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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Romancing Your Novel With A Big-Picture Edit

Thank you, Kat for having me on your blog. It’s an honor to post here about editing a romance novel. This is about editing the story structure not the words.

There are many areas to evaluate when editing a first draft, and today I’ll cover four Key Elements of Fiction important to romance novels.

Point of View

Characters on Stage

Spice (Conflict and Tension)

Purpose of each Scene

Even in real life, romance takes effort. The same is true for creating a romance novel that sizzles.

Point of View

Point of View (POV) is the perspective the story is told from. It is generally accepted that each scene is written from the point of view of one character.

In a romance novel, you have to make choices on who the POV character will be. It can be mostly the hero, mostly the heroine, or an equal balance between the two. By using both points of view, you’ll be showing the feelings and thoughts from both characters.

The Feedback tool for writers illustrates how many scenes each POV character has and what order they appear in. In Look The Other Way, Shannon (heroine) has the POV for 47 scenes, and Jake (hero) has the POV for 37 scenes. The graph along the bottom shows the order of the point of view, allowing me to make sure I’m switching between the hero and heroine regularly.

Characters on Stage

There can only be romance if both the hero and heroine are in a scene together. Keep track of how many scenes you have where only one is in the scene versus scenes where both characters are onstage. The Feedback app does this for you.

Below, Jake and Shannon are both in the scene along with another character Debi Hall. Kendra is Jake’s cousin and is only mentioned in the scene. The scene is from Jake’s point of view, so the reader will see and hear things from his view point only. The reader won’t know what Shannon thinks or feels unless Jake comments on it or thinks about it or Shannon says something.


To keep the story exciting there must be conflict and tension between the hero and heroine. If you’re writing a happy-ending romance, the hero and heroine will resolve the conflict and tension by the end of the story and live happily ever after.

The two can be working toward the same goal, but maybe they go about it differently and that causes the tension. This resolution must not happen until the end. Each scene until the end must have conflict or tension or both.

Feedback enables you to see what conflict and tension are in each scene. You can see if the tension and conflict are in line with the purpose of scene. Just make sure you have either conflict or tension in every scene. You don’t have to have both.

Here you’re getting a sneak peek at my work in progress, Evolution.

Purpose of Each Scene

The romance genre requires a special look at the purpose of each scene. In a mystery, the sole purpose of a scene may be to drop a clue or a red herring into a scene. But in a romance novel, the purpose of a scene may revolve around character development, driving the romance forward, or driving the romance backward.

Here are some of the key scenes you’ll need.

• Introduce heroine and set up her world

• Introduce hero and set up his world

• Inciting incident – something happens in their world that will cause them to meet.

• First kiss

• Plot point one – the hero and heroine face something difficult

• Middle – the characters can’t turn back to the story. They may also decide they are not right for each other.

• First quarrel

• Plot point two – their relationship is at its worst

• Finally get together

• Resolution

In the following, which is the Feedback insight into Purpose of Scene for my work in progress Evolution, you can see in the first 9 scenes, the hero and heroine meet, there is tension between them and they have their “first kiss.” You can also see 44% of the scenes in this novel are moving the story forward. This means there is more than romance in the story and the hero and heroine have a goal they are desperate to achieve.

Feedback will help you keep track of the romance and its progression as you self-edit your novel.

More Self-Editing Advice

If you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing – 15 Key Elements Of Fiction To Make Your Story Work and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.

Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app.

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…  

Kristina Stanley is the author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated her first novel for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated her second novel for the Debut Dagger. She is published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
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.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

I Choose Love...

When I chose to write the first book LAKOTA HONOR in the Branded Trilogy I was inspired by the hate within our world. I know what you’re thinking…inspired by hate how could that be? Well, the act itself moved me to write a novel about the effects hate can cause.

People hate. It is a fact, and whether we like to admit it or not we’ve all done it.

I wondered what would cause someone to hate so unjustly, or righteously? Where does it come from? Bad things happen to influence one's thinking, and like Otakatay he had a lot of bad in his life. In turn he grew to become his circumstance. He harbored hate for those around him because it was shown toward him. Does this mean his actions are justified? I guess that would depend on who you ask, but since this is my blog, and my opinion, I say no.

Hate should not become detestation. Anger should not become rage. Bitterness should not become resentment.

I could not write a man who was filled with this emotion to not be without faults. We are not perfect.
Everyone makes mistakes, speaks badly about others, and has a time or two, wished ill will toward their neighbor. I created a real person within Otakatay, one with faults, with anger, with hate, with resentment but also with love.

I believe there is love in everyone.

Some choose to bury it, while others chose to live it. If Otakatay  did not have love deep inside of him, even though he refused to acknowledge it more than once, he wouldn’t have been able to heal--to forgive. And I desperately wanted that for him.

Nora was the other way. She’d been dealt a similar hand as Otakatay. She’d experienced greed, lust, hate and resentment. She chose to love anyway no matter what the cost. She forgave her father for the wrong he'd done. She put herself in danger time and time again because she loved and in turn was judged, ridiculed and almost put to death. But one thing remained the same for her…love.

As I wrote these characters stories, I began to understand why they chose the paths they did. They were human…well at least to me they were. Their actions caused reactions, from Otakatay being a half-breed, to Nora healing with her hands. They were not accepted among their own kind—within their own families.

