Figuring out Fictionary



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.


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:

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.


Avalanche – a review

Kristina Stanley is one of my writing inspirations through her Stone Mountain mysteries. For the release of Avalanche in 2016, I ran her thoughts on ‘Writing A Series’ which encouraged me in writing my Welsh police procedural. Why I put off reading Avalanche until now is another mystery, especially as I rated the first two books as five stars each.

Anyway, that lapse is now corrected so here’s my review:

Avalanche Cover Final 

Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3)

by Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

Editorial Reviews:

“A mountain as deadly as it is majestic; characters far too familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and murder—Kristina Stanley’s Avalanche has it all. This fast-paced mystery is as thrilling as a heart-stopping run down the slopes.” —Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mysteries

“Layer upon layer, like snow building for an avalanche, Stanley weaves a story that keeps you guessing. You can’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Jeff Buick, author of Bloodline

“Avalanche smashes and uproots relationships in Stone Mountain Resort, leaving devastation in its wake. With as many layers as winter’s snow, this whodunit will keep you turning pages and guessing to the end.” —James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree Series (less)


Review – 5 stars

Although Kristina Stanley says at the end of the novel that she wrote Avalanche first, this became the third book in the series. Having read and enjoyed the first two Stone Mountain mysteries, I recommend them all and suggest reading them in order. Once again, Kalin Thompson is the main protagonist, but characters from previous books return and previous incidents are cleverly referred adding to the backstory.

From the fast-moving opening when Kalin’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears, the plot twists and turns with enough clues and suspects to keep the reader thinking to the end.

There are multiple suspects when the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, but with Ray as the prime suspect, Kalin must act covertly to clear his name. How she handles her discoveries and her torn feelings about her brother’s guilt drive the main thread of the novel.

The story is tightly plotted, well-structured and, as I noted down while reading, it’s ‘edge of my snowmobile tense’. There are various suspects when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begin investigating from Ray to Kalin via other employees at Stone Mountain Resort. I kept wondering, ‘Who will be next?’, ‘Who is guilty of what?’ and ‘Who do you trust?’. Not only Kalin needed to be wary but others caught up in the events as the threat level escalated.

The suspects were gradually narrowed down, although there were enough remaining as the end drew near. Plus, the accusations against Kalin were ongoing, adding to the tension. Twists kept coming, leading to the final confrontation that I only half-guessed in advance. Key elements were cleverly foreshadowed.

The author’s characterisation is excellent in that everyone has something to distinguish them – even the lift-girl from New Zealand. The reader sees the other characters through Kalin’s eyes and through other characters’ viewpoint. The use of various POVs enhances the story and adds to the subplots, diversions and to the red herrings that I always enjoy in a mystery.

The resort offers an evocative setting and Kristina Stanley’s knowledge of that world rings true without creating unnecessary detail. From my time in Canada and my winters skiing on different hills, Stone Mountain Resort and the intrigues came alive for me.

Avalanche was a fast-paced and easy read, and, as I’ve come to expect from Kristina Stanley, and from Imajin Books, it’s well-edited. A definite recommendation if you want a pacey mystery. But read Descent and Blaze first for maximum enjoyment – not vital but best.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


Oats, Hay and Rest




Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.


I’m back home at Writing Wings for this final hitching post on ‘The Spiral of Hooves Blog Tour’. After a journey that has taken me to France, the USA, England, and Canada, the mare that I borrowed from Carly Tanner is ready for her oats and hay, while I bring this celebration of my novel’s August launch to a fitting close.

First, I must thank my fellow writers and bloggers who did so much to help me – Ailsa Abraham, Donna Galanti, Jane Bwye, Kristina Stanley and Cryssa Bazos – you are all amazing, as are those people that have given their support in other ways from sharing their knowledge at events to sharing their reactions to my novel.

There are still chances to win one of the signed copies of Spiral of Hooves that I am offering prospective readers. Giveaways are running at the following blog hitching posts where more is revealed about the book and about me. There is nothing to stop you entering at each site:  (CLOSED – Winner: Sue Barnard)  (CLOSED – Winner: Laura Thomas)  (CLOSED – Winner: Jane Bwye)  (CLOSED – Winner: Kate Collier)  (CLOSED – Winner: Char Newcomb)

The last ‘hitching post’ is this one, so make a comment below, and you will be entered in the Writing Wings draw for Spiral of Hooves. This giveaway runs until August 31st to give you all more time.

But as they say in those TV promo ads – ‘that’s not all’. There is also a giveaway on Goodreads at and that runs until September 7th.

There is a bonus as every signed book has a bookmark in it. Do you think I should give away a signed bookmark to all you ‘hitching post’ responders? Let me know while I’m feeling generous.

Just in case you are new to this blog, here are the refined details about Spiral of Hooves, without the legal small print – there isn’t any that I recall.


