Episode Summary

We welcome Kristina Stanley, founder and CEO of Fictionary, back to the show to discuss their new innovative tool designed to help authors hone their craft and self-edit more effectively.

Episode Notes

Bestselling books have well-structured plots, compelling characters, and engaging settings that tell a great story. The other element bestselling books have in common is masterful editing. Today we welcome Kristina Stanley back to the show. An award-winning author and fiction editor, Kristina is also the founder and CEO of Fictionary, an innovative tool that’s designed to help authors hone their craft and self-edit more effectively. 

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Kevin Tumlinson [00:00:01]:

You just tuned into the hippest way to start and grow your indie author career. Learn the ins, the outs, and all the all arounds of self publishing with the team from d two d and their industry influencing guests. You’re listening to Self Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:00:25]:

Hello, and welcome to Self Publishing Insiders. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre, and I am the director of business development with Draft2Digital. And I am honored to have in the virtual studios with me Christina Stanley, who is the founder and CEO of Fictionary. Christina, welcome.

Kristina Stanley [00:00:44]:

Hi, Mark. You know, thanks for hosting today. I’m really excited to be here and talk about story editing and gen AI and lots of other good stuff.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:00:52]:

Yeah. Well, let’s first talk I want I wanna talk about your background as a writer and and then and how that led into the the foundation and the creation of fictionary because you were solving a a problem that you recognized as a writer. Correct?

Kristina Stanley [00:01:05]:

Sure. Yeah. So I read a Mary Higgins Clark book, and it kept me up all night. And I was late for meeting, and I thought, I wanna write a book that does that to somebody. That’s just awesome. So that was my, like, first, I gotta write. Then I wrote some books, and I did well with, I I with the Canadian with crime writers of Canada and crime writers association on their debut dagger and, best unpublished crime novel in Canada and that kind of thing. And so I thought, okay.

Kristina Stanley [00:01:35]:

So I’ve got something here. And then I got a publisher and an agent. And, then my my my publisher said, you know, you’ve written these 3 books, but book 3 is really book 1. Okay. So I gotta rewrite. So I started this massive spreadsheet, and then I started collecting every piece of writing advice I read, knew, anything, and put it all together. Who’s the point of view, and what’s their goal, and what’s at stake if they don’t get it? You know, check, check, check, check, check, check, check. So I did all that, and I had this.

Kristina Stanley [00:02:07]:

I have a math degree, so I’m kinda, you know, little I like things like that. I did all that. And then, my books did my books did well, and I ended up getting a a publisher in in, Germany. And, so I thought, you know, I can’t be the only person who finds this story editing really, really hard. And then one day, literally, my husband walked by and went, what are you doing? I’m like, oh, I’m writing. He’s like, you know, Excel? Like, yeah. That’s what I do. I gotta do all this.

Kristina Stanley [00:02:34]:

And he’s like, there’s an app for that. I’ll find it. He comes back. There’s no app. We should do this. And so that was sort of the trigger into it that it’s still very, very difficult to write a novel and, you know, and and a novel that people love. And so it kinda came from that, and then it just started rolling along.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:02:56]:

That is that is fantastic. And and and it looks like the when you think about the evolution of of fictionary, you think about there’s been various phases of providing tools, creating community. I know we’re gonna be talking about something you’re really excited about as well, one of the later phases. But before we get into that, I I I rarely get the opportunity when I’m chatting with someone to say, congratulations, Christina. One of your one of your books that you’ve co authored, a non fiction book for writers, and I’m gonna pop that up on the screen, is currently, in the top 25 nonfiction bestsellers as reported through DraftDigital, a Smashwords, on the Smashwords store from sales across, numerous platforms. So let me let me just find that. And this is the so secrets to outlining a novel. Yes.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:03:46]:

And and so it’s by Kay Stanley and Al Cook. And so this is part of a series that that the 2 of you have worked on together?

Kristina Stanley [00:03:52]:

That’s correct. And so we our our first one is secrets to editing a novel. This is secrets to outlining a novel. And April 12th, we’re releasing secrets to writing a series. And how we do these books, they’re they are very actionable books. It’s all about, here’s a piece of theory. Here’s what you do. Do this before you go to the next chapter.

Kristina Stanley [00:04:13]:

And by the end of secrets to outlining, you’ve outlined a that you can use as you’re writing. And so, you know, my goal there is I know when I first started and I read all these BooksRead you think, make your protagonist likable. I’m like, oh, I like her. I don’t know what that means. You know? Or or when you switch point of view or what start a new scene, you’re like, okay. What’s that mean? You know, all these things, and it took me so long to figure it out, and I thought, it can be way more practical. All it is is if you do this, then you can see this, then you can see this. And if you do it in this order, off you go.

Kristina Stanley [00:05:04]:

And so we’re trying to help as many writers as possible really understand the structure of a story and then use that structure to be fully creative in it. And so it’s still your story. It’s still totally unique, but you have some boundaries. And then if you want to go outside those boundaries, at least you know you’re making a decision to do it and why you’re doing it. And then great. Go for it.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:05:27]:

Oh, that is that is fantastic. How did how did the 2 of you come to wanting to to work together as writers and and formatting the idea for the series?

