The Importance of Failure

Failure will make your point of view character human. Failure will add tension to your scene. Failure drives your character and your story forward.

What is the goal?

The reader should understand early in each scene what the POV character’s goal is.

How Serious Is The Goal?

In each scene, the POV character may or may not reach the goal. As a writer, even if the character reaches the goal, you need to understand what’s at stake if he doesn’t. If there isn’t much at stake, there won’t be enough tension in the scene.

If the character’s goal is to have a cup of coffee and he doesn’t get it, will the reader care? Probably not. But what if he wants a cup of coffee, and there is poison in the coffee? Now there is a lot a stake — his life — and the tension just ratcheted up a notch.

To Fail or Succeed?

In some scenes, the POV character should reach the goal, and in others, he should not.

A character who reaches every goal will be unbelievable and won’t be struggling. There won’t be enough tension to keep the reader engaged.

A character who fails at reaching every goal could be hard to empathize with. Again, the character won’t be believable, and your reader may lose interest.

Having a balance of succeeding and failing will keep your reader guessing and engaged in your story. If your story is upbeat, have more successes. If your story is dark, more failure is in order.

The Reaction

Whether the character succeeds or fails, don’t forget to include a sequel to the action. This is the beat where the reader is shown the character’s reaction. Readers love to know how a character feels, and you can use the goals to show the feelings.

Every Scene?

There must be a POV character goal in every scene. Without a goal, think about removing the scene from the story. If there is no goal, the scene might not have a purpose, so review each scene carefully. Maybe you can add a goal to the scene if you want to keep the scene for other reasons.

Fictionary Helps With Character Goals

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

This is the first scene from Maxwell Huxley’s Demon (by Michael Conn — cofounder of Fictionary).

Image Source: Fictionary

Maxwell Huxley wakes up with a hand on his mouth. It’s immediately clear his goal is to survive. If he fails, he dies. Something serious is at stake. The goal sets the tone for the novel. The reader knows they are about to read a thriller. The genre is YA thriller.

You can use Fictionary to check the character’s goal for each scene is related the plot and keep track of the impact on the POV character.

Developed by writers to help fellow writers, Fictionary is the first online tool for editing the story, not just the words. Writers are guided through a scene-by-scene evaluation of their manuscript by analyzing key story elements for characters, plot, and settings.

With interactive reports and writing advice for each element, writers can visualize their story and see where and how to improve their writing. With automated progress tracking, writers save time on self-editing and can be confident that their work is ready to share.

How Fictionary Works: A writer imports a manuscript. Within seconds, Fictionary automatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer then inputs key story elements for each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based on Fictionary’s reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports in Fictionary are dependent on the writer’s input and is specific to each manuscript.

Why not check out our free 10-day trial? Turn your draft into a story readers love.


Improve Your Novel’s Setting With Structural Editing – Fictionary

Focus on the settings in your novel and write a better story. Structural editing using Ficionary will help you get this done faster.

I highlighted every sentence that described the setting. What I realized was the author only described things or places that were relevant to the plot.

Most writers know the setting creates the story world. But in the context of novel structure, it can do so much more for you.

Consider the following for each scene when working on setting:…

Source: Improve Your Novel’s Setting With Structural Editing – Fictionary

New Year’s Resolution: Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story – Feedback For Fiction

Happy New Year.

The holidays are over and maybe you’re thinking about your New Year’s resolution.

How about rewriting your novel by following the Feedback process? Spend more time on your passion and finish that awesome story. Being able to perform a structural edit on your own manuscript will ensure you create a great story readers will love.

In 2016 we kicked off our rewriting tips with:…

Source: New Year’s Resolution: Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story – Feedback For Fiction

Feedback For Fiction | Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Imagine sitting on a plane next to a man reading your novel. You watch him read. He gets to the end of a scene and quickly turns the page to the next scene. He does this for hours. You watch the entire time, thrilled that he just keeps reading. He doesn’t take a moment to talk to you, to eat, or to drink. The TV shows and movies aren’t enough to draw him away from your book.

Isn’t this what we all want?

Read More and find out how to create great scene endings at: Feedback For Fiction | Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Mystery Mondays: M.H. Callway on Short Stories Vs Novels

It is my pleasure to welcome fellow author M.H. Callway to Mystery Mondays. Madeleine and I met online and have since become friends. Her novel Windigo Fire was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. She writes both short stories and novels, and she’s here to tell you about that.


I often give talks on how to get published to aspiring writers. One tip I pass on is to start writing shorter pieces. As an author, I found great encouragement when one of my stories was accepted for publication and/or became a finalist for an award. The boost gave me the will to continue and to believe that I had enough talent to pursue my writing dream.

That’s not to say that writing a short story is easy although it is easier than tackling a novel. To use a running analogy, it’s like preparing for a 5K as opposed to a marathon. You need good basic cardio to run a 5K and most people can finish, but running a marathon introduces a whole new level of complexity. It requires far more endurance, experience and will power – and you won’t be able to complete one without the right training.

Would that I had followed my own advice!

I had always wanted to write a novel so that’s where I started. In 2002, I began my learner novel. Ignorance was bliss so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I ended up with 140,000 words of mishmash. Patient author friends ploughed through my verbiage and gave me excellent advice. I revised the draft several times, reduced the length to 100,000 words and mailed it off to multiple rejections and a few near misses.

By now, it was 2006. The Crime Writers of Canada announced a short story contest and several of my friends planned to enter. We are always advised to write what we know and since I’d spent most of my career working in the civil service, I wrote a comic short story about two hard-working civil servants saddled with a new Boss from Hell. To my great surprise and delight, “Kill the Boss” won first prize.

“Kill the Boss” was picked up by Silver Moon Magazine and reprinted in Mouth Full of Bullets. It proved to be a turning point for my writing career, mostly because I’d devoted four years to improve my writing skills.

I spent the next few years writing short stories. In 2009, I decided to try novel writing again. That work eventually became my first published novel, Windigo Fire. Writing and publishing short fiction kept me going through Windigo Fire’s ups and downs and continues to do so while I wrestle with the next book in the Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.

My short fiction starts with a simple idea. When I write a short story, I’m a complete pantser though I usually know how the story is going to end. Often I have the closing line in mind. What I don’t know is how long it’s going to take to get to the end. I simply write until the story is fully told.

I find the process of writing short fiction immensely freeing. Also since I tend to write long, I’ve started exploring the novella form. In our digital age, we aren’t as constrained to rigid word limits as we once were because of the mechanics of print publishing. Nowadays, too, readers have less time, so I believe that the novella form has potential to become popular.

Readers can now find my published stories and novellas together in my new book Glow Grass and Other Tales. It’s available on Amazon in print and digital form.

I love to hear from readers. Do visit my website and leave me your comments at Or you may contact me at

M.H. Callway’s Books:


12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oWINDIGO FIRE

A  Canadian noir thriller.

Danny Bluestone, a young Native man, overeducated and underemployed, is drawn into an illegal bear hunt to escape his stultifying hometown of Red Dog Lake in Northern Ontario.  Things quickly go violent and he must fight to survive both the killers and the wilderness.




Revenge, guide dogs, cats big and small, beleaguered ladies of a certain age and a cop with a tarnished heart, meet them all here in Glow Grass and Other Tales.

The characters in the seven stories and two novellas fight for justice even when their sense of justice is warped.  The tales include winners of The Bony Pete and Golden Horseshoe awards as well as the finalists for the 2015 Derringer and 2016 Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award.



Mystery Mondays: Garry Ryan on Being There

Today on Mystery Mondays we welcome award-winning author Garry Ryan of the Detective Lane Mysteries and Blackbird Trilogy. This is Garry’s second time on Mystery Mondays sharing advice.

Being There by Garry Ryan

Nearly everything we experience can become research. This July we drove just over two thousand kilometres to a wedding in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. The driving time became a luxury of boredom. After a while, the imagination gets starved, begins scanning for stimulation.

It gave me time to think about this character (Lauren) I’ve been working on. What makes her tick? As I was driving to ­– then walking around – Yorkton, it got me wondering where Lauren comes from, seeing the world through her eyes.

I found the house she grew up in.


There were the railway tracks running through town. The sound of the train horn, the pounding of the locomotives rumbled through her life.