In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

What is Spiral of Hooves in brief?

An enthralling mystery full of twists, turns, and suspense, Spiral of Hooves is set against the competitive equestrian world of eventing. Characters are thrown together from different countries by their ambitions, ideals and desires, and by their passion for horses. Relationships are tested, and challenges surmounted as the mystery builds.

A thriller set in the high-stress, competitive environment of the horse riding life. Clarke mixes the excitement of the equestrian community with murder, romance, and friendships that are not what they seem. Clarke’s prose evokes vivid imagery, and the plot keeps you guessing. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” Kristina Stanley, Best-selling Author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Spiral of Hooves is available from Amazon on Kindle and for the first time in paperback

Although nobody in the novel resembles anyone in my working career, I have interviewed five of the characters here at Writing Wings if you want to meet them at I suspect that my devious mind wanted to challenge you when I chatted with them

Don’t forget to please make a comment below if you would like to be entered in the Giveaway for a signed copy of the Second Edition of Spiral of Hooves.

Let me know what you think about signed bookmarks.  

Are my characters as devious as me?


Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

A great line-up


On Monday, August 7th I will be surfing the internet to launch ‘Spiral of Hooves’ – the second and improved edition, now available for the first time in paperback.

I will drop by Goodreads throughout the day but be partying over on Facebook where I have gathered a great line-up of talented authors to discuss everything from eventing to highwaymen, from Africa to England, and from inspiration and research to writing tools and marketing.

There will be drinks, cake, biscuits (or cookies) and everyone is welcome from readers, riders, writers, to horses and pets. Please feel free to invite your friends. And have fun. There will be prizes including a signed copy of ‘Spiral of Hooves’.

The novel is available as a paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.


The Launch Party starts at 0900 MDT (0800 PDT – 1100 EDT – 1600 BST – 1700 CEST) on Facebook and the schedule opens with my welcome to the ‘Spiral of Hooves’ launch and then I will chat about my writing life and horses.


1000 MDT (1700 BST) – Jane Bwye, has a lifetime of amazing adventures, in Kenya and other countries, and as a dressage judge, horsewoman, and author of ‘Breath of Africa’, ‘Grass Shoots’, and ‘I Lift Up My Eyes’. Visit her at and learn much more. Jane knows the world behind ‘Spiral of Hooves’, including many of the horse events described, and at the launch party, she will have some fascinating tales to share.


1100 MDT – Roland Clarke is back to discuss settings and reality, and to introduce his next guest and friend.

Shaman's Drum

1130 MDT (1930 CEST) – Ailsa Abraham is a lady of many talents and careers, including shaman and author of many books including ‘Shaman’s Drum’, ‘Alchemy, and ‘Attention to Death.’ Visit her at and delve deeper into her writing and her adventurous life in France and at the Bingerbread Cottage. At the launch party, Ailsa will lead you into her world of mystery and beyond, lifting the veil to other worlds.


1200 MDT – Roland Clarke will return to the party and to the mysterious appearances driving our imaginations.

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1400 MDT (1600 EDT) – Donna Beckley Galanti is an author and writing coach. She is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Visit her at and and then check out her 4 Proven Steps to Connect with Readers Right Now (Before Your Book Even Comes Out!) At the launch party, Donna will chat about her wealth of experiences from writing to inspiring other writers and readers.


1500 MDT – Roland Clarke will be back – if he has left – and he will discuss how he sculpts his ideas into readable draft novels, what is in his scribbling pipeline and the crafting tools he uses.


1600 MDT (1500 PDT) – Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery series based on her experience at Panorama Mountain Village, B.C. as the director of human resources, security and guest services. The series comprises Descent, Blaze and Avalanche. Her latest novel, Look the Other Way, is a suspense thriller based on her experience sailing in the Caribbean.  Visit her at and at an indispensable writer’s tool. At the launch party, Kristina will discuss research and real life inspiration.


1700 MDT – Roland Clarke will move from this world to an alternate timeline, before introducing his last guest, whose historical novel is his current engrossing read. Yes, Roland reads historical fiction and enjoys escaping to other ages.

Traitor's Knot1800 MDT (2000 EDT) – Cryssa Bazos is published by Endeavour Press, and her debut novel ‘Traitor’s Knot’, is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War. A member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Battle of Worcester Society, her articles and short stories have appeared in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs at  At the launch party, she will talk about combining two of her fascinations: the 17th century and highwaymen.


Highwaymen must mean horses. So that sets Roland Clarke up for the final fences at 1900 MDT until 2100 MDT – a chance for you to discuss any burning topics and attempt to win a final prize.

Don’t miss the ‘Spiral of Hooves Online Re-launch’ Party on Monday, August 7th.