Kristina Stanley [00:05:37]:

Yeah. So, I met Lucy. Lucy, came into our community, and she took our, dictionary certified story coach program. And it’s where we train editors to be professional editors using our story coach tool.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:05:51]:


Kristina Stanley [00:05:52]:

And the reason I we we started this program was that I was doing a lot of editing at the time, and we had a lot of writers say, you know, I I’ve had an edit, but I still think my story needs work. And I go, well, can I see it? Sure. And then it turns out it was a copy edit, not a story edit. So I thought, oh. And then I started looking around, well, where do story editors really get trained if you don’t already work for a publisher? There’s lots of nonfiction structural editing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:06:16]:


Kristina Stanley [00:06:17]:

It’s hard to find a place and so we thought we’ll create it. So anyway, Lucy was in that in that course. And she was so keen. It was midnight her time. She got up every night and came to course every week.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:06:28]:


Kristina Stanley [00:06:28]:

Yeah. So very dedicated. And then she just kept connected with me. She was she was super excited about it. And then I had partially written the first book, and I was stuck. And running, I just thought, I can’t finish this, but I really want to. And so I reached out to Lucy and said, are you interested in coauthoring? I’m like, 3 quarters written, but I can’t finish. And so she said, yeah.

Kristina Stanley [00:06:55]:

Of course, I am. So then we started coauthoring together. And then, she just started getting more and more involved in in fictionary, and so I hired her. Oh, wow. She is now head of community and training at Fictionary. So sort of evolved into this long term relationship that you you know, through co authoring, we already knew we worked so well together and her knowledge of story is so strong that, you know, the 2 of us are really challenge each other. And and particularly in our research of, well, I found this. Do you think it’s this? I don’t know.

Kristina Stanley [00:07:33]:

Because in this series, it does this and that works. So what’s the common pattern? And then you kinda go back and forth back and forth until you go, I see it. It’s this. And so I just really liked working with her, and so I hired her.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:07:49]:

That reminds me of something that I’ve long, known about the publishing industry. And you do have experience on as an indie author, also working with publishers the across the gamut. And that’s the value and the importance of relationships. Right? Relationships with your editor, with your coauthor, with, colleagues, etcetera. I mean, it seems weird in this digital world of of gaming algorithms and stuff like that, but isn’t it? That real that human relationship is still very vital, isn’t it?

Kristina Stanley [00:08:15]:

See now there, this is why we started the Fictionary community. So what it is, it’s unique in the sense that we have, both professional editors and writers. Okay. And so writers and editors can connect. The community is free. It’s, we’ve got just over 2500 members now, and we do a lot of free events. We do we have a section called ask an editor anything. So people can actually ask about

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:08:43]:

Oh, really?

Kristina Stanley [00:08:44]:

Something in their book. And a professional one of our editors, our editors are all tagged, so you know the answer’s coming from a trained editor

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:08:50]:


Kristina Stanley [00:08:51]:

Of whatever your question is or whatever you’re struggling with your book is. And then we have live sessions where we actually will work on somebody’s blurb or their synopsis, our people will post it in the community and get all kinds of feedback. Our my most important value in the community, and I see there are some people from our community on the side here and they know what I’m gonna say, and it’s kindness. And, you know, I want it to be a place where we genuinely help and support each other. And that doesn’t mean you always say, Hey, it’s a great book. But it does mean when you give critiques and things, it’s in a positive and helpful way so the person can actually do something with it. So the community has really grown into a people like it because they are actually meeting people online. And so there’s lots of live events.

Kristina Stanley [00:09:39]:

Like, once a month, all of the mystery writers go on Zoom together and and talk in-depth about mystery or the fantasy writers or whatever. So people are finding their own their own genres. And then we created Fictionary Live, which is, anyone with our storyteller premium software, they can come in, and take endless courses. And they just run, and we do, 6 weeks to editing, 6 weeks to revision, 6 weeks to outline. People come on on a live, and it’s with a live instructor. And so again, you can interact, you can ask questions, you can show your work, all kinds of kinds of fun stuff with the goal. The the end goal of the whole thing is to help as as many writers as possible in an affordable way.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:10:23]:

I love that. And and also in their own way because you have this community, which is fantastic. 25 100 writers and editors interacting together, and and it’s great because you you’re looking for an answer to a question. You can go and ask an editor, which is fantastic. But but on top of that, you also have the more DIY. So as an author, I can use fictionary to go in and and and work to to make my my novel better or my story better. But also editors can leverage fictionary as well, right, to to to hone their craft.

Kristina Stanley [00:10:55]:

Yeah. And so I did a lot of studying on the latest wave peep like, the latest studies on learning and how people learn, and everybody learns in a different way. And if you even you may favor something visual, but if if you’re taught with here’s the theory that you read and here’s the action that you do and here’s the visuals that you see, all of that comes together and helps you learn better. And that’s the theory behind it all so that in the software, we have people who are not in the community at all at all, of course, and they just use the software. And they’re that truly, I just wanna work on my manuscript. I’m happy. I don’t I don’t need to interact. And so within the software, we got we have 38 story elements that you evaluate per scene, and there’s there’s editing tips right there.

Kristina Stanley [00:11:41]:

And so if you don’t know what point of view is, then you can look it up right there. You don’t have to go anywhere. It’s just there. You can look at it. And then, of course, we draw the story arc. So you can see where’s your inciting incident, plot part 1. Are they in the right place or not? We Smashwords count per scene, scenes per chapter. How many characters are in a scene? What’s the point of view? What order? What’s the percent? All these things that you can then evaluate.

Kristina Stanley [00:12:04]:

And so you have objective tools as a writer to go, look. My middle plot point is at 75% into the novel. That might not work. You know? I might I might wanna work on that. Right? So Right. Right. You can or you can look at it and say, wow. My protagonist hasn’t had the point of view for 8 scenes.

Kristina Stanley [00:12:24]:

That’s a long time. Wow. Is that really what I wanna do? Maybe. Quite possibly because it’s a time jump or a something. Right? But maybe not. And so it lets you see it and make a decision based on objective feedback. It’s not a person saying, hey, you know, it’s dragging a little here.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:12:42]:

Right. Right.

Kristina Stanley [00:12:43]:

It’s dragging because you’re saying incident doesn’t happen until 30% of the novel and what should be really 10% or before or even before the novel opens even.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:12:51]:


Kristina Stanley [00:12:52]:

So you can see it. Like, And then decide as the artist, do you do you wanna change it or not? Because everybody has their own personal reasons for doing things in a certain way.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:13:01]:

Well, because this is this is obviously far more than just this this passive voice. This this is explicit passive voice and and and there’s a grammar issue here or it may be unclear. This digs into the way very much the way that a developmental editor would would or or or a story a story editor who who looks at all these elements and and talks about the inciting incident and and point of view and stuff like that. So it it almost is like, is this magic? How do like, is it Magic?

Kristina Stanley [00:13:34]:

Or do you have

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:13:35]:

a whole bunch of editorial, panel that quickly reads the story and

Kristina Stanley [00:13:39]:

Yeah. I have thousands and thousands of people. They’re just out there. My dogs help out. They’re really good at it. You know, all that good stuff. So I just wanna clear. So we don’t do any copy at any we don’t touch the pros.

Kristina Stanley [00:13:51]:

So so our our theory is that until you have a solid story

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:13:55]:


Kristina Stanley [00:13:56]:

Why are you spending a lot? And then we all cheat and copy it a little bit because you wanna be productive. You’re like, oh, I could just do this better or that better. But it there’s times when you when you do a story and you think that scene doesn’t even belong.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:14:07]:


Kristina Stanley [00:14:07]:

Right? It’s just it just has to come out. I wrote it because I loved it, but it has nothing to do with my story, so it has to go. Right. And so why spend a whole bunch of time? And it’s also different parts of your brain. It’s a very different skill set to story edit and to copy edit.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:14:22]:


Kristina Stanley [00:14:22]:

And so if you’re trying to story edit, but you’re looking at, okay, this really oh, look. I’ve got the wrong introductory clause or the your brain is now focused on that that minutiae and not this is my story. Get the story straight. Right. Then you have to go away and work on the pros. Of course, you do.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:14:39]:


Kristina Stanley [00:14:39]:

And and some people have very high pros proficiency

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:14:43]:


Kristina Stanley [00:14:44]:

Where they write it the first time, it’s beautiful. Other people have to have to write it and then go back and rewrite it so it reads well. Yeah. You know, everybody has a little bit of a different, a a different way they do it. So, and as for the magic, I spent, oh, I don’t know, Couple of years working on a mathematical formula to draw the story arc.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:15:06]:


Kristina Stanley [00:15:08]:

So and again, that comes from my math degree. Yes. And and, you know, it took me a long time in study and trying to really figure out, like, how can how can we draw this as gonna be helpful to a writer? And how it works. If it gets if it chooses the inside of the incident but it’s not the right scene, typically, there’s a structural issue with the manuscript, and there’s a word count misbalance in there.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:15:32]:


Kristina Stanley [00:15:32]:

so then the writing go, well, how come did it why did it pick this and not this? And they can see, wow, I spent all this time in this scene that is really somebody walking in her room versus it’s actually the inciting incident of the story. Right. So there’s an imbalance, and and it shows that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:15:48]:

I love that. And it’s it’s one of the many layers or one of the many stages that you do. So so just, you know, if you have a a novel that’s published and maybe, you know, it’s not doing so well or whatever, and you’re not sure why. You have a beautiful cover. Your blurb is fantastic. You’re running ads to it, whatever. It’s just not selling, or it’s part of a series. Maybe it’s people don’t seem to be getting through it to get to book 2.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:16:13]:

Is that something where you can take that story and then load it in to fictionary and say, well, maybe my insane incident takes 50 pages as my throat cleared or whatever that was. Right?

Kristina Stanley [00:16:24]:

Yeah. And, you know, I’d love the authors who reach out and tell me that they they had published their book. They pull it down because it was either not selling or it was getting bad reviews. And then they ran it through Fictionary, and they edited it. They revised it. Got it all ready to go republished it. And then they end up winning awards or hitting bestseller lists. And so, you know, that’s a very exciting story to me because I believe that writers and and and particularly indie authors do have the opportunity that if you publish your book too soon and you think, maybe I shouldn’t have, you can take it down.

Kristina Stanley [00:16:59]:

It’s absolutely fine. You just take it down, edit it, put it back up. You may wanna recover it, maybe not. But if you’re, you know, if you’re a famous person, that’s very hard to do. But most of us, nobody’s really gonna notice that, oh, you had a book up. You took it down? No? Yeah. Okay. So I think I don’t like it when writers decide, well, I’m no good at this.

Kristina Stanley [00:17:25]:

Writing a good novel is really, really hard. And so if you just publish a little too early, keep going. Just find a way to do it. And that’s what we wanna do with fictionaries that so come in and rewrite it, and then off you go again.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:17:42]:

Oh, I love that. I love that. So I just wanna, remind our live viewers, you can ask questions, and I’m gonna pop up a question now from SA Sul. I hope I pronounced that properly. Is there a cutoff word count on a manuscript for, you know, dictionary?

