurb. And it’s the moment that the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way. So something happens. And often, if you’re watching a movie or reading a book, and you’re thinking how nothing’s happening, it’s boring, it’s boring, the inciting incident hasn’t kicked off the story yet. Plot point one is when the protagonist can’t back out of a central conflict. So here, they have to go after the story goal. If they don’t have to, which is really important, if they can step away, it’s human nature to step away, I’m not doing that, that’s too hard, I’m not going to do it, forget it, they have to be in a position where if they’re not going forward, something really bad is going to happen to them, someone they love, the world, whatever it is, that’s important in the book. The middle plot point is when the protagonist moves from reactive to proactive. So up to this point in the book, generally, the protagonist has been reacting to events that are happening. After this, they take control, and there’s usually a life changing event. And it can be a small one. But there’s something that happens that the protagonist decides, I’m really going for this goal now. And then they do a whole bunch of bad stuff between that and plot point two that drives them down to the lowest point in the story. And this is where the reader should be worrying if the goal is going to be achieved or not. And you know, if it’s too clear, one way or the other, it’s a point where a reader can put down the book. But if it’s unclear, then you’ve got that worry factor going and the reader is really now looking forward to the climax. And this is where, this is really, really important. The protagonist faces the biggest challenge yet and determines their own fate. And the scene must show if the story goal was achieved. And I’ve edited lots of books where it’s a great climax scene but doesn’t answer the story question. And that means there’s no story yet and it’s not finished yet. Once the climax happens, the story is over. And then there’s a resolution point of just closing up the emotional character reaction, maybe setting up the next book in the series, whatever it is. But at this point, the story goal from the blurb has been answered. And so when you’re checking your climax scene, you want to look at your skeleton blurb and go, hey, did I answer this question or not? And sometimes it’s a surprise. Okay, so just a quick little recap, how to find your story arc. The inciting incident kicks off the main goal, the protagonist goes after the goal, there’s a life changing event, the protagonist is then at the lowest point where it’s a big question whether they’re going to achieve the story goal or not. And then the climax shows the story goal was achieved or not. And there you have, very succinctly, what you need to look for to answer the question, is there a story?
Kevin Tumlinson 21:08
Now I know.
Kristina Stanley 21:10
Now you know. So, now I’m gonna go back a little bit in more detail of how you do it. So you name every scene. And this is just a little screenshot of Fictionary with scenes named. And my challenge to everyone is to try and name the scenes in three words or less. And then you know that scene is focused. If you can’t, perhaps it’s unfocused, maybe it doesn’t have a purpose, maybe there’s too much in the scene, and it should be two scenes. So it should be really clear to you as the writer, what is that scene about? We can see here, I put the first scene is about a funeral. The second scene is about Daisy going through the ice, and Daisy is a dog. And she goes through the ice. So it’s very, when I’m reading it through, it’s very clear to me what these scenes are about. And then from here, I go through and I pick the story arc scenes. And usually once I’ve named the scenes, I can pretty well see what the story arc scenes are. Sometimes when I’m writing, it’s not clear. But when it comes out in the draft, you can find it.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:10
I do appreciate that one of the scenes is named puking with Daisy. Which I think is a missed title opportunity, frankly. Puking with Daisy.
Kristina Stanley 22:24
This is what’s happening in this scene. And it’s an important scene because the next scene is [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 22:30
I understand, no criticism, I think it’s a great title.
Kristina Stanley 22:36
And then for the story arc scenes, you want to evaluate them first and make sure they’re doing what they need to do, because they’re the critical scenes for building the story structure. And then of course, revise if necessary. So you might not have to. Maybe you did a great job first time around, but that’s never me, I always have to revise. And I try and make the scenes do everything they possibly can. And I get those scenes really strong before going and revising the rest. And then you know if you have a story. Okay, so I’m gonna just do a quick, I’m gonna stop share here for a second. And then pop back to …
Kevin Tumlinson 23:17
You’ve got to warn a guy when you do that. I could have been picking my nose or something. I could have been puking with Daisy over here.
