Figuring out Fictionary

 

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When I was approaching the final third of my fourth rewrite of Fates Maelstrom, I felt that I had ‘lost the plot’. I wasn’t sure what to do until I was introduced to the online editing tool Fictionary by their CEO and lead developer, mystery writer Kristina Stanley who said it might help.

Although my draft wasn’t finished, the rewrite in Scrivener had the final third of draft three as guide notes. Fictionary showed me how to create and upload a docx file from Scrivener.

From that file, Fictionary automatically generated the following overviews:

  • Story Arc
  • Word Count per Scene
  • Scenes per Chapter
  • Characters per Scene
  • Scenes Per Character
  • Point of View

Before I could start using the editing features, I was prompted to confirm my cast of thousands – well almost two hundred. Many of these were characters mentioned but who never appeared like ancestors and other relations.

WARNING: I made the error of deleting the ones that seemed minor – as well as names of mentioned authors like Agatha Christie, and I deleted names like Ford and Guinness. At this stage, variations/mis-spellings of a character’s name come up as different characters, so you can correct that – or note the errors.

Here’s a screenshot of part of my Cast List.

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The Character function proved cleverer than me as in every scene you can select ‘Characters in the scene’ and ‘Characters mentioned’, but only the former is used for analysis in the above Overviews and the other ‘Visualize’ reports. Next time, I won’t be deleting those ‘unimportant’ names since they can help as well – I’ve had to add them back in.

This Cast list also shows where characters have similar names, so those clashes might be worth changing.

I like the way in Fictionary that as you evaluate each scene, the visualisation of your novel grows. I have only worked through some aspects of my scenes to tackle what I need to do, but that was enough to demonstrate the potential available.

In the words of Fictionary:

Fictionary helps you evaluate and edit your manuscript until you are satisfied your story works. The Visualize page lets you see your story like never before with automated reports such as the Story Arc.

The Evaluate page helps you consider key elements of fiction for Character, Plot, and Setting on a scene-by-scene basis. As you capture information for each element, Fictionary builds out your Story Map report.

You’ll alternate between Visualize and Evaluate until you’re happy with every scene in your manuscript. When your Fictionary edit is complete, you can Export your manuscript back to Word.

Hence, the following reports required me to consider and add information on my manuscript when I was evaluating my scenes:

  • Story Map
  • Scenes Opening / Closing Types
  • Purpose of Scene
  • Setting Elements Per Scene

As I said, I haven’t evaluated every element in many scenes but at a glance, the Visualize page began to show potential problems with my draft so I had to make some immediate amendments to lend some sense to my chaos.

Let’s go back to my first shock – the cast of thousands. There was one omission – my main protagonist called Sparkle. Computer programmes get fooled by ordinary nouns as proper names – I know of a writer called Rose who has that problem with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Once Sparkle was recognised, I got this POV chart:

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Visualize is showing the three main POVs, my progress in confirming their scenes, the number of scenes they are in,  the percentage for each POV and at the bottom the scenes in novel order with the POV character identified. Ignore the POVs with two or less scenes as they are news reports or similar. From overviews like this, I began to see how I could take one POV character, Brogan Keyes – the purple column – and without losing the character, I could envisage a better plotline unfolding.

On the left of this Fictionary screenshot, you can see a list of all the elements that you can show reports on – too many to assess individually here. Let’s look at one of the main ones – the Story Map. This is where all your evaluated details end up, generating an overview that has so many applications. Ultimately it will help you see where the manuscript can be improved as you edit.

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There is a choice between the Full Story Map or just a selection as I have here. If I want, I can identify all the missing elements that are easy to fill in – like Scene Name, Location, and Date. The more information that I ‘identify’, the better the visualisation and the better my edit.

Adding scene names in the messed up third of the novel has already help me visualise how the plot is unfolding. I had created an Excel breakdown of the first half of the novel and was about to create an Aeon Timeline file as well, but Fictionary is creating a better variation, especially as the programme encourages me to assess each scene.

When I did the first Fictionary pass, I identified all the POV goals and every scene’s purpose – on Kristina Stanley’s recommendation. This proved to be a valuable step in identifying scenes that could be tightened or removed.