Kristina Stanley [00:17:57]:

No. There’s not. And here’s a little discovery. That is a very interesting question because sometimes what we find, and particularly people come to us and say they they’d like to hire one of our story coach editors to perform an edit.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:18:10]:


Kristina Stanley [00:18:11]:

You know, they’ve done as much as they can by themselves. They they want a person. What we see sometimes is someone will have a manuscript that’s 300,000 words, 350,000 words, and we’ll go, hey. You have a series. Put it in 3 books. There’s gotta be 3 books in there. Right? It doesn’t have to go now maybe you wanna publish this one, but series are very commercially successful. Right? And so it’s an opportunity to, look at what you have and say, well, do I have 2 books? Do I have 3 books? Maybe I do wanna write a long term series because I already have 3 BooksRead.

Kristina Stanley [00:18:48]:

That’s kind of an exciting moment. The the word count limit is more on the bottom end in the sense that the story arc needs about 5 to 7000 words to draw.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:19:00]:


Kristina Stanley [00:19:01]:

And it needs the 5 scenes plus a bunch of scenes in the middle and around it. So if there’s, like, too short a short story, everything else works, but the story arc itself, it can’t it can’t pull it out because there’s not enough there to figure out Right. What should be there.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:19:16]:

And and so this is just a reminder because some people I imagine may be listening to this and saying, oh, great. I can save the money on on a human editor, but it sounds like this is a tool that you use in addition to an editor because you talked about somebody who’s, okay, I’ve done enough DIY. Now I I I want, you called it a a story coach editor. Right?

Kristina Stanley [00:19:37]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:19:38]:

And and that’s a, like, a a fictionary story coach editor specifically in that case. But it could be, okay. Now now it’s because I look at it as a possibility of, oh my god. My editor would be so happy with me because there’s so much less work for them to do.

Kristina Stanley [00:19:52]:

Yeah. Well, here’s what it is. What is really interesting is so a couple of things on that one. There’s different, ranges of authors and some are absolutely brilliant at just here’s the story structure. I have it nailed. They’ve done enough books. They put it through. They make sure.

Kristina Stanley [00:20:09]:

And they go straight to a copy editor.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:20:11]:


Kristina Stanley [00:20:12]:

Off they go. Others, really strong at copywriting, great prose, but not so strong in the story, and they need more help. And so if you decide to go to an editor, you don’t have to. Some people are just talented. They don’t need they can do it themselves. Great. If you decide to go to an editor, you want an editor who will look at your work and go, alright. You’re not actually ready for, a story edit yet.

Kristina Stanley [00:20:37]:

You gotta go away and do these things. Right? So one an example of that would be if someone comes in and their manuscript in a romance genre is 300,000 Smashwords. You wanna tell that person, you should really look at that as 3 books. You know, a 100,000 is even getting long for romance, but, you know, you’ve got all this written. See if you can split it up before you get it story edited. Because the person who fights back is gonna be, here’s the breaks. Now go do that. Right? Or if, you know, you go to a copy editor, a good copy editor should be able to say, you really should have a story edit.

Kristina Stanley [00:21:11]:

The story is not there yet. And there’s no point in me copy editing because I’m not

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:21:15]:

ready. Or Right.

Kristina Stanley [00:21:16]:

Right? So it’s very important to establish a relationship with a, with your editor that’s that’s open, transparent, there’s trust, and and you’re on and also you the same type of feedback. And one of the things about the community that we like is that the editors answer questions, they talk to people, and then people often just pick their editor from that. Like, oh, I like Mark. I want him as my editor. Right? You can see how they answer, how they give feedback. I can understand it. It gives them a chance to see who’s there and and actually get to know the editor a little bit before investing in an editor.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:21:54]:

I love that. I I really I love that because it’s again, you’re you’re adding to you’re providing options. You’re providing opportunity and choices that authors can engage with depending on where they are. Because like you said, they may be great at copy and polished prose, but the story needs some help. And that’s where the that’s where the majority of the work needs to happen. Wow. Okay. So, and then this is sort of sort of related to the other question, but Adam asked this question.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:22:21]:

But just to just to clarify, so can fictionary work with episodes of of 5,000 words, for example, for serial fiction?

Kristina Stanley [00:22:29]:

Yeah. So let me make sure because serial fiction is a wide term. So by serial fiction is the question, like, the type that goes out on Amazon, Bella. I think it’s Vellum Vellum.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:22:46]:

Vellum. Yeah.

Kristina Stanley [00:22:46]:

Yeah. Amazon Vellum or Barnes and Noble, where they’re publishing and they have tokens and then.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:22:53]:


Kristina Stanley [00:22:53]:

Is is that the question?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:22:55]:

And and, Adam, feel free to, confirm that that’s what you’re talking about. And then Adam says yes. Okay.

Kristina Stanley [00:23:00]:

Okay. So that. Okay. Yes. Because here’s what you can do. And I actually, have spoken to a few people there about about that that, the thing with serial fiction in that context, you really need to have a great exit hook on every scene. Like, because the the the when you’re just reading a book, you pick up your book and you’re reading it, you’re like, it’s okay, but I’ll keep reading. It’s good enough.

Kristina Stanley [00:23:24]:

Right? But when you’re actually putting out your tokens for it, then the reader is making a very conscious decision. I gotta have that next scene. And so fictionary is designed to edit on a scene by scene basis. So if I were putting up a novel on serial fiction, I would edit it the whole way through first and make sure I’ve got an entry hook, exit hook, entry hook, exit hook the entire way through. I would make sure that the purpose of every scene is really strong because serial fiction is a little bit more challenging in the sense because the reader has to put up money every time. And so they’re a little less tolerant on whether they’re gonna turn that page or not.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:12]:

Right. Okay.

