Self-Editing Your Work

It’s my pleasure to have Kristina Stanley over to explain her latest project. Although she is well known for her mystery series she also is very much involved in helping authors sell their work. She is the author of The Author’s Guide to Selling Books to Non-Bookstores and her latest non-fiction is Fictionary – helping writers edit their first drafts.



I’m very pleased to be invited onto Carol’s blog to share my writing and editing journey. I’d love to tell you why we created Fictionary and how it can help you.

I’m an author who loves to edit, and I believe today’s author must be also their own structural editor.

The difficulty with editing is keeping track of writing knowledge, the time it takes, and the cost of an editor. So what if I could have writing tips focused on my manuscript, speed up the process, spend less money, AND write better fiction?

This is the story of how we created Fictionary.

What is the Fictionary?

 Fictionary will help writers turn a first draft into a great story by becoming their own big-picture editor.


With Fictionary, you can focus on character, plot, and setting. Fictionary helps you evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on the overall novel structure. Fictionary will show you the most important structural elements to work on first and guide you through the rewriting process.

Why a structural editing tool for writers?

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

I knew I had to begin the editing process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

My Worry:

How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? A spreadsheet, that’s how!

I created a spreadsheet with a chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene structure. Then I listed the different writing advice I needed to consider for EVERY scene. I ended up with over 75 “key elements of fiction”. I used the reports from the spreadsheet to visualize my novel.

The process I used was then developed into the Fictionary online tool for writers.

Did Fictionary Work For Me?        

After the hard work of self-editing, the quality of my fiction was validated when my first two novels were shortlisted for prestigious crime writing awards and I landed a two-book deal with publisher Imajin Books.

My first editor said: “If every manuscript was this good, my job would be so easy!”

The next exciting moment came when DESCENT, my first novel, hit #1 on Amazon’s hot new releases. Descent was published by Luzifer-Verlag in Germany, and I sold the audio rights to Auspicious Apparatus Press. Imajin Books also published BLAZE, AVALANCHE and LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

Building Fictionary

 I wanted to share my process, SO OTHER WRITERS COULD BENEFIT FROM AN IMMEDIATE APPROACH TO SELF-EDITING and rewriting first drafts. But who would want to use a spreadsheet?  Perhaps a fun, fast tool that helps writers visualize and self-edit their novels would be better.

I joined forces with author Michael Conn and business specialist Mathew Stanley, and we formed a company called Feedback Innovations just to build this tool for fiction writers.

You can find out more about Fictionary at

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

You can try Fictionary for free (no credit card required) for two weeks.

Download our free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The 15 Key Elements Of Fiction, and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

I’d love to hear in the comments what your biggest structural editing issue is.

Thanks for reading.



Kristina Stanley the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Feedback Innovations: a company created to help writers rewrite better fiction. She is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. DESCENT, BLAZE, and AVALANCE are published by Imajin Books. THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES is her first non-fiction book.


You can find her at:


Protagonist or Antagonist: Who to Introduce First

I recently got back a critique from a Beta reader.  When I send out a piece of writing to either an editor or a Beta reader I make sure that I’ve given it my best. I like what I’ve written and am looking forward to praise. Hurray! Ready to send out.

Not so. The piece of writing which I had sent out happened to be the opening ten pages. The stakes here are high, as you all know. Readers stop reading a novel for many reasons and when they do it varies from the first sentence to the first fifty pages or so, although I know readers who will read to the end of the book even though they are no longer interested in it. And sometimes the gems of a novel are found more towards the middle and end.

But most readers judge first on the book cover and then on your opening.

Let me mention that this Beta reader is also a published  romance writer and that we’ve been writing buddies for a good six or seven years.  I have a great deal of respect for her advice.

Still, after first reading through her  comments I felt resistance on my part. She doesn’t get my writing. She’s a romance writer and this is a crime novel.

That phase passed and I went through her comments reflecting on each of the flaws she’d pointed out.  She suggested that I begin my story with the protagonist rather than the antagonist as i had done. I know that a lot of books on writing recommend starting with the antagonist. But does it always have to be the case?

I like my chapter where I introduce my antagonist. I find it strong and maybe that’s why I chose it as the novel’s opening.

The chapter which introduces the reader to my protagonist lacked that  zap opening. Why was that? I wondered. It’s a scene between a mother and a daughter. Although I knew the daughter’s character well, I still needed to go deeper into the mother’s personality. Knowing that she’s a junkie/alcoholic who was raised in a Youth Protection Center since the age of four wasn’t enough.

I recently received the latest two thesauruses (or is it thesauri?) written by the Ackerman &Puglisi gals.   I already have the first one on emotions which is in the process of being dog-eared. I keep it close to my desk, cherishing it like an old sweater.

I went through the table of contents for both the attribute and the flaws books, going down each item, deciding whether the mother possessed that characteristic.  For the sake of efficiency,  since I was going through the lists I might as well go through them for other characters. I made a chart for six characters who play some role in the novel.

Sometimes the characteristic either just fit like a glove and at other times I came across some that I thought would be neat to include.  For example, the attribute quirky.

I’ve always liked quirky characters although I didn’t know how to write quirky but the gals’ books provided me with a list of behaviors, emotions, thoughts, conflict traits, ideas for scenarios and more. I decided to give quirky to the  detective, Alice Vireo.

I also wanted to make certain that my scene contained these five elements: action, thoughts, description, emotions, behavior.  

All of this took me about two hours but I now had traits for my characters that I can refer to as they appear in the novel as well as a clearer comprehension of these characters.

Whether this scene between mother and daughter was to become my opening scene or whether I would still keep the antagonist as my opening I could decide later. In any case, the scene needed to be re-written and even parts, as suggested by my Beta reader, to be created.

This took up a great deal of my time and I am still unsatisfied with it.

While reading K.M.Weiland’s book Structuring Your Novel I serendipitously came across her chapters on opening pages and hooks.


In reading her chapter I realized that I was not setting the tone of the story and that the conflict between the mother and daughter was not strong enough.

If you’ve read her post you know what a stickler Ms Weiland is on editing …

It has been two days that I’ve been thinking, reading about, making character charts and writing and re-writing the scene between Annie and her mother.

I’m still not done. Nor have I yet decided whether to begin with the protagonist or antagonist.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the protagonist always should begin a novel?

You can catch the Ackerman & Puglisi gals on