Kristina Stanley 23:26
You could have been puking with Daisy. And Daisy’s a Great Dane, so you can imagine how that went. Okay, so now can I share a screen again?
Kevin Tumlinson 23:33
Kristina Stanley 23:35
I will warn you next time.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:36
Oh, no, no, no, I’m kidding.
Kristina Stanley 23:39
Okay, so you should be seeing import manuscript. There we are. Okay, so here, we’re just gonna pretend I’m a writer with a new manuscript. And with Fictionary, I’ll select my file. And it’s basically a docx file, it’s called look the other way story arc demo. There we are. Very handy name for what I need today. And what we’ve done at the beginning is, most books when you’re publishing them are formatted with the word chapter at the beginning and with the scene break character. And so we ask you to do the same here. You have other options, but this is really the one that helps you get to a publishable format. Then we ask you if you have multiple chapters in a scene. Some books don’t, that’s fine. Some books do, and in my case, I use the scene break character, the tilde, to break my scenes out. And then what happens, Fictionary is importing in the manuscript, and this is okay, I think this is what the cool part is. It breaks the manuscript into chapters and scenes, it’s pulling out all of the character names. It’s drawing the story arc, it’s pulling out the point of view characters and showing you percentages of who’s got point of view and when. And so it basically on import goes through all of this, and then you get into a confirm chapters. And all we’re looking at here, so you can see this manuscript has come in, it’s broken up into scenes and chapters. You know, a quick check. Okay, here’s my last one. Oh, it’s the end. So I know the whole book imported properly. It’s just a quick check to see. And so it tells me my book has 53 chapters, 119 scenes, and just over 83,000 words. Yay, me. Happy happy.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:18
That would be good information to have. I like having that. I don’t know if it’s useful to me. But I would like to have that.
Kristina Stanley 25:25
You know what, here’s where it’s useful. It’s useful when you know the expected genre count range for the genre you’re working in. So you know, a young adult book, 50,000 words. A mystery novel, 80,000 words. Ranges, of course, but you get bigger word counts with sci fi and fantasy historical fiction. And so you know, if I was writing a middle grade novel and it was 86,000 words, right away that’s a problem. So it’s helpful in that respect. It’s also motivating when you just see it there. I don’t know. I like it. Yeah. So then what Fictionary does here is it pulls out all the character names, and it uses these to link to scenes. And I’ll show you that in a second. But I’m just going to click through here because I don’t want to run out of time. And I do want to show you the story arc. So what Fictionary has done is gone and figured out what the story arc scenes are. The blue line is the recommended shape. The yellow or orange line is what my manuscript is. And what this is showing me here is that my plot point two is too late. It needs to be back somewhere around the plot point two range. And when the when the line goes down, it’s showing there’s too much distance between the middle point and the plot point two that the story is going to drag here. And when the line is too steep, it’s showing these two plot points are too close together, and the story is going to feel rushed. And so my story is going to lack depth here. And as you edit the story, when you add scenes, change scenes, whatever you want to do, this story arc updates continually. And so if you delete a scene, it will redraw. If you write a whole bunch of new scenes, it will redraw. And so as you revise, you can see if you’re getting closer or farther away to the goal of a straight line story arc. Okay, I’m gonna stop sharing again. Are you ready?
Kevin Tumlinson 27:20
Yeah, I’m ready. Oh, sorry. Had that finger at my nose.
Kristina Stanley 27:26
See, now, I gave you a warning. Now I’m gonna go back sharing. I might not have had to stop. Maybe I can just click tabs.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:39
You probably could, if it’s all in one thing.
Kristina Stanley 27:42
If I do this, does that show the app?
Kevin Tumlinson 27:45
I see story arc demo. Is that what you’re trying to share?