Kevin Tumlinson [00:24:13]:

Alright. Cool.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:14]:

Awesome. Thank you for that, and thanks for the question, Adam. And so and I know this is something that we were gonna be talking about, or or this is a great segue, I think, is a question from Ace Adams. Says, good morning. What is the difference between fictionary and using some of the tools in chat GPT?

Kristina Stanley [00:24:31]:

Oh, I love that question. Thank you so much. So that was like it’s like I paid paid you to be in the audience and ask that question. So I have very strong views about this. We wanna use and we call it GenAI because we don’t use Chat gbt. We use Vertex with, Google.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:49]:


Kristina Stanley [00:24:50]:

And mostly because that’s where we’re hosting. We have a good relationship with them. Anyway but what we’re looking at is with chat gpt, chat gpt will write a scene for you. You can prompt it. I wanna write a whatever, a dog’s dog walking down the street scene. And these are my things, and I’ll write it for you. Fictionary, we’re taking different takes. So our our goal is never to touch the manuscript that that belongs to the artist.

Kristina Stanley [00:25:16]:

You can you could write it using chat gpt, but when you’re editing, we are helping you analyze it. And so our first Gen AI feature that we introduced in December, is scene naming. And we introduced that because it seems like an odd thing. Right? But it’s part of performing a story edit. When you’ve written a draft, if you go through it and you name every scene in 3 to 5 words, you have an outline, you can see your story clearly, you can see where your key plot points are. Like, it’s a thing of beauty. Right? But it’s very time consuming. Yeah.

Kristina Stanley [00:25:52]:

So we did our prompt engineering to figure out, okay, how do we pull a a scene name out? And then you see things like, wow. AI named this I’ve had 5 scenes going to the grocery store. That just might be a lot of going to the grocery store. Right? And you can you start to see, like, no. Or it comes back with a name that doesn’t make any sense. And you think, well, why not? That means the scene’s not focused enough. It can’t figure it out.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:26:19]:

Oh, good idea.

Kristina Stanley [00:26:20]:

Problem. So if you can’t name it, there’s something in that scene that’s probably that is not focused. And so we chose that as our first AI to do. And then the writer goes and looks at that scene and they make the changes so so we don’t ever ever touch it. And that way also they know they fully own the copyright because that’s often a concern with with having chat gbt write a novel. The other thing I’ll say about Chat GPT so we edited some Chat GPT written novels, and they have the exact same problems as a human written novel. So they you know? And and sometimes a little bit more that when we edited, you think, okay. So that character is actually dead, and this is not a ghost story.

Kristina Stanley [00:27:06]:

So how can they be in this scene?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:27:08]:


Kristina Stanley [00:27:09]:

Just nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. We can’t have we got it. There’s a little plot hole there. Or, you know, too much the neon lights on the ceiling were flickering in too many scenes. That that sort of stuff.

Kristina Stanley [00:27:21]:

So even if you write your novel using chat gpt, I recommend you still have to edit it like you wrote it. You need to know the story, and you still have to go through the hard work of editing it.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:27:33]:

Wow. That that is amazing. So I’m just gonna pop up this comment from Lisa Taylor who says, I love scene naming. It is so cool to see what is generated versus what I thought it was. And and that reminds me of something. So I was thinking of I I recently with a coauthor, thanks to my coauthor who’s a project manager, very organized, etcetera. I’m a normally a panther, but my coauthor got me in the plotter. And and I and I found that a really fantastic tool even when I’m not coauthoring, but I have to go back and add the stuff to plotter for my previous books.

Kristina Stanley [00:28:06]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:28:07]:

It sounds like I could use the scene naming tool and just see I mean, I love what Lisa says. The idea of saying, okay. I’m gonna go on a plotter and then run the scene naming tool and see how different the names I gave it or we gave the scenes to what to what fictionary thought. That could help with maybe identify some issues. Yeah. But then also maybe that could help me with constructing my universe and and and all the scenes in the previous level. Like, it seems like a a great time saving tool as well as well as identifying issues potentially with the story.

Kristina Stanley [00:28:38]:

Well, it helps a a writer look at their own story, which is very difficult. I know when I first started writing, you’ve you’ve written your draft, like, oh, I got my draft. And you start reading, and you think, I don’t know what to change. There it is. Yay. I gotta hear a thousand words. Thanks. I don’t know what to do with it.

Kristina Stanley [00:28:52]:

So it’s it’s a difficult task. And the thing so when we when we name the scenes, we also draw it in the context of the story arc. And so you can see every scene name, and then here’s your inciting incident, and then these scenes. And so let’s say there’s too much time between the inciting incident plot point 1. You can look at the scene names in that context and go, these scenes could actually go later. That could be cut. Right. Right? And so you can see how to fix your story without actually reading it yet.

Kristina Stanley [00:29:22]:

You’re not anything bad. Oh, look all the scenes underneath. I gotta start so let me fix the structural thing first of what I need to think about before I get down into the details and start. You know the thing that we all do when you start editing is you redo your first scene a 1000000 times. But then you find out later after you’ve done a full edit that, hey. I’m gonna cut that scene. So we’re trying to go the other way and go, well, cut that seam. You don’t need it.