So who’s fault was it? The answer to your question is no one.

None of us are perfect. Not the villain, Elwood Calhoun who despised anyone of colour. Not Jack,
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Nora’s drunken father who resented his daughter to the point he wished her dead. Not Otakatay for killing to fulfill a promise, and not Nora for insisting she use her gift to help those in need.

Not one of these characters was any worse than the others. They all just chose a different path. They decided to become the hate, the anger, the greed, the pity and the love that was inside of them. They made decisions that altered their lives. And yet there was empathy for Otakatay, Jack and maybe a little for Elwood. There was pity for Nora and the gift she’d been given.

I chose to write the story this way.
I chose to believe there is still kindness within the world, whether it be in 1887 or 2017. I wanted my reader to feel for the man who had suffered at the hands of his father, who had been enslaved, who had made a promise. I wanted them to yearn for his salvation.

I look around at the world we live in. I see and hear things that hurt me all of the time. I’ve witnessed hate, vile and disgusting. I’ve also witnessed love of the truest kind.

I choose to be love.

I strive to not point fingers, to not accuse, to not despise. I strive to be happy for those around me, to love when it’s not given and to smile when I am frowned upon.

I forgive those who have done me wrong for I am no better than they are. 

How can I profess to be a good person if I do not see my own faults first? How can I point fingers if I don’t first point them back toward myself? But most importantly how can I love if I cannot give love?


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."   ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Getting My S**t Together!

Have you ever been in a slump? You know, one of those ‘I don’t have the drive to do anything’ kind of blahs? I was in one for a long time, and am slowly crawling out of it, but let me tell you this does not happen overnight. Nope. It can take days, weeks, and sometimes months.

My slump started after my brother passed away a few years ago, and even though I was able to write two books in that time, I was not able to do more. In fact it pulled me completely out of my routine of daily activities, writing, and marketing. Instead I needed to grieve, and spend extra time with my family.

Last year I still felt out of sorts. I needed a change, get out of the house and meet new people. 
So I decided to go back to work full time at first and then part time. This was great. I loved it, but I also got further and further from my life as a writer. I began feeling like I wasn’t myself; the urge to write was so overwhelming it made me miserable. I had no time…and when I did, something always came up. 

Son #1 needed me to help him into adulthood, Son #2 needed me to drive him somewhere, Son #3 had a basketball game. It was constant, and even though the want to write was always there I became frustrated. 
I could not find the time to fulfill my need to tap away on my computer. I grew more and more restless, angry and then depressed. I had deadlines to meet, stories to tell, and all of it was not going to happen if I did not get my shit together. 

What was the problem? 

Why couldn’t I find time to do all of the things I used to do?

It boiled down to one thing.


I’ve always had one. While raising my boys I would’ve never made it without a routine. My husband works out of town and so most of the day to day activities were my responsibility. I took the boys to hockey, lacrosse, ran a house hold and business and still wrote books. So what was my excuse?

I had no schedule!

I’m a borderline OCD introvert with a love for whiskey…I know what you’re thinking that spells disaster, but for me it is what drives me to do the things I'd put off otherwise. It is what has gotten me this far in my writing career. The fear of not finishing. The desire to have it all. The passion to write a great story that will stay with my readers for a long time. It is the wanting to learn new things, to have a close relationship with my boys, to be a good friend, a good wife. It is my makeup if you will...my inner clock timing things to where I can accomplish them without going insane. It is my determination to get things done, no matter how much sleep I am deprived of. And my love for the written word and wanting to be a part of it. 

Getting back into this mode was not an easy task. I had to set the routine in place and follow it, and I am happy to report I am heading back down the path. I have two books to write this year, and others to follow, and more importantly my family, who will always have my time first.  

Perseverance is the word that best describes my new journey, and no matter what…I will survive.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Soup and Writing...

There is a moment, and it happens for me often when I am taken to another time, or another place. Where I witness a glimpse of a story. Scenes dance within my sight, some blurry, some clear, and a yearning to see it all overcomes me.

Yesterday I had a moment. It was a short one, nothing that I could sit down and write an 85,000-word novel with, but it was the start. It was the beginning of a brew, a concoction of sorts that will soon be given a hearty dose of substance any good  story needs.

It is time to make soup.

Yes, my stories are much like soup, a warm cup of bisque that nourishes the soul. Who doesn’t like soup? It has the necessity for anyone to live AND sustains my need to write.

But just like any recipe if you don’t have the right ingredients your soup will become bland and boring, and worse uneaten. You have to crave the flavor, the mixture of spices blended together to entice your senses.

I can stir a pot of flavorless broth for months, with nothing to add to it. I will not lie this perplexes,
frustrates, and yes, you guessed it causes me to drink more than I already do. When there is no base to your soup, you end up with just water, a murky broth that even the dog won’t eat.

It takes patience, and I have none.

I’m Italian for goodness sakes time is something we are not good at. However, these things need to work themselves out…and so I ponder the characters, their conflicts, who, what, where, and damn it, why?

I stoke the fire, heating the broth as I stir some more.

This moment—this soup—will become more than cloudy water. It will become my life for the next three months. I will eat, sleep and breathe my brew allowing it to wrap around my heart and move my fingers to tell the story that has been dormant inside of my soul.

I will write until the pot is empty, until I have nothing left and then…I will make more soup.