Writing A Series

Today, as promised, I have the pleasure of welcoming Canadian author Kristina Stanley as my Guest on Writing Wings. Kristina is the author of “Blaze“, which is Book 2 in the Stone Mountain Mystery series. I recently reviewedBlaze” and I am looking forward to the release of Book 3, “Avalanche“, tomorrow.

Over to you, Kristina.

KS 75 High Res

Thank you, Roland for having me on your site today. It’s a pleasure to be here to write about writing.

Writing a Series

Can you imagine being buried alive in an avalanche? Did you know a buried person can hear rescuers searching for him but can’t speak about because the pressure from the snow is keeping his mouth closed?

This terrifying knowledge is what I first learned about avalanches when I was researching BENEATH THE SNOW. I spoke to a man who’d been buried and survived, of course. He was generous enough to share details that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.


So why am I telling you about this when the title of the post is Writing a Series?

BENEATH THE SNOW was the working title for AVALANCHE. It’s the first novel I wrote. I then went on to write DESCENT and BLAZE (working title BURNT).

As I wrote the first novel, I wasn’t aware I was writing a series. When I finished the novel, I knew Kalin Thompson and Ben Timlin had more to say.

By the time I had three novels in the Stone Mountain series finished, I learned a great deal about writing. Working with my agent, together we decided BENEATH THE SNOW should be retitled as AVALANCHE and rewritten to be the third in the series instead of the first.

Kalin Thompson (the protagonist) needed more knowledge and experience at a ski resort if she was to investigate a large theft and the disappearance of her brother at the same time. The title changed because by then we knew all the titles in the series had to be a one-word titles.


Having three novels in a series written gave me the opportunity to develop the character arcs across the series, plant information in the first two novels that would lead to the third, and be consistent with the setting.

I also believe writing three novels before approaching a publisher gave me time to develop needed skills.


The covers for all three novels have a similar look and feel. The fabulous Ryan Doan created the artwork based on the setting of the series. The font, the text placement and cover layout are the same for each book. If a readers see my books on a shelf, they will know they go together. Because we knew ahead of time where the series going, the DESCENT cover was designed with the long term goal in mind.

Avalanche Cover Final

A Little About AVALANCHE

(To Be Released Tomorrow!):

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

A Little About Kristina Stanley:

Kristina Stanley 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. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger. Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is also the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

Before writing her series, Kristina was the director of security, human resources and guest services at a resort in the depths of the British Columbian mountains. The job and lifestyle captured her heart, and she decided to write mysteries about life in an isolated resort. While writing the first four novels, she spent five years living aboard a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas.

Find out more about her at


Links to the Stone Mountain Mystery Series:



AVALANCHE: (on sale for a few more days only.)

Blaze – a review

Having finished two novels in quick succession last week, there will be two book reviews this week as well as my Insecure Writers Support Group monthly post tomorrow.

First though a review of another mystery novel that gave me some more insights into writing an engrossing and exciting read.


Blaze (A Stone Mountain Mystery #2)

by Kristina Stanley 

Instead of exchanging vows, Kalin Thompson spends her wedding day running from a forest fire near Stone Mountain Resort, and the pregnant friend trapped with her has just gone into labor. Meanwhile, Kalin’s fiancé, Ben Timlin, hangs from the rafters of a burning building, fighting for his life. Can the situation get any hotter?

When the fire is declared as arson, finding the firebug responsible becomes Kalin’s personal mission. In the course of her investigation as Director of Security, she discovers that some people will go to extreme measures to keep her from exposing their secrets.

Having enjoyed Kristina Stanley’s winter mystery Descent, Book 1 of the Stone Mountain series, I was looking forward to No 2 Blaze, and I wasn’t disappointed.

From the moment the forest fire ruins Kalin and Ben’s wedding plans, I was swept up in the crises and life-threatening situations. There are moments of calm, time for reflection, but there are always questions driving the reader along. So I didn’t tarry too long.. We know that nothing runs smoothly for a busy Director of Security, even when the RCMP are doing their job. Kalin has to be involved.

The plot was fast-paced and well-structured, with enough neat red herrings to keep me guessing almost to the end – just like in Descent. Although this works as a standalone, it’s best to read Descent first, as other reviewers have said. Then you become familiar with some of the characters, as well as some past events. Nothing crucial but that adds colour.

The clever interaction between the well-painted characters, many new, gives the novel sub-plots that enrich the read, and take Blaze beyond a mystery. Yet these emotional subplots interplay with the crises that weave through the lives at Stone Mountain Resort. And the dog characters are well integrated – not surprising as the author owns one.

Once again, Kristina Stanley has captured the atmosphere of her setting, whether it’s being ravaged by fire or in the vistas from the slopes that attract other outdoor pursuits suited to the season. Here skiing has given way to mountain biking.

The winter beckons though and I can’t wait for Avalanche, Book 3 of the Stone Mountain Mystery series.