Kristina Stanley [00:29:48]:

Polish the other ones that you’re actually gonna keep.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:29:50]:

Yeah. Oh, I love that. I love that. And and Bob says, totally agree with Lisa, of course, on on the the joy of the scene naming. And and in response to to the conversation, Ace says, right. I wouldn’t use it to write use chat tp to write a book. Yes. It has editing limitations.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:30:06]:

If you log out, it doesn’t remember the questions you asked to write a book as well.

Kristina Stanley [00:30:10]:

Or You know, I also think too with with chat gpt, some people can use it very well because they know how to prompt engineer. And then they know how to I gotta take this out, and I gotta store it here, and I’m gonna put it here. And then I can do my next thing, and my next question is gonna be this. And so some people are really proficient at it. And it’s a skill like any other computer skill of how to prompt

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:30:33]:


Kristina Stanley [00:30:33]:

To to get the right and I’ll tell you, we’re our next, Gen AI feature coming out is is to answer, is there tension in the scene?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:30:40]:

Oh. Oh, that’s great.

Kristina Stanley [00:30:43]:

If you just ask, is there tension in this scene? 99% of the time, the answer is yes. Like, but there’s not. So we spent a lot of time figuring out, well, how do we prompt it

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:30:56]:


Kristina Stanley [00:30:58]:

To to look at, alright. When do you know if there’s tension in the scene? How do you know? Right? Right. And so you figure that out, and then you gotta prompt around that and prompt

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:31:15]:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No kidding. Wow. Alright. So, the questions keep rolling in, and thank you guys for these great questions. So Alyssa asks, are the manuscripts that users are uploading, do they get used as training data to to further hone fictionaries skills and abilities?

Kristina Stanley [00:31:31]:

Nope. And we’ve made that commitment, and it’s in our privacy or our terms and conditions policy.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:31:36]:


Kristina Stanley [00:31:37]:

We don’t do that. And it’s in our written business agreement with Google that they don’t do that. So our manuscripts are are private. We don’t train with them. Having said that, we have a fabulous community. And when we were, naming scenes, we asked people, does anyone wanna send us their manuscript so so we can test out scene naming? And so we had a group of people just email me their manuscript so I could put it in and and our developers could test it. And then we had people in the community do beta testing for us on their manuscript, so we got feedback that way. So the the only time we ever see a manuscript is if someone actually physically sends it to me.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:17]:

Oh, wow. That is, amazing. And and I I love that I love that privacy. And, again, nobody reads the terms and conditions, so thanks for reiterating that.

Kristina Stanley [00:32:26]:

Look. They are important because Yeah. It’s your work. Right? And I think the most important thing you wanna know is do you own the copyright? And the answer is yes. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:33]:

Of course. Yeah.

Kristina Stanley [00:32:34]:

It’s got nothing to do with fictionary. Right? And do we use it for training? No. We wanna use, Gen AI in an ethical way, And I’m a writer too. I get it. I know how much time you just spent writing that book.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:48]:

Yeah. Of course. Of course.

Kristina Stanley [00:32:49]:

A very personal Yeah. Hard thing to do. And so I I think of it in terms of what would I want as a writer.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:57]:


Kristina Stanley [00:32:58]:

And then, you know, it’s in our privacy and and terms and condition policy.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:01]:

Yeah. It looks like Bob’s, yeah, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t find any satisfaction in using that to write a book

Kristina Stanley [00:33:07]:

and And and, well, that’s that’s also a a oh, and thank you, Lynette. A very, insightful comment in that I people have been telling stories since the beginning of time. We have a basic human need to tell a story, and it’s not telling someone else’s story. People who are writing novels have a story they wanna tell. And there’s there’s pride associated with it. And there’s, like, everything that goes with it. It’s such a personal activity that I don’t know. I think it’s you know, and and Lucy and I have made a commitment to each other that we will never use Jenny and I for our our nonfiction books.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:43]:


Kristina Stanley [00:33:43]:

We don’t we just don’t. It’s all our it’s ours. And part of it is the joy of researching and figuring out what it is on our own.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:51]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Kristina Stanley [00:33:52]:

That’s very satisfying.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:54]:

Well, I I I’m I’m gonna take a divergent, here because I am curious about some of the logistics of how you write. So when I’ve coauthored nonfiction books, I’ve used Google Spreadsheets Mhmm. So we can outline who’s gonna write what chapter, what what what do we think this chapter is gonna be about, and then we kinda go from there. Use, obviously, plotter for fiction. What What are some of the tools you and Lisa have used when you’ve when you’ve written together?

Kristina Stanley [00:34:18]:

Yeah. So we’ve we’ve used plotter. We’ve used notion. We’ve used Google Docs. We’ve used fictionary. And I’ll tell you okay. So we stick our nonfiction and fictionaries so we can see the balance of the chapters in there. It’s not to analyze the story because

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:34:31]:

The exciting incident is I I need to know how to write a series.

Kristina Stanley [00:34:34]:

But yeah. That’s my exciting incident. But you can see the structure, the word count we’re seeing, all of that. You can also look like how we look for entry and exit BooksRead, like, how are we leading from this chapter to the next chapter. And so Lucy and I have an evolving process that we’re we try different things, and usually we start out in fictionaries so we can we can see the outline and what we’re doing and then we decide what it’s gonna be, which is never anywhere close to what it ends up being. Right. Then once we start, in particularly for how to write a series, I had I did a lot of drawings on what different series look like and what a story arc is across a series versus one book and where do the scenes fit. And and so at one point, I said, so we say we have to go somewhere where we can do visuals.