Kristina Stanley 27:50
Yeah, no, see, now I just click screens. And oh, share this tab instead? Does that do it? Oh, cool. That’s not what I want to share.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:59
Okay. Now you can just switch. We’re figuring out the technology as we go, as all entrepreneurs should.
Kristina Stanley 28:09
I’m a writer. Just because I run a tech company, it’s different.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:14
Right here. Yeah.
Kristina Stanley 28:17
So alright, so let’s talk about what a scene is. The reason I want to talk about what a scene is, is sometimes when I’m editing, I’ll see that a book has been structured but the scenes don’t make sense because they don’t start and end in the right place. They have too much in them, they’re not focused. So it’s really important when you’re editing your story to know what a scene is. And it’s just a section of the novel where the characters do something. So they engage in action or dialogue. Every scene is going to have characters, plot and settings. And here’s the trick with editing. If you find that you have scenes that are way too long, you can look at where does the point of view character change and maybe start a new scene there. Or there’s a big plot twist, maybe start a new scene there and leave one with an exit hook. Or the location changes. And the other thing this thing does, so let’s say if you decide a scene’s too long, you’re going to cut at the location change, you can probably cut words too, because when you change the location within a scene, you have to describe the whole thing. When you start a new scene, you can just be in the next location. So it can really tighten up a novel when you start focusing on who’s in each scene. What’s happening in the scene? Is it a focused event? Is there one main event and are you in one or more locations? And then you can start structuring your novel around scenes for fastest pacing or slower pacing if you want to slow the book down. So we’ve discovered, do we have a story with the story arc. So the next step is, start your scene by scene edit. So I’m going to give you three things here. And we have 38 of these in Fictionary. But I’m going to give you the high level, or not the high level ones, but the ones that will give you the biggest impact on your book the fastest. And I’ll talk about what each of these are. But one is, does every scene have an entry hook? The next is does every scene have a purpose? And what I mean by this is, when you look at the blurb, your skeleton blurb of who’s the protagonist, what must they do? And what’s at stake if they don’t? Does every purpose of a scene relate to that? And if not, it might not be belong in the book, or it needs to be revised. And then does every scene have an exit hook? Hooks are very important. So entry hooks. On the side here, you can see in this scene, why is Shannon hesitating buying a house? So this is a scene where a woman is with her fiance, and they’re about to buy a house. And she doesn’t want to but she hasn’t told her fiancé, she’s pretending. So the entry hook is there. Well, why is she doing that? So an entry hook, it’s just the part of your story that keeps the reader reading beyond the first paragraph or two in the scene. So if you can, first line entry hook, awesome. And sometimes you’ll see authors use a piece of dialogue or they start right in the middle of action. It should be very pristine, you don’t want to always start in action or always start with dialogue, but there’s lots of different ways to get your entry hook up. Sometimes there’s an entry hook, but it’s too late in the scene, and it just needs to be moved up. And maybe that’s the fix to really engage the reader right at the beginning, so they don’t go around, do I really feel like reading more? So this is answering the question, does this scene start in the right place? And it’s like asking, you know, does the novel start in the right place? Which is the bigger question, but this is at the scene level for every single scene in your book. Then the scene purpose, it’s the reason the story is in is in the book. So this is the opening scene of a book. And on the right here, we’ve got purpose, and it’s opening image, and it’s introducing the protagonist. And that’s the goal of this. Whether it’s the right purpose or not, I don’t know, but it’s the purpose that I chose for the book as I’m editing it. And sometimes you go back and think, I could do better. And so here you’re asking yourself, is every single scene needed? And I know it hurts to cut. When I say cut, you copy, you cut it out and you paste it somewhere else. So you have it stored somewhere because you might use it in another book, or you might need it when you revise your stories. You should never delete it. You know, right Kevin? Don’t delete it.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:30
I keep what I call an ash can. Do you know what I mean by ash can? I stole that term from the comic book industry, but they keep all the pages and the text and everything that doesn’t get used in a book. They keep it in what they call an ash can file so they can reference it and bring it out later. There we go. We’re learning together.
