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Friday, 21 July 2017

5 Tips to Help You Write a Novel!

Start with a Bang!

The beginning of a book is where you will set the stakes for your story. How do you do this? Start your story with tension, action, or a problem. I always begin with a conflict. This enables me to introduce the reader to the plot in a way that will grip them and hopefully keep them turning the pages. 

In freelance, journalism, short stories, novellas etc. the key ingredient is to hook your reader, just as you’d hook a publisher when querying them; writing a novel is no different. Bring the reader into your story by setting up the action. Keep your reader engaged by giving droplets of information about your character and the plot, or sub plots while building toward the climax of the story.

Backstory and Exposition

As authors we are always told to keep the story moving forward. When telling backstory writers often get confused with how to continue forward when it is a contradiction to the rule. Tell, not show the reader in a paragraph, or page important facts relevant to the character or setting. 

Exposition is breaking away from the action to give information. You will need to decide when it is appropriate to place necessary background facts within your novel. This can be tricky, but always remember the story comes first. 
Do not bog down the plot with flashbacks of exposition. What I like to always remember for exposition is…telling it when the story allows.  

* Three ways to present your exposition is to place it into the scene, put it between scenes, or let a character explain. 


Write them to be tangible. If your character is the antagonist, who is a serial killer, explain how they became this way by foreshadowing, inner dialogue, and actions of other characters. Do not assume your reader doesn’t care who the antagonist is because he is the bad guy. Make it believable, and always ask yourself why, when flushing out character biographies. 

Do not change the rules. Characters that don’t follow his/her actions will pull the reader from the story. When you’ve written a character that is shy and timid then all of a sudden she is argumentative and abrasive you will piss your reader off. There is nothing like being stopped dead in a book from poor characterization. If your character starts out meek and mild but you want her to become stronger, build toward it. Do not change her in a few pages. People don’t behave this way. Keep it real.

Sub plots

Well handled, subplots can deepen the story’s background, and be used as pacing to turn the action from a break in the plot. If you’re going to have one or two subplots pertaining to the main characters, start the first one right in the beginning of the story. If you’re choosing to have your subplot around someone other than your protagonist, allow the reader to get to know them first before starting the subplot.

Subplots should be woven throughout the novel, each taking a turn at being the central point of the story. This can be complicated and I’d advise taking notes on subplots so you don’t get confused.

Tie up loose ends. Like plots, subplots need development, crisis, and resolution. Even if the subplot is minimal, treat it the same way you would your plot. Mention to it once in a while throughout the story. Try to write the subplots predicament to be directly involved with the main plot.


This is the end of your story. Similar to the beginning, the end will solve the problem you’ve built the reader up to throughout the whole story. Endings can come in three ways, happy, unhappy or both together. It is up to you, and the story you’ve written as to which way you will end things. 

The resolution is the winding down of the rocky middle. Here you will resolve the central conflict. The main plot will end, and if you choose to write a series, you can keep a sub plot open, but do not leave the reader guessing on your central plot. Wrap it up!

Happy Writing!


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.