You’ve Finished The First Draft Of Your Novel. Now What?

“Tell me a story!” your reader demands. “I want to feel happy, sad, frightened. Take me to a new world and make me care about what happens next.”

That’s a big ask for a writer. How do you go from the first draft of your novel to a story that works and captures readers?

Think about some of the best novels you’ve read. What do you remember?

Like me, you probably recall a compelling character like Jason Bourne, the intriguing plot told in Gone Girl, or the fantastic settings depicted in The Game of Thrones. You remember the story.

Successful writers tell a good story. Sounds simple, but telling a good story requires a great edit.

Your First Draft

So you’ve finished the first draft of your novel. Congrats. Now what? Maybe you’re worried your writing isn’t good enough to share. Maybe you fear rejection or criticism.

Or maybe you just don’t know how to edit your manuscript. Where to start? What to change? How to make it better? Editing and revisions are hard work.

These are all thoughts that ran through my head a few years ago when I finished the first draft of my debut novel Descent.

Fast forward to today. I now have two publishers, four published novels, one book translated and selling in Germany, and I’ve hit Amazon’s bestseller lists.

I became a successful author by self-editing and rewriting my manuscripts until I was satisfied I was telling a good story that was ready to share.

Along the way, I took all the best writing advice I could find and created a scene-by-scene self-editing technique focused on characters, plot, and settings. This technique helped me turn my first draft into a bestseller.


Then it hit me!

Perhaps other writers might benefit from this structured approach to self-editing and revising fiction.

So I spent the last year working with dozens of other writers and a few very clever programmers to develop a new online app for editing fiction.

Let me introduce Fictionary.

Fictionary provides a new way for writers to visualize, evaluate, and edit their novels. You are guided through a scene-by-scene edit that helps keep track of your characters, evaluate your plot, and create engaging settings.

Say goodbye to those old sticky notes or index cards you’ve been using to try and make sense of your story.

Common manuscript problems such as scenes with no purpose, confusing points of view, or empty stages are quickly highlighted. Now you can see these problems and fix them with your rewrite.

The Story Arc is an example report created automatically after you import your manuscript. No more trying to draw a story arc yourself.


In today’s competitive publishing environment, you owe it to yourself to ensure your story works before you ask other people to read it.

We all want feedback from beta readers, but the stronger your story is before you share it, the higher the quality of feedback you’ll receive.

Imagine sending your manuscript to a copyeditor only to find out you still have structural problems with your story. Now you’ll have to go back and fix your manuscript and send it back for a second edit. That can get expensive.

This is your story, so spend some quality time with it to make it work. Then you’ll be ready to share your novel with others.


While developing Fictionary, I’ve worked with some great writers and editors to incorporate their requirements and ideas for Fictionary. I have to say a big thank you to the dozens of writers that provided a lot of great input.

Now we’d like to spread the word about Fictionary and have chosen Medium to help us do this.

Over the coming months, we’ll share editing advice to help you perform your own edit and create a story readers love. Of course, we’ll also be sharing how we think Fictionary can help!

To get you started on self-editing, here’s a link to our free ebook:

Story Editing:15 Key Elements of Fiction to Ensure Your Story Works.


But who is Kristina Stanley?

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and the stand-alone mystery Look The Other Way. Her publishers are Imajin Books and Luzifer-Verlag.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of The Author’s Guide to Selling Books To Non-Bookstores.

Crime Writers of Canada nominated Descent for the Unhanged Arthur Award. The U.K. Crime Writers’ Association nominated Blaze for the Debut Dagger.

She is a co-founder and the CEO of Fictionary.co, a company started to help writers become successful authors. She loves the editing process and wants to help other writers learn how to do an in-depth self-edit on their novels.