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

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

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.

 

 

Counting the Cost

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I’ve been encouraged to keep going with my writing, but I have some questions. Unless I can answer those churning thoughts, the future looks vague.

What is the true cost of writing?

Does writing have a price, a value?

What is a true measure of a book’s worth?

I’ve been writing some book reviews so perhaps that is where the worth is measured – in writing a book that garners five-star reviews. I have finally got my first review for the second edition of Spiral of Hooves and it was a five. Hopefully, there will be more as don’t reviews drive sales.

However, I know as a writer that writing a review is not easy. So, I’m grateful to those that bother. It’s only been two months since the new edition of Spiral of Hooves was released – plenty of time. And there are thirteen reviews from the first edition across Amazon US and UK.

The real question is: Will the sales cover the financial costs of releasing that second edition. At present, probably not, as I estimate that I need one thousand sales to cover the costs so far. What were those costs?

Formatting      $50

Cover               $160

Publishing       $17.19 [proof copy]

Promotion       $226.59

Giveaways      $488.05

TOTAL           $941.83

Can I afford to publish another book? How much of my costs will even a small press cover? Can I justify the cost that is not included above thanks to some very generous editors?

Even if I find a small press – or an agent – I still need to be prepared to find an editor. I can go cheap, but that is foolish. The cost of a professional editor can be a $1,0000 or more. My current WIP, Fates Maelstrom, will require at least one if not three ‘sensitivity readers’ at $250 each. There is good editing software – like Fictionary – to reduce the number of paid edits, but that costs as well. $1,500 and rising.

Bottom line is that I’m retired and bills like medical, insurance, and HOA, as well as household expenses, are the priorities – followed by helping the family.

So – what should I do?

Give up writing?

Find a benefactor?

Write another 50k first draft for NaNoWriMo next month to postpone the decision?

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Writers, Have You Rocked The Vault?

Yesterday, I posted a review of The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces, and today I’m celebrating its release date with authors Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. Congratulations ladies. 🙂 

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As this is there day, they have the comm, or the floor, here at Writing Wings.

 

It is a writer’s job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them.

Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader’s world in all the ways that count most?

The Setting Thesaurus DuoWell, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.

And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!

 

 

Shifting Storylines

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

It’s March 2nd and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly post.

Last month, I said, “I may be Insecure but I’m putting aside the whining and complaining – for a few days at least.” Well that only lasted a week or so, and then I spiralled into a pit of inactivity. Part of that was due to the ongoing delay in getting to the US.

And there’s the shifting sands that are my novels and their storylines.

What do you do when the comments from beta readers/critique partners/writing group colleagues/editors or whoever throw up new angles on your fantastic tale?

I attempt to take them on board – if they ring true. However, it often means another re-write and sometimes that can be radical.

With my debut novel, “Spiral of Hooves”, I had to re-work the whole timeline and some of the characters after my writers group pointed out ways of improving the storyline. It was better for the changes – I think.

I’ve just had a thorough critique on “Storms Compass”, and I can see where the fellow writer was coming from. However, I now face a major rewrite that will include adding scenes, explanations, descriptions, clarification – plus deleting whole chunks that are subplots that don’t tie in.

Do I trim frantically? Do I incorporate Book 2 to make a more rounded storyline?

So many questions. Perhaps I will put “Storms Compass” on a back-burner = bury it in my personal slush pile. I can then return, one day, to the novel I revised during NaNoWriMo 2015 – “Fates Maelstrom”. Or does that have the same built-in failings?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the March 2 posting of the IWSG are Lauren Hennessy, Lisa Buie-Collard, Lidy, Christine Rains, and Mary Aalgaard! 

Wisholute or Chaos?

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This is my first post of 2015 and my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post of the year. Before I tackle the resolution chestnut, I have to introduce myself. Guess I need to update my About Me page… at some point.

Until the MonSter called multiple sclerosis swiped me down, I was a freelance equestrian journalist, and photographer. I was diagnosed with MS in January 2000 and by 2005 I retired, unable to meet any deadlines. My second wife, Juanita is now my understanding and put-upon carer, and we live in Harlech, North Wales, with a brilliant view of Snowdon.

When the MS is behaving, and my pain is calm, I write fiction. My first novel, ‘Spiral of Hooves’ was published in December 2013, and I have various projects on the go.

First Snow on Snowdon ~ Juanita Clarke

First Snow on Snowdon ~ Juanita Clarke

So why ‘wisholute’?

My writer friend Ailsa Abraham coined this clever word as an alternative to ‘resolution’. Don’t we all manage to fulfil just a fraction of our resolutions? In many cases, they are closer to ‘wishes’ driven by intent of some sort. Great for Insecure writers like me. So I don’t make them – well not often.

My simple ‘wisholute’ was “Find a Brit publisher and finish one tale…” by which I meant, my US publisher is great for my equestrian series, but being in the UK I would like to find a similar Brit publisher. And my insecurity kicks in when it comes to my next publishing step.

Do I chance that my ‘Gossamer Flames’ saga is worthy of beta readers? Are there any out there that will want to read it?

Should I focus instead on revising ‘Fates Maelstrom’ and re-locating it in North Wales?

Do I suppress the urge to write yet another first draft to put in the bottom oven to simmer?

Well, I’m taking part in the 100k in 100 days Challenge and have a loose strategy of edit-create-revise: on the days when I need to Blog/vent/rant etc I do; on the days when I get inspired to review one of the books I managed to read in 2014, I do; when I get the urge to bring new characters alive in ‘Seeking A Knife’, I do; and I intend to make those short stories ready for the brave beta readers out there, wherever.

And for my reading I am multi-tasking too – I have three books on the go, and just acquired one set locally, to get my head ready for that revision I mentioned.

Trouble is, that insecurity might be feeding the multi-tasking. Should that be chaos? Not if we are creating words and worlds for valued readers. As IWSG says, “Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!”

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

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The awesome co-hosts for the January 7 posting of the IWSG will be Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace!

Purpose: 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!

Please visit others in the group and connect with the awesome writers out there. Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG