NaNoWriMo and What Comes After…

NaNoWriMo starts in 10 days. I’m already planning how I’m going to get through the crazy month, and I”m a little nervous. I did Camp NaNoWriMo last July and made it past the 50,000 word mark. But it was hard.

What worked for me? A participant needs to write 1667 words every day to get to 50,000. I wrote 2000 words a day (ok tried to) at the beginning of the month, so I would have less to write each day when the end of the month drew close and I was getting tired.

Then the big question. What happens after NaNoWriMo?

To answer that question, I decided to build my own app for rewriting. Feedback is an app to help writers turn a first draft into a great story.

I’m looking for early input from other writers. Would you help by dropping over to my new site and checking out what we’re building? Perhaps signing up to our newsletter.

Here’s is my latest blog from



Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, you’ve completed a first draft. Congratulations! Now what?

If you’re anything like me, you’re asking yourself:

  • Where do I start my manuscript rewrite?
  • How do I keep track of all the writing tips I’ve read and apply them to my story?
  • What should I change to make my story better?
  • Am I ready to share my manuscript…

Source: Feedback For Fiction | FEEDBACK: A New App To Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story


Write Better Fiction: Scene Word Count

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover Scene Word Count. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor.

When writing genre fiction you should know the length of the novel that is acceptable for your genre, but what about words per scene?

Do you think word count per scene is important?

I do, and here’s why.

Word count per scene is the number of words in a scene. A scene or several scenes will make up a chapter, the chapters get you to the novel. I know, obvious, right? But how can you analyze your word count to improve your novel?

Same number of words per scene: An author may choose to write scenes that are all a similar length. Let’s say 1800 to 2200. They create a novel in this format, then they acquire readers, and the readers come to expect the flow a similar word count per scene would generate. It might be risky for the author to change once she has established a following for her style.

Variable Number of Words Per Scene: In theory, you could have a scene as short at one work and as long as the entire novel. These are extremes of course.

Potential pitfalls with word count:

One long scene: You write a novel with scenes that range from one paragraph in length to 1200 words, but you have one scene that is 2500 words. When the reader gets to this scene, he is going to wonder why so much time has been allocated to the scene. Either the author didn’t notice one scene was way too long, or he did on purpose because something very important is happening in the scene.

My spreadsheet has a column for scene word count. I then have Excel graph the scene lengths.  I have a quick look for anything that stands out as unusual and ask myself why I wrote the scene this way. This graph would extend to the number of chapters in the novel.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 5.53.30 PM

What Stands Out?

Chap 2: The first scene in only 50 words long. This is very short compared to the other scenes in the novel.

Is it too short compared to the rest of the scenes? In this case, am I trying to create an effect of shock, or fast pace, or intrigue?

Chap 3: This chapter only has two scenes where every other chapter in the novel has three scenes.

Was this done on purpose? Was it a mistake? Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve by the number of scenes in a chapter. You could also create this graph on a per chapter basis and ask yourself the same questions as per on a chapter basis.

Chap 4:  This scene is 2500 words long. The graph shows you it’s out of balance with the other scenes in the novel.

Is a scene too long compared to others? In this case, I must ask what is so special about this scene. If nothing, then I’ll consider breaking the scene into two or more scenes.

This type of analysis is done when an author has finished her first draft. It’s a bird’s eye view of the structure and allows her to check the pacing and flow of her story.

I critiqued DESCENT, BLAZE and AVALANCHE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher. And speaking of publishers, Imajin Books has released  AVALANCHE for pre-order at $0.99 USD for a limited time. This way, my readers get a little gift of a sale price before the novel is released.

Please let me know in the comments below if you examine your word count by scene and why you do this?

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Scene Exit Hook

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover The Exit Hook. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor.

Everyone knows the cliche hook, line, and sinker. You can apply that to your scene but think of it as entry hook, scene middle, and exit hook. You’ll need all three of these elements in every scene to create a story your readers can’t put down.