I sat in a park out back of the RCMP detachment …



… and was able to see the place through her eyes.



In the alley, behind a brick building, I spotted chrome exhaust pipes. A quick walk revealed this barbecue/smoker. Lauren’s character began to form. In some inexplicable way I understood why she is tied to this place, and why she leaves.

When we stopped for gas at the Co-Op on a Friday evening, a young man pulled up in a green Dodge diesel pickup. He revved the engine, creating a noxious black cloud of smoke. Lauren had a strong reaction to his rolling coal. Now I think it might be possible to get back to the novel and react to events as she would.

Over and over again, travel becomes a rich environment for ideas.


It provides opportunities to breathe life into characters and settings. If you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, Saskatchewan has a definite `feel’. That fact became obvious when I saw these clouds gathering into a storm, it created a real sense for the way the air cools just before, and the way it smells just after. You can only write a scene like that when you’ve been there.

WHO IS Garry Ryan?

Garry  PhotooSince 2004 Garry Ryan has published nine novels with NeWest Press. The second, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award. In 2009, Ryan was awarded Calgary’s Freedom of Expression Award.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.05.53 AM

Camp NaNoWriMo: Is It Working?

Phew, I’m over half-way through Camp NaNoWriMo.

So what have I discovered? I tell you after I share my stats from yesterday with you.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.21.54 PM

That bull’s eye is very motivating. Each day I see the arrow move a little bit. I almost wish I’d set the target at 80,000 words. Almost. That would mean I’d have a full novel drafted by the end of the month. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.22.03 PM

The graph show I had a little slump from day 7 to day 10. What’s my excuse? Too much time socializing with friends who were visiting for the weekend. So a person have to have a social life too. Right?

I’m on track to finish my 50,00o words by July 29th. I’ve got to keep to that. I can’t give myself until July 31st because we have friends coming to stay for the long weekend, and I’m also selling books at a Farmer’s Market on the Saturday. Counting on having time to reach my goal over the final weekend would be a mistake, so I’ve got do have 50,000 words by July 29th.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.22.11 PM

I’ve never written to a schedule before. I find it adds a bit of stress to the day. I wake up thinking “what if I can’t find anything to write about today?” So far that hasn’t happened. I’m trying the trick of ending a day of writing with only the first paragraph of the next scene written.

I find it easier to decide what comes next if I’m in the throws of writing. If I start the morning with no plan, I have more trouble getting going, and hence it takes me longer to reach the daily word count.

Anyone else out there doing Camp NaNoWriMo? If you are, let me know if the comments below. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: POV and Writing A Series

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a series, and what an author must consider when it comes to point of view.

AVALANCHE is the third book in the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and is to be released June 25th, 2016. When I first started writing the series, I thought I was writing a standalone novel. Of course my characters took over, and now I have a series.

Early on, I decided to write in close third person from multiple points of view. Little did I know, that once I made that decision, I would have to stick to that for the rest of the series.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you begin your novel. And when you ask these questions of yourself, don’t assume you’ll be writing a standalone novel. You just never know.

Do you plan to switch POVs?

If you’re going to have multiple POVs in your novel, it’s important to let your reader know this early on in the story.

It could be jarring for a reader to get half way through a novel, and the POV is ripped from underneath their feet and a new character steps in.

Changing POVs in the first few chapters will warn the reader this is your style and hopefully they’ll enjoy your book more. They’ll expect different characters to have their say, to drive the novel, and to provide surprises. They won’t get so attached to one POV that they can’t bear the change and toss the novel aside.

What POV type will you choose?

Can you be consistent for an entire novel or several novels?

  • If you chose first person, do you stay in first person? Do you reference anything first person can’t possibly know?
  • For Third person, are you writing third person, third person limited or omniscient? If limited, so you reference things character can’t know about? In limited reader can’t see into characters mind.

For the second book in your series, follow the same POV pattern. The reader will expect a similar style and voice in the second and following books.

BOOKS I’ve read on POV:

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

A Little About AVALANCHE (To Be Released June 25th, 2016):

Avalanche Cover FinalOn 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 Gift to My Readers from Imajin Books:

Imajin Books has put AVALANCHE on sale for $0.99 USD for a limited time. Grab your copy before the price goes up. It’s available for pre-order now.
Thanks for reading…

Thanks for Reading…

Kristina Stanley

Write Better Fiction: Avoid Repetitive Scene Openings

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover Scene Entry Types. 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.