Kristina Stanley 32:52
There you go. And then we have an exit hook. So in this case, it’s you know, will they decide to buy the house? So is Shannon gonna regret buying the house. So the exit hook leaves your reader wanting more, and they’ll start reading the next chapter. And that’s what you want. And right now we’re watching on Apple TV the space movie where the Russians get to Mars first.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:20
Yeah. For All Mankind.
Kristina Stanley 33:24
For all mankind. Yeah. Yeah. For All Mankind. And if you watch that, they are brilliant at exit hooks. Every episode, it answers the story episode question. But then it leaves you hooked for the next evening. Do we want to watch one more? It’s like a whole hour? How late is it? But if you want to see visual exit hooks, watch a couple of episodes of that and you’ll see. And the exit hook is the really last few seconds of each episode. It’s a great way to look at that’s how you do an exit hook. And if you do that in your book, then people gotta read the next chapter, I need to know what happened. The thing you have to be careful about is not being repetitive. So it can’t be the protagonist about to die at the end of every scene.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:16
You can say that again.
Kristina Stanley 34:22
It can’t be at the end of everything. It has to be different. Some are big and exit hooks can get bigger as the book goes, and certainly leading toward the climax. But they still have to vary, and some are gentle and some are tough and there has to be a variety in them. And that’s just asking, does the scene end in the right place? And you might find there’s an exit hook three or four paragraphs before the end of the scene. So what do you do there, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 34:46
I think you’re going to tell us.
Kristina Stanley 34:49
Well, you look at, can you cut those last three paragraphs? Do you need them? Could you stop the scene right at the exit hook or could you revise the scene and move the text up above the exit hook, so you get that last line as strong as possible in the reader’s head.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:11
That’s excellent. I like that you’re kind of giving us a formula for how to do that. Whereas I’ve always just tried to do it instinctively. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong.
Kristina Stanley 35:21
No, there’s different ways of doing it right completely for everything. And, you know, what we’re trying to do here is give actionable ways for a writer to look at their book and figure out how to evaluate it and how they can fix it. And then that’s where the artistry comes in from the writer themselves is that they’re the ones who get to decide, do I want to move my exit hook or not? Right? But if they know there’s an opportunity to make something different, they can at least evaluate it. And you get really creative sometimes when you start thinking about, oh, my exit hook’s in the wrong place? Well, how can I write this book better? Oh, I have this idea. Oh, I have that idea. And it’s to really stimulate. What you know is, while the writer is writing, while they’re editing, because often people say editing is not fun, but it really can be fun if you’re creative while you do it.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:16
Yeah, I used to hate editing. But now it’s sort of my favorite part. Mostly because it means the book is done.