The Exit Hook:

An exit hook is the thing that will keep your reader wanting to start the next scene.

You can ask yourself: Why would the reader keep reading once they reach the end of a scene?

Hook, LINE, SinkerTypes of Exit Hooks:

  1. Cliff Hanger – perhaps your protagonist’s life is at risk.
  2. Revelation – show the reader something that will change the course of the story.
  3. Set back for protagonist or antagonist – one of these characters should be very unhappy about the latest event.
  4. A secret revealed – you can either reveal a full secret or only part of a secret.
  5. A question left hanging – this will tease the reader, making them want the answer.
  6. An unexpected plot twist – this will keep the reader guessing.

Like scene entry hooks, varying the types listed above will make the novel more interesting for your reader.

You don’t want the reader to get to the end of a scene and be bored. You want them to resist going to bed, or making dinner, or going for a walk, and instead, keep reading.

Your challenge this week: Go through your manuscript and list the type of endings you have for each scene. Do you vary them? Have you used all the types? If you have other types, please list them in the comments below and help other readers learn from your experience.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions how to check whether a scene middle is strong enough?

AGTSBNBAnd just for something different.  I’m happy announce that THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOK TO NON-BOOKSTORES is now available for pre-order on Kobo and Google Play The release date is May 28th, 2016.

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Characters in a Scene – too few/too many?

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover the Characters In A Scene. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

We’ve discussed using our spreadsheet to balance the number of scenes the protagonist and antagonist are in. But what about other characters? There is a columns for that too.

In the column called characters, list all characters in the scene. This includes characters that don’t have a name. The bartender, the skier, the person on the street, etc. I include animals as characters. The animal may or may not have a name. If you’ve read DESCENT, you know Chica is a character that is a yellow labrador. In BLAZE, a grizzly bear has a scene, but it’s not named. They both get listed in this column.

The character column helps

  • keep track of characters from one scene to another. If a character is in one scene, and the next scene is in the same location, then either the character has to still be there or you must write his/her exit. This column will keep you from having randomly disappearing characters.
  • you assess whether you have too many characters or too few in a scene.
  • you count how many times the protagonist and antagonist appear together.

If you get feedback from beta readers that you have too many characters, this column will help look for places you could cut characters or combine two characters into one.

Your challenge this week is to list all the characters in each scene.  Have you given your protagonist and antagonist a fair amount of time in your novel?

Please me know in the comments below if keeping track of characters in a scene helped you tighten your writing. Did you edit out any characters?

Thanks for reading…


If you’d like to check out DESCENT or BLAZE the links are below:

When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

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?

Write Better Fiction: Scene Naming

Feedback iconToday on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover NAMING A SCENE. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

Last week I wrote about the action in a scene. Maybe it seems odd I chose to fill out the action before naming the scene, but I have a strategy for this.

Did you find it hard to describe a scene in three sentences or less? Well, naming a scene is harder, but it help you hone the scene.

Scene NamesNow I’m going to ask you to use one word to name the scene. If you must, you can use two. I confess this sometimes happens to me.

Some writers list scenes with numbers only and that’s fine. For me, the exercise of naming the scene makes me narrow down what the scene is about. Since I already have the scene action defined in one to three sentences, the scene name might already exist somewhere in those words.

The Scene Name column is connected to the Purpose of a Scene column, and will help you discover what the scene is really about. The purpose of the scene is another place to look for hints on what to name your scene. At this point you may want to re-evaluate the purpose of the scene in case you’ve changed your mind based on the scene action and naming the scene.

The names of the scenes might give you insight into the theme of your novel.

Your challenge this week is to name each scene in your novel. Then let me know if this helped you focus your scenes.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Previous blog posts on Write Better Fiction:

Please me know in the comments below how you name your scene? Is it important for you to have a scene name?