Kristina Stanley [00:35:22]:

So then we just went into Google Docs so that we could see it there. We do a lot of work where we’re both online, writing and talking at the same time to chat, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We do lots of discussions on on Zoom with you know, when we’re stuck, what do we think? Who’s gonna do what research? Both of us love to write. So sometimes one of us just takes a chapter and writes it because we want to. So we do. So it’s very fluid, I’m gonna say. It’s not as Okay. We don’t we don’t have a strict process.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:35:52]:

I love that. Well, thank thank you. I I was very curious. So thank you for that.

Kristina Stanley [00:35:56]:

You’re welcome.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:35:57]:

Gonna gonna gonna steer back to, Fictionary with a comment from Linda O’Donnell who says, fictionary is great because it’s objective. And this I think this is really important, the thing that Linda brings up. So as a writer with a sensitive psyche, the tool of fictionary gives you a way to evaluate your story structure without having to berate yourself because that can that can be very intimidating for a writer. Right?

Kristina Stanley [00:36:20]:

Yeah. And so I I think sometimes what Fictionary, the software, and our community helps with is getting a person from that point where they feel ready to share at least a piece of their story with somebody else for feedback. And when you can see it objectively and fix those things, then you’re much more confident when you put it out there. And if you put your your a piece of your story or you blurb, whatever it is you want feedback on, and you get really helpful advice back, it’s motivating. As opposed to hear all the things that’s wrong with it, it’s

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:36:54]:


Kristina Stanley [00:36:55]:

You know, it’s totally working here. Maybe this little piece, that little piece. And so by going through the software, you’ve gotten you’ve gotten the story to a point where you feel much better about sharing it. Because really, everybody who’s written a book knows that first time you have someone else read it, you feel sick to your stomach. Woah. What if they don’t like it? And then you’re like, what if they’re only saying they like it because they love me? Right? It’s my mother. Oh, it’s a little weird. Right? Like, then you then you there all that self self doubt is there.

Kristina Stanley [00:37:26]:

You just don’t know.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:37:28]:

Yeah. But I that that is, so true. It it is a really hard step for writers today, but this this can also be a bridge, which is which is amazing. Go, oh, okay. And it’s and it’s it’s objective for Pusheen. It’s not, well, they don’t like me. Therefore, they don’t like my story.

Kristina Stanley [00:37:43]:

Right. So so they have something or they’re a competitive author or whatever. Even the other thing I’ll say about the community is is community members, some of them are so generous. Like, they’ll come on to our live events and they ask questions about their specific work and where they’re struggling. And what that does for other authors is they see there’s ton of people out there who don’t know how to do this and are are pretty good but still have problems or are well published authors and are still getting stuck with some piece of their story. And people really learn when it’s real examples.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:38:15]:


Kristina Stanley [00:38:16]:

And when someone says, this is my scene, this is what I’m doing, and I can’t get past it. And then editors have a discussion about it, and then out comes an answer. And then the person goes away and rewrites the scene, and they’re so happy. And that helps the other people who aren’t ready yet to ask questions.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:38:30]:

Yeah. Oh, that is fantastic. Well, thank you. Alright. So another another, question specifically about how the how how fictionary works is, essay asks, how does it analyze characters? Does it offer suggestions on enhancing characterization?

Kristina Stanley [00:38:46]:

Yeah. So fictionaries split into 3. We’ll call them super groups. So we’ve got story outs for character, for plot, for setting. So what we’re focused on is what’s the character doing? What’s the goal? What are the consequences if they fail? What’s the impact on them? What’s the impact on the protagonist if it’s not that character? What’s their, story goal tracking? So does every scene bring that character to closer to their story goal or farther away from story goal? And anybody from fiction who’s on this call knows that I don’t know how anybody can write without a skeleton blurb. And a skeleton blurb is who’s your protagonist, what are the what’s their story goal, and what’s at stake. Right? So Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen must win the Hunger Games or she dies and her family starves. That’s pretty clear.

Kristina Stanley [00:39:44]:

That’s book 1. That’s just book 1. That’s not the series, Skeleton Bird, but that’s book 1. Yeah. And when you know that, then everything you do is in the context of that character or characters if there’s more. And so we’re looking at the character in the context of the story and the action plot and not in the context of, you know, their appearance, their eyes are blue, their all of that stuff. That’s that’s coming next in the copy editing phase. Right.

Kristina Stanley [00:40:18]:

So we’re at kind of that level. I hope that answered that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:40:21]:

Cool. Thank you. I appreciate that. I’m gonna ask another question. This one from Ace is, does does fictionary work well with literary fiction?

Kristina Stanley [00:40:32]:

Well, that depends. Ah. So here’s so this is my view on literary fiction.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:40:37]:


Kristina Stanley [00:40:38]:

I think literary fiction comes about when someone, takes the current popular way of writing and adds something new. So, like, when thought first came in, there used to be but you never got to hear what they thought. When dialogue first came in, when, specific points of view come in, right now, the point of view is is in. So my take is that people who are writing literary fiction need to know the basics and then they add on whatever they want. Right? They they’re changing something that’s different. It’s a different way of writing. That’s just my take. I mean, literary fiction is such a wide open question because everybody has a different view.

Kristina Stanley [00:41:26]:

So when I look at it from that context, my hope is someone writing literary fiction. They get their solid story. They know what they’re doing, and then they take it and turn it into whatever it is they wanna turn it into because it’s literary fiction.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:41:40]:

Right. Thank you. I I I love that explanation of literary fiction. That is that’s eye opening to me. Wow. I never thought of it that way. That’s so cool.