Kristina Stanley 36:22
Oh, same for me, I get lots of great ideas while I’m editing. So I’ll just show you here. So in Fictionary, this is the evaluate page. And then the center section is the actual text where you can edit it. Here’s all your scene names. And then over here, we have our 38 story elements. So I’m just covering a few. But we’ve got character, we’ve got plot. And you can see here’s where entry and exit hook are and the purpose of a scene, which can be, you can add whatever you want, or you can use preexisting ones. And then all of the setting ones, and then notes of whatever you want to write. And you can see here, I put my blurb here. And this is an actual book that I’m working on. And so here’s my revision list right here of things I want to do while I’m editing it. And if I look at my purpose of a scene. So this is the visualized page where we have different insights. So I went through this book, and I edited it using Save the Cat method by Jessica Brody. Because I wanted to see, well, what does my book look like compared to her plot points and all of the beats, because there’s lots of different things. So I actually put all my purposes in the setup, my inciting incident, I don’t know what this scene is yet. So I didn’t put anything. The debate sequence, etc. for Save the Cat. And this tells me how much of my book is spent on each of these. And if you follow the Save the Cat method, they give you a range for these. And you can see, oh, I could tighten this up, or this is too long. And so, you know, it was just for me, I wanted to explore what my book like completed to Save the Cat. And so I used my plot element on the purpose of a scene here to do that. You know, and then as you can see, I’ve gone through all of them. And I end up with, here’s my story level revision of my scene level revisions of things I want to do. And typically, I’ll edit my whole book, which is different from revising it. So I’ll go through and make my whole process. And then I’ll go back and make my revisions because sometimes you discover stuff that are big changes. And if you start doing all your editing on one scene, well, what if you cut that scene? So I don’t like to do that. Okay, so, we’ll just quickly cover character. So point of view character. That’s the person who’s telling the story for a particular scene. So here, it’s Sannon Payne. In this scene, I’ve just shown it on the on the right of what you would see in StoryTeller. And what I try to recommend for writers, until you have full really strong point of view control, write in one point of view, or challenge yourself, just write out every scene from one point of view character. And then when you’ve got that nailed, and you know you can stay in one point of view, then you can add more than one scene if you want to, but you’re doing it in a controlled way. And so what that means is, for a scene, you’re picking a character. In this case, it’s Shannon Payne, and everything, the feelings, action, senses of the scene are all derived from her point of view. So if she can’t see it, you can’t describe it. If she can’t smell it, you can’t describe that smell. So it’s only things that she experiences. And then you’re in that character and the reader gets really close and tight with that character and relates to them. As soon as you start doing more than one character in the scene, you’ve got to use words to change points of view. So you can be slowing the pacing. And if you don’t do well, it can confuse the reader, and lots of writers do it. I just recommend don’t do it until you really know how to do it. And then you can. And readers expect that they’re going to be they’re going to stay in one character’s perspective for a while. And you’ve probably read books where you go, I just don’t connect with these characters. And it could be because it’s bouncing back and forth between two and you don’t really know who it’s about, and the tension goes away. Because you know both sides. So if a couple is having an argument, for example, and you know both sides, you know where it’s going. But if you only know one side and their stress, but you don’t know the other side and their motivations, then it’s really a tense scene. So it’s something just to be careful with.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:46
Yeah. That’s the same way I feel about arguments I have with my wife. You never know what she’s thinking. I know one side, I don’t even know what the argument’s about.
Kristina Stanley 40:55
I know, most of the time you just think, well, I don’t wanna argue. For a reader, iff you know both sides, there’s less tension in the scene. Right? And the more tension it is, the more they’re stuck to the scene. And then, of course, once you’ve picked your point of view character, and some books have only one through the whole story. That’s great. Other books, like Game of Thrones is a good example of, I think nine points of view in the first book. But if you’ve read that one, I don’t know, did you read it, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 41:28
I attempted to read it. I’m not a big fantasy reader, I guess. It didn’t grip me.
Kristina Stanley 41:34
I’m not either, but I’m currently reading a book just for point of view control.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:41
That’s a good one? Okay. Read it to study it. That’s always fun.
