How Editors Work to Strengthen Every Scene

Structural editing of scenes in fiction writing may be a new concept to many writers. In the past, fiction novels were mainly broken down by chapter, perhaps with one or two scene breaks with in each chapter. Nowadays, some fiction authors are employing an exciting new concept in their writing, and readers are loving it! It’s scene by scene writing, and it allows much more leeway with regard to point of view changes, flashbacks, backstory, and the emotional impact of each scene on the story’s protagonist and ultimately, the reader.

What is scene by scene writing? Our friends at ProWritingAid[1] bring up a few good points on this topic, starting with determining what kind of fiction writer you are. Are you a pantser or a plotter? “People who prefer to write by the seat of their pants are pantsers. Some writers prefer the term ‘discovery writer,’since you discover the story as you write…If you’re a plotter, or what some people call a planner, you spend a lot of time planning your novel before you ever sit down to write.”

Other tools for writing scene by scene include building a scene chart, a timeline[2], and interestingly, writing your synopsis first. You’ll need a synopsis when marketing your book to various publishing agencies anyway, and creating one before you write your book will aid you in determining different scenes better than a straight outline will. The scene chart they recommend comes from Annie Neugebauer’s website, with a link to download the MS Word document[3].

Once you’ve written your scenes (an 80,000-word novel will have around 50 to 60 scenes)[4] and done your self-edit, you’re ready to send your manuscript to a professional editor. The first pass will be the highest level of editing, the structural edit, to make sure your novel is structurally sound, scene by scene.

What is a structural edit? Editors Canada offers this definition:“Structural editing is assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content.” Sounds simple, right? However, they go on (and on) with what a structural edit really entails, listing 14 different responsibilities of the editor[5]. Here are the main points (and as we know, the final point, communication, is sometimes the most difficult).


  • Assessment: Assess the overall organization and content of the material to determine its suitability for the intended audience, medium, market, and purpose.
  • Organization: Reorganize material to achieve a coherent structure and sequence, a logical progression of ideas, and a narrative or expository flow and shape appropriate to the audience, medium, and purpose
  • Content: Identify and either recommend or make appropriate deletions (e.g., to remove repetitive, irrelevant, or otherwise superfluous material) and additions (e.g., to fill gaps in content or strengthen transitions between sections)
  • Communication: Communicate clearly and diplomatically with the author or project supervisor to confirm structure, request clarification of content, and propose or negotiate broad editorial changes.


What are Fictionary’s 38 story elements? As good writers know, “A great story is made up of a collection of great scenes structured in a compelling order. Fictionary shows you how to use the 38 Story Elements to create remarkable scenes, link them together, and finish a novel your readers will love.”[6] This is where artificial intelligence, combined with the trained human eye, can help. has developed software for exactly this scene-by-scene structural editing. Included in this advanced editing process are 38 separate story elements to be noted, tracked, and improved upon to make you, the writer, the best storyteller you can be.

We won’t list them all here, but the main categories are character story elements, plot story elements, and setting (location) story elements. Your certified Story Coach editor will edit your novel scene by scene, indicating where each of the 38 story elements are strong, could use improvement, or are missing altogether. (Of course, not every scene needs to contain all 38 story elements, so please don’t panic.) Each scene is named (by the editor, if you haven’t named them already using the scene chart mentioned earlier) for ease of determining exactly where improvements can be made, saving you much time and effort; no more scanning your entire novel to find a specific line that needs tightening.

Two of the best features of Fictionary’s Story Coach editing are the report generated afterward, and the visual charts and graphs of your story, broken down scene by scene so you can see at a glance where your story is strong and where it can use tweaking.

Where can you find a certified Story Coach for structural editing of scenes? has partnered with Fictionary to train their fiction editors in StoryCoach Editing[7]. The training is extensive (some would say exhausting!), and these Fictionary-Certified editors are ready to help you improve your story structurally, scene by scene.

Not every novel is a candidate for this type of editing, however. To see if yours qualifies, contactFirstEditing and ask for an evaluation of your fiction novel to get started on your journey to becoming a successful published fiction author today.

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