Over the last few weeks, we covered scene entry, scene middle, and exit hooks. I’d like to back up a bit and look at scene entries again.

My husband was my first beta reader, and he read the first draft of the first novel I wrote. As it turns out, that novel is AVALANCHE, to be published this spring by Imajin Books.

His first comment to me, and I was a little crushed, was:

“Do you know you start every scene with a character in a doorway?”

I was expecting, “I love this book,” not actual critique. Well, I’ve since toughened up and have realized critique is much more helpful than unwarranted praise if you’re trying to write better. His comment drove me to figure out how to vary scene openings.

As you know, I use a spreadsheet to self-edit my novels.

I have a column called entry type. The choices are:

  • Dialogue
  • Thought
  • Narrative
  • Action

If you have other categories, please let me know in the comments below.

Once I’ve filled out my spreadsheet, I create a pie chart to see if my novel is balanced.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 10.00.51 AM


Then I create a graph, to check if I’ve start the scenes in a variety of ways and didn’t get stuck in a pattern.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 2.11.27 PM


D is dialogue

A is action

T is thought

N is narrative.

The idea is to ensure I haven’t started too many scenes in a row in the same way. If I have, I go back and revise the scenes, looking for a different way to write the opening. I don’t want to bore a reader by getting into a pattern.

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.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions how to check for repetitive scene entries?

Thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: Teagan Riordain Geneviene on What’s In A Name?

With a name as beautiful as Teagan Riordain Geneviene, you may well ask, what’s in a name? Well Teagan, author of ATONEMENT TENNESEE,  is here on Mystery Mondays to tell you.

At the bottom of the post, Teagan has some interesting questions for you, so keep reading…

What’s in a Name?

Hi Kristina. Thanks for inviting me to your Mystery Mondays.

Brain-NamesWhat do you think about names – generally? Or do you think about them? Most people don’t. I however, could really enjoy a big metaphysical discussion about names, but that’s not where I’m headed here. When I started this blog, I promised myself I’d stick to things related to writing or my books.

Names are incredibly important in life and in fiction. The names of my pets were something I chose very carefully, to suit them.

I’m just as meticulous in choosing the names of my characters. The right name can pull you into the mystery of the story, or lend a dramatic tone. When I write a classic type of fantasy, I go all out – researching name meanings and origins, and making sure they fit the traits of the character.

For stories located in the real world (fantasy or not), such as Atonement, Tennessee, I don’t always go to such lengths. Even so, each name speaks strongly to me about the who, what, and where of the character. Right now, I’m showing installments of my novel The Guitar Mancer at my blog. The name-meaning of the heroine is carefully interwoven into the story.atonement-video-cover-copy

There are a lot of cool sites about names and their meanings and origins. Yeah, I know — I’m a total research geek… but check out a few of the websites sometime. You already know that you can find an Internet site for just about anything. There are sites that list names of various myth figures, gods and goddesses, and summaries of the myths. Also, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of the “baby name” sites. I even found one that list names by their popularity, by state, per year. It’s actually a cool resource if you want to find a character name that’s typical, or common for a given area and time, to help enhance the story in a subtle way.

I’ve used so many of these sites, I won’t try to list them all here. However, I liked this one (below), and thought it was general enough for other people to find it interesting. It’s divided by state. For the most recent years, it lists names for each year, but if you scroll down it gives an average over a five-year range. I liked that because it gave me a wide-ranging picture of what characters might populate my story. I used it for Atonement, Tennessee since the research for that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) novel had to be done in such a hurry.

Okay, now I’m putting you to work. It’s time for a quick imagining of a story. Pick a state for the setting. Then choose the average age for most of the people there (even go to a “city data” page if you want to get the mean age in your chosen location), and figure out in what year they would have been born. Then click on the closest year listed. Now look at those names and tell me what images came to your mind. What did you see? Didn’t you see a group of people when you looked at the names? What were they doing? Where did they go when they headed out their separate ways?

Have fun,