Kristina Stanley 41:46
I know. But he does not ever slip out of point of view, and one chapter at a time is written from one point of view character. And there are really different characters, and you want to follow them all. It’s like, from a point of view perspective, it’s just anyone who’s struggling with it, this is a great book, just to look at how do you do point of view control? And he’s got it. So the point of view goal is external, it’s what do they want? So at the beginning of the scene, they want something. What are they trying to accomplish in the scene? And that’s, by the end of the scene, is either answered, not answered, partially answered, depending on the scene. You don’t want to answer it positively every time or negatively every time because that is boring for the reader, it needs to be varied. The goal has to be related to the plot. So it can’t be I have to pick up my laundry, or flip the laundry in the laundry machine, it that’s not related to my actual story. Now, if it’s because I have to get to a job interview, and my only outfit is in the thing, then yes. Okay, that’s related to the story. But if it’s just noise, that’s the main goal, it’s not strong enough. And that’s when you start brainstorming as a writer and figure out well, how can I have a stronger goal in this scene? It’s got to have consequences. So if I have a goal for a character, and it doesn’t matter if they make it or not, there’s no consequences. So there needs to be something that if they get this goal, it’s really good for them. Or it’s really bad for the antagonist or something. There must be a consequence, or forget it. So the other thing about point of view, what makes them interesting is of course, they’re trying to achieve their goal. And if they don’t strive for it, they’re boring. We don’t like boring, do we? We want to see what they’re doing, we don’t want to watch them do nothing. Like, what are you doing? That’s why you’re reading, right? Okay, so we’ll just take a quick peek at character. So over here Fictionary pulls out the characters from a scene. So this has pulled out Georgia Lance, I called him Lance Loser, because he’s not very nice. That’s just my nickname. That’s what I call him. And Shannon. And so Shannon is my point of view. So the software has selected her but if it hasn’t, let’s say we wrote the scene and it’s really Lance, then you just flip it over to Lance. And what this does for you is it shows you who’s gone, I’m just gonna go over this way, who’s got point of view on the book? And how often? So in this book, I wanted three points of view. And I actually have four. So near the end, while I was writing, I went off on my own tangent, so I need to go and I know revising, I need to go and fix that, because my intent is Shannon, Jake and this boy. And I can see, I have all my scenes, and Shannon has the point of view for 49. And she’s the protagonist, so that’s a good thing. If she wasn’t the protagonist, then I’m going to start and look at the balance and think well, okay, I’ve got these other choices. Who is the protagonist? Like is it Jake? Should he have more scenes? Like, whose story is this? And you go back to the blurb and you look at well, who’s the main character in the blurb, who’s got the story goal, who has the most to win or lose and it gives you a way to evaluate it. And you can also look at the order down here. So you can look at Shannon’s got the first three, then there’s Jake, then there’s the boy. And so I was pretty good until I got way over to Charlie at the end there. I’ll just leave that that, you know, I added in this Charlie guy. So for me, there is work to do, which is okay, because I’m in my revision phase. And so basically, with Fictionary, all of these, behind here, it explains an element. If you need more, it gives you more information on it. It’s got links to videos and help files. So if you don’t understand what a point of view is, point of view, goal, or something, the information is there for you to look at your book and figure out how are you going to use it? Oops, I just stopped sharing.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:58
That’s fine. I was about to break in and let you know that all we saw was a square that said character demo. So we may have missed some of that you were trying to show us, sorry about that.
Kristina Stanley 46:07
Oh, I thought I was all good. That’s just really, hang on. Now I can’t even find the share button. There we are, present. Let’s try that. I’ll go back to Chrome. I should just take a breath.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:26
I should have said something earlier. But I thought you were just being really descriptive about that slide. Now I can see the slide, you’ve got a little chart, POV characters. The words to keep Canine Hannibal happy. I think Canine Hannibal is mad at me for not saying something earlier. Sorry about that.
Kristina Stanley 46:47
That’s okay. So here’s what I was talking about. You can see Shannon is the protagonist. And she’s got the most scenes, right? And so you look through, this is basically what I was showing here. And over here, it shows you the percent of which characters, and this is the Charlie person I kept referring to. I thought I wrote this in three points of view, and I actually wrote it four, where you think, how could I do that? But you know, when you’re in the midst of writing, you get very excited and you write your story. And that’s just how, but that’s not the story I wanted to write. I want three points of view in this book. I don’t want four, and so I have to go back and revise this. So that was that whole blurb. Okay, so now, if I go back to character demo, do you see character demo?
Kevin Tumlinson 47:30
Yes. We’re familiar with this screen.
Kristina Stanley 47:34
That’s a really good one, isn’t it?