Kristina Stanley [00:41:49]:

It’s hard it’s a hard thing to define because it’s always been known of outside the boundaries. Right? But why is it outside boundaries? It’s because

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:41:58]:

It’s true.

Kristina Stanley [00:41:59]:

Writing is Yeah. Right? You’re not writing romance. These are my 5 beats. This is where they meet. Yeah. You know, all of that. Right? So it’s it’s just a diff it’s a different it’s a different outside genre of storytelling.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:42:14]:

Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Wow. This comment comes in from Pamela Hines who says, as an editor, I use story fiction, a fictionary story coach. It’s a great tool to help me focus my approach to developmental edits to make sure that I’m not leaning too heavy on my strengths.

Kristina Stanley [00:42:31]:

See, that, it’s very easy. This is a fantastic comment from Pamela, who also is a fantastic editor and a fantastic copy editor. She she has many skills. So what fiction does so, like, anybody doing anything, if you’re you have things that you’re sensitive to, and so that’s what that’s your go to. And as an editor, it’s very easy to do that and say, you know, you never use NGINX. You never use that blah blah blah. Right? Focus, focus, focus because that’s what I see. Where fictionary doesn’t let you get away with that because what happens in a story coach edit, the editor does it in our story coach software.

Kristina Stanley [00:43:08]:

And when it’s complete, it goes to a storyteller account of the writers. And so the edit the writer sees not only all of the comments on a per se basis, they see all of the story elements filled out. So they see the editor thought the point of view character was Mark. The editor thought the point of view goal was this. And and you you can’t be, I always favor plot as I’m editing, or I always favor character because there’s character plot and setting, and the writer will see that you didn’t do any of those. And so it really forces an editor to be comprehensive across the board, and and you can’t because it’s human nature.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:43:47]:


Kristina Stanley [00:43:47]:

It’s not that they’re not trying to be a great editor. It’s just you see what you see unless it’s right in front of you. Like, hey. I I didn’t look at setting at all. I’d never looked at the location of each of these scenes or Right. What are the objects in the scenes or any of those things. Oh, wow.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:44:08]:

Do I need to have a lot of technical skill as a writer to use this? And in addition to that, just to add on to that question is so, somebody’s listening to this. They’re interested. How much does it cost to get started using Fictionary?

Kristina Stanley [00:44:21]:

Yeah. Okay. So, again, depends on computer skills. We have people I know they’re 80 because they tell me. We’re like, oh, I’m using this. It’s great. So as long as you’re comfortable using a computer, it’s like any of the other software.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:44:34]:


Kristina Stanley [00:44:36]:

There’s nothing super tricky about it. It’s pretty straightforward, but you have to be comfortable using a computer.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:44:42]:


Kristina Stanley [00:44:44]:

So Fictionary is we’ve got Fictionary Storyteller, which is our basic product, and it’s $19 a month. We and with the all of them have a 2 free week free 2 week trial, no credit card required. So you can come in and spry it out your heart’s content. And then we have storyteller premium, and it’s $39 a month, and it includes Fictionary Live. And Fictionary Live is our ongoing training where we have our story coach instructors teaching all of our different courses.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:19]:


Kristina Stanley [00:45:20]:

And then we have, story coach software for professional editors, which is $49 a month. There’s also an annual price. We do have I think we’ve got a coupon at d2d25. Hang on. Is that what we called it? For 25% off for the first wait a minute. I’m gonna look it up.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:41]:


Kristina Stanley [00:45:41]:

I should have written this down. That’s so funny. I’m pretty sure it’s d2d25, but let me test.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:47]:

25, just like that. D2D25. And people can find fictionary@fictionary.co. Correct?

Kristina Stanley [00:45:54]:

Fictionary.co. That’s correct. Awesome.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:58]:

Hang on.

Kristina Stanley [00:45:58]:

Let me just see. Yes. It’s d2d 25 is 25% off, for the 1st 6 months. And that’s for for all products, for all, monthly or annual.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:46:12]:

Awesome. That is fantastic. Christina, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I wanna thank everyone for the great comments, the great conversation, the great the praise. We didn’t even pop up some of the people who just loved fictionary so much, but thank you guys for being here and cheering us on. Just wanna remind people that you can watch. You can you can get tips every every Thursday at 1 PM EST. We’re we’re here in the virtual studios, ddd.tips/insight.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:46:40]:

You can get insider insights from great folks like Christina. You can also, if you have not self published a book, you can get started at, where is it? Start your self publishing career at Draft2Digital.com. Be sure to like. Make friends with the life like button. Share, comment, subscribe, and be sure to bookmark d2dlive.com. And, Christina, thanks again so much for hanging out with me today.

Kristina Stanley [00:47:09]:

Thank you, Mark. It was an absolute pleasure.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:47:12]:

Of course. And goodbye, everyone. We’re just gonna leave you with a word about draft2digital print.

Kevin Tumlinson [00:47:18]:

Ebooks are great, but there’s just something about having your words in print, Something you can hold in your hands, put on a shelf, sign for a reader. That’s why we created Dedede Print, a print on demand service that was built for you. We have free beautiful templates to give your book a pro look, and we can even convert your ebook cover into a full wraparound cover for print. So many options for you and your books. And you can get started right now at DraftDigital. That’s it for this week’s self publishing insiders with Draft2Digital. Be sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts and share the show with your will be author friends, and start, build, and grow your own self publishing career right now at draft2digital.com.