My Story Map has many blanks still, so I will be using the other elements to assess my manuscript, but I am already making a lot of sense of the novel with the help of Fictionary.

Here’s my opening scene on the Evaluation page, showing the text in the middle where you do the edits, the manuscript scene list on the left, and the key element tabs that feed the Story Map on the right.

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Please note that my scenes weren’t in chapters in Scrivener, only headings, so Fictionary created a Chapter for each scene – except when I had two or more scenes under one heading so that correctly became one chapter.

At most stages, there are quick ways of checking elements in a scene like here with ‘characters involved’ or ‘mentioned’ via the View Characters button. If there isn’t a way in-scene then I go to Visualize and try there. When you move between Visualize and Evaluate, those ‘tabs’ remain on what you were last looking at – and they update if you press the Save button.

Even with this scene, I have yet to complete every element but now that I know where I am going, I can rewrite the novel with the help of all the Fictionary tools. I have the choice to edit the draft in Fictionary and then export my finished manuscript, or if there are major changes go back to Scrivener as I’m doing.

This has been a mere glance at what this software offers, but I will continue to use it and learn about it along the way. Sometime in the near future, I will write another post about my experiences Figuring out Fictionary.

Bugs? More like omissions that are likely to be fixed. Sometimes I found missing aspects, but that is where being involved in an ongoing piece of software is so good. The developers are open to suggestions on things to add. Like one cool feature: from some Visualize reports you can activate a pop-up of the scene concerned. There were some places where I wanted this feature, but it wasn’t available – well not yet. When I asked about or suggested something, the change was either coming or my suggestion would be taken on board.

Another feature that would help, is being able to move scenes around. I do this quite often in Scrivener and the process works well. In Fictionary, I must create a blank scene then cut & paste – slower but it works. Again, that’s a suggestion that was taken on-board.

Beyond the guides on site, there are regular articles posted or sent to subscribers – like this post on The Purpose of a Scene:

https://kristinastanley.com/2018/02/08/ensure-the-purpose-of-a-scene-is-engaging-your-readers/

To get a taste of this online editing tool, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial as I did initially. Then you upload your 50,000+ word manuscript and start your Fictionary story edit.

And if you sign up by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered in The Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest hosted in partnership with FriesenPress.

Grand Prize – One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes: $200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details to enter the contest and check out this recommended online editing tool, Fictionary.

Four stars for this evolving software and five stars for the support team.

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#IWSG Mystery Love

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Today is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and a chance to promote the Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest.

First, the IWSG post:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Although I write in various genres – mystery, SF/speculative, fantasy, alternative history and even children – Mystery must be the one that I write in most often.

My debut was an equestrian mystery – Spiral of Hooves – so its sequels will be. My current series is a mystery/police procedural – Snowdon Shadows. Even draft novels in other genres have a strong mystery element.

Yes, I love a perplexing mystery and my mind enjoys devising the twists. When I read a good mystery, especially by a master like Agatha Christie, I try to outthink the ‘detective’ but usually fail. However, when I finish a great mystery novel, I like looking back to see how the story was crafted, for instance with the clues buried in the text at key points. Learning how to use red herrings, deceit, and well-timed distractions are something that I still need to take on board.

One of my favourite examples is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with its brilliant twist ending. How this was achieved is masterful and one reason why I keep writing and reading Mysteries. A modern favourite in a similar vein, and also a lesson in crafting a mystery, is Sally Quilford’s The Secret of Lakeham Abbey.

You can flick through my Book Reviews to see how many Mystery novels I read. What do you recommend? What genre do you read and/or write? And why?

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The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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I am currently using a brilliant tool for online editing my current WIP and I highly recommend it. Fictionary was developed for writers by writers and makes many of the tasks after writing an early draft much simpler.

If you sign up with Fictionary for a free 10-day trial by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered for the contest to win a Grand Prize of a lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Path. There are also additional prizes – further details and sign-up at https://fictionary.co/Finish-your-novel-contest/

I will be doing an assessment of Fictionary in the next day or so, looking at the various elements that I have been using – or intend to use.