Kevin Tumlinson 47:36
That one’s gripping. It was my fault. I should have said something earlier. I was engrossed by what you were saying.
Kristina Stanley 47:52
So this can have a really massive impact on how a scene plays out. And the method and length of time you spend on describing a location can make difference between a boring and exciting scene. And I read a thing by Stephen King saying he only describes stuff that’s related to the plot. You think, okay, so you start looking and yeah, okay, better try that. That’s really good. And the other thing I like to ask is, did you choose the best location? And for that, I mean, is it the best location for emotional impact? And with that, you can, we’ll go back to the couples arguing thing. So Kevin and his wife are arguing. And Kevin doesn’t like this conversation. He wants to run away, like, okay, so they’re in a shopping mall, Kevin walks away. And that’s the end of that. That’s not very exciting. What if him and his wife are on a ski vacation, and they’re on a chairlift? And the chairlift breaks down? Now Kevin can’t walk away, and the stress continues. So that’s the thing I mean by emotional impact. You pick somewhere. So look at all your scenes and go, why is this scene in this location? And is it the best place for emotional impact that you want the characters and the reader to feel? If the answer is no, then you know it’s time to revise. So setting issues, too much, or too little? I tend to go with too little. And this is actually an edit somebody else did on one of my scenes where I had no setting. It was a very dialogue-heavy scene, and then you get, it’s unclear where the scene is taking place, because there’s no description of the scene. The other thing that can happen is, the description’s not consistent with the point of view character. So for example, say I’m the point of view character, I am clearly a dog person, I train guide dogs. And so if a scene was there, where I was all of a sudden really interested in cats, well, that’s not me as a personality. It’s not consistent with me as a point of view character. I’ll walk into a room and I’ll notice a dog and might not notice the cat, unless the dog is trying to eat the cat. But if it’s just sitting there, I might not notice it. And so you have to be consistent with your descriptions and your point of view characters. Cliché. So Kevin and his wife are fighting in a coffee shop. That’s really cliche, try and find somewhere better. And don’t tell your wife I’m using this as an example.
Kevin Tumlinson 50:12
No, we’re good. I’m not sharing this with my wife.
Kristina Stanley 50:21
And then locations that are repetitive. And I actually did this in one of my books, where I had too many scenes in the character’s office. That was lazy writing on my part, and you got to go through and get rid of that. So how do you know when you’re done? So you made a revision plan when you’re editing. So I showed you on the evaluate phase that I actually had my high level revision plan and then my scene revision plan. So I went through my whole book and made my plan. Then I revise my scenes and my structure. So first, I looked at the story arc, got that in place, then I do my scenes. And when I do all that, and the story arc is still strong, that’s a pretty good point to call it and go, I’ve got a good story. And then, you know, you move on to the next hard steps of creating your story with line editing, copy editing, proofreading, etc. Okay, so that is my whole thing on story editing, I will just quickly show you where the Fictionary community is. And then we can go to questions if there are any. So in the community, we’re connecting writers and editors, that’s the big thing. We have certified StoryCoach editors who answer questions, and you can be specific if you want, you can ask anything you want on editing about your book, about your blurb, about your synopsis. And we have professional people who answer them for you. We have lots of live training. And it’s really fun because we do live scene edits of people’s novels and stuff. So that’s kind of cool. It is really cool. It’s nerve wracking, though, for the author because they’re sitting there during it all.
Kevin Tumlinson 51:53
Yeah, hard pass. Send me the video afterward.