Thanks for reading…

Introducing Write Better Fiction

Introducing Write Better Fiction- Give Yourself Feedback On Your Manuscript

Feedback is an important part of the writing process. There are some elements of your novel you’ll need human feedback for, but there are others you can analyze on your own. Today, I’m kicking off a series called WRITE BETTER FICTION. Every Wednesday, I’ll post on the topic of self-critiquing.

Whether you’re a panster or a plotter, the thrilling moment will arrive when you’ve written a first draft.

Are you ready for beta readers to see your work for the first time?

How do you know when it’s time for an editor and a proofreader?

Are you thinking of hitting the publish button?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to share your writing with anyone until you’ve done your best to perfect it. Maybe you’ve read hundreds of writing books, maybe you’ve taken courses and information is spinning in your head, but how do you keep track of the knowledge and ensure you’re using what you’ve learned? With a spreadsheet, of course.

Writing Books
Some of my books


A novel is made of of scenes, and scenes are made up of elements. Over the years, I’ve created a spreadsheet, and every time I learned about a scene element, I added that element to my spreadsheet.

My spreadsheet consists of  65 columns. That may seem like a lot, but each element needs to be considered if you’re writing a scene for maximum reader engagement.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 5.06.20 PM

To make analyzing easier, I’ve broken the spreadsheet into three categories.

  1. PLOT

To quote James Scott Bell in his book, PLOT & STRUCTURE, he says,“Plot happens.” To me that means it’s the action of the story. So every element not included under CHARACTER or SETTING is grouped under PLOT.

Each of these categories has a set of elements, meaning when I work on a scene I can work on more than one element at a time. Over the next 65 weeks or so, I’m going to explain how I use each element in the spreadsheet to strengthen scenes, and thereby strengthen the novel. Hence this is the first in a series of blogs I’ll tag, “Write Better Fiction.”


Once I have a completed draft, I look at the most important element of each category. Today I’ll start with PLOT.

The first element under PLOT I evaluate is the purpose of the scene. The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, then ask yourself what is the point of including the scene in your novel.

Here are some examples of the way the purpose of a scene can drive the story forward. You can choose one of these to define your purpose or come up with your own definitions.

  • Is the inciting incident
  • Introduces characters
  • Creates an emotional connection between characters and reader
  • Provides character development
  • Establishes setting
  • Introduces or intensifies conflict
  • Builds suspense
  • Establishes mood
  • Reveals a clue
  • Shows a red herring
  • Is the climax
  • Provides resolution


I articulate the purpose of the scene first, so I can address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose.

Let’s say you fill out the list of objects in a scene. You can weigh the objects against the purpose of the scene and see if there is a way to use them to further the purpose. This goes for revelations, tension, conflict, weather, etc. Basically, every scene element can be tested against the scene purpose.

After you whittle down the purpose of a scene to a few words, one of three things will happen.

  1. You’ve got the purpose nailed, and you understand why this scene is included in your novel.
  2. You have a weak purpose, but there is still some value in the scene.
  3. You have no idea what the purpose is.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.56.40 PMIf you landed on number 1, give yourself a gold star and move on to the next scene.

Number 2:  consider rewriting the scene, keeping the parts in the scene that further the plot. Or take the important bits and place them in another scene which has a strong purpose. You could also take two scenes with a weak purpose and combine them into one scene to create stronger purpose.

Number 3: consider removing the scene. We all end of with scenes that seemed relevant when we wrote them, but might not work within the novel as a whole. However, don’t delete the scene. Remember to store it somewhere. You’re next novel might have a place for it.


I don’t use my spreadsheet to evaluate voice, dialogue, balance, style, consistency, etc. For that, I think another human is the best source for feedback.

Using a spreadsheet to force yourself to critique your own writing and give yourself feedback will enable you to write better fiction.

Next week I’ll share with you the #1 question to ask yourself about CHARACTER.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the advice. Do you agree, disagree or do something different for the purpose of a scene? Do you group elements of a scene in a different way?

Thanks for reading…