Kristina Stanley 52:04
And then this year, we’ve already done our Fictionary Book of the Year award. We’ve got our shortlist out. And the winners are going to be announced in February. And the winners get a full StoryCoach edit from one of our editors, but they also get, and this is the really great thing, they get a read through from Writers House literary agency. So if you know who they are, they do Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Stephanie Meyer, you know, they’re a big deal. And so our winners and our shortlist, it’s all good to read at that agency. So we’re really thrilled with that. So we’ll open up again in June for next year’s book of the year award, and we’re picking the best unpublished book. So it’s prior to publishing. So if you join it, dictionary.circle.so. You don’t have to be a Fictionary subscriber as well. All writers and editors are welcome. And then I just wanted to say I love Draft2Digital. So I’ve got fiction books on Draft2Digital, I am a Draft2Digital subscriber, I use that service, I don’t publish anywhere else. I actually moved from my publisher to Draft2Digital when I created Fictionary, because I wanted to go through the experience of self-publishing my books. And so I did, I was very excited about it. And then I’ve coauthored a book with Elle Cook, and it’s called Secrets to Editing Success, and it’s coming out in February and it will come out on Draft2Digital.
Kevin Tumlinson 53:33
Do you have your Universal Book Link, your Books2Read link for that book yet?
Kristina Stanley 53:39
No, we haven’t got that far yet. It’s with our copy editor, our cover’s being made. We’re running out of time, though, Kevin.
Kevin Tumlinson 53:51
Exactly. We’ll get you going.
Kristina Stanley 53:54
A little reminder of the Black Friday Code, BlackFriday2022 at fictionary.co. And these are all my little guide dogs. And you can see Kintik who’s with her guy in Vancouver. She’s actually full out working. And this one Candy. She was the cutest ever. She’s with a little boy and Geno’s at my feet right now.
Kevin Tumlinson 54:13
All right. Okay.
Kristina Stanley 54:17
I forgot to tell you, I stopped sharing.
Kevin Tumlinson 54:19
You stopped sharing. That’s fine. That’s fine. I was kidding about that to begin with. Well, we’re at time so I’m glad we were able to get through the whole thing because it was very, it was fascinating. It was I think a very useful overview of the process, but also, I’m excited about your product. So I hope people will take advantage of that link. Here, I’ll pop it up one more time for everybody. And it’s fictionary.circle.so.
Kristina Stanley 54:48
No, that’s right. The website is fictionary.co, but the community is fictionary.circle.so because it’s on Circle’s network.
Kevin Tumlinson 54:57
That makes sense. Okay. So go there and use coupon code BlackFriday2022. Now through 12/4/22, that’s a few days from this live stream. If you’re catching this in the podcast after the fact, sorry, you missed out, but you can always go check it out. And I’m sure there’ll be more discount codes in the future, but go try it out for 14 days free.
Kristina Stanley 55:24
Yes, yes, you can. And we did that because it’s a new concept. And we wanted writers to have a chance to see what it is before committing to it and to see if it works for them, because everybody writes in a different way. And so you’ve got to figure out your own way. And, I love it because I created it, but that’s my way.
Kevin Tumlinson 55:43
Right. And I’m a pantser. So things like this are always tough for me, but I’m always tempted by them.
Kristina Stanley 55:51
Yeah. See, I’m a pantser, too. So I needed this when it came to editing. Cuz I needed to get control of that story. You know?
Kevin Tumlinson 56:00
Yeah, I could see you using this sort of in reverse, in a way, like running your finished manuscript through it so you can see how it’s lining up. That’s a good tool. That’s a good tool. All right. But that said, everybody go check that out. And otherwise, Kristina, thank you so much for being a part of the show and bringing Fictionary to everybody. For those of you watching and listening, make sure that you go to D2Dlive.com. And bookmark us so you know when new shows come up, we got a little countdown timer there. We try to do one of these every week. Holidays, sometimes we’ll put things on pause, but you can count on something popping up every now and then. So go check that out. And make sure that you are subscribing, liking us, hitting the little bell icon, all the things that are required out in the digital space. So again, Kristina, thank you again for being a part of the show.
Kristina Stanley 56:56
Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me here.
Kevin Tumlinson 56:58
Everyone else, thank you for being a part of the show and we will talk to you next time. Take care.