Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Quick, Basic Tips for Writing a Riveting Short Story

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by Jodie Renner, editor & author  
@Jodie RennerEd

These basic tips for aspiring writers apply whether you’re an adult, a teenager, or younger, and whether your story is aimed at adults, teens, or preteens. If you know of a young person who’s interested in creative writing, share this post with him or her to help them spark up their stories.

Planning your story:

1. Decide on your target readership (audience). Are they adults, teens, middle-grade kids, younger kids? Mainly males or females, or both? What are the main interests of your target readers? Why would they like your story?

2. What’s the genre of your story? What kind of story will it be? A fantasy that takes place in an alternate universe? A romance? A cozy mystery? A suspense-thriller? A western? An action-adventure? Speculative fiction (sci-fi)? Sports fiction? Or a mainstream-type story, with people like you, in a setting you’re familiar with?

3. Where does your story take place? Is the locale real or imagined? Is it in the present, the past, or the future? What season? To spark reader interest, make the setting remarkable in some way, out of the ordinary.

4. Whose story is it? Create a multi-dimensional, complex main character readers will want to identify with and bond with. 

5. Give your character a burning desire - what do they want more than anything?

6. Give your character some secrets, fears and regrets.

7. Give your character a rival, competitor, or enemy.

Writing your story:

1. To avoid reader confusion and frustration, set the scene for the readers in the first few paragraphs with the 4 W’s—who, what, where, and when. Who is this, where are they, what are they doing, and when does it take place?

2. Get into your main character’s head in the first sentence and stay there for the whole short story. Forget about telling the readers the story as the author. BE the character instead! You can use “he” or “she” and their name (third person), or “I” (first person). Show the character’s thoughts, goals, worries, plans, physical sensations, and feelings about what’s going on. That will help your readers identify with your main character and really care about him or her.

But don’t show the thoughts or inner feelings of other characters. That's head-hopping. We only know how they’re feeling through what your protagonist (POV character) notices and perceives—their words, actions, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.

3. Make your character run into a problem of some sort right away or very soon. It doesn’t need to be the main problem of the story, but put something on the first or second page that challenges him and makes the readers start worrying about him. The difficulty or dilemma can be internal, external, or interpersonal.

4. Introduce some opposition, a rival, an enemy, or a nasty villain fairly early, too, to get things moving fast and make your readers start biting their nails.

5. Turn up the heat. Now, give your main character an even bigger challenge or problem—the main conflict of your story. Who or what is threatening them? What do they do to try to solve the problem? Then what happens?

6. Write in lots of action, dialogue, and character feelings and reactions. Don’t spend too much time describing things or places, or explaining things to the readers. Do that directly through the characters’ words, thoughts, and actions.

7. Climax: Have a major battle, showdown, fight, or argument—not necessarily a physical one. Can be psychological or interpersonal. Challenge your hero or heroine to the max. This is their lowest point, their darkest moment, when they have to draw on all their resources, summon up all their courage and determination to overcome the obstacle or make the difficult decision, and resolve the issue.

8. Resolution: My advice is to create a satisfying ending for the readers—let your hero or heroine succeed, defeat evil, get what they desire, etc., but just barely. It’s a really close call! They almost didn’t make it!

9. Character arc: How has your protagonist changed as a result of their recent struggles?

10. Story arc: How has their life changed as a result of what they've just been through?

Readers and writers, do you have any advice to add to this list, or other suggestions? Please write them in the comments below. Thanks, and keep on writing!

Also, check out my article on writing stellar short stories for contests and publication.

Also, see the post below for links to my articles on The Kill Zone blog and elsewhere, from January to the end of June, 2014.

Besides publishing her popular craft-of-writing books under the series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, the award-winning Fire up Your Fiction and Writing a Killer Thriller (and the upcoming Captivate Your Readers), Jodie Renner is a sought-after freelance fiction editor and author of numerous blog posts on writing captivating fiction. Check out her posts alternate Mondays on The Kill Zone blog.
www.JodieRenner.com;   www.JodieRennerEditing.com.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jodie Renner's Craft of Writing Articles, January to June 2014

by Jodie Renner, editor & author; @JodieRennerEd

A lot of people have been asking for a list of my craft-of-writing posts and other resources for writers, so here's a list, with links (just click on the title) of my blog posts from January through the end of June of this year, 2014. I've listed them from most recent at the top, down to January 2 at the bottom.

I haven't been producing as many blog posts as usual during this period as I downsized a house and moved across the country to an apartment, plus I've been busy editing book manuscripts and also working on my third book, Captivate Your Readers, to be released by September 2014.

June 30, 2014, The Kill Zone Blog:

12 Essential Steps from Story Idea to Publish-Ready Novel 


June 19, 2014, The Kill Zone blog: Dialogue Nuts & Bolts


June 16, 2014, The Kill Zone:

15 Questions for Your Beta Readers – And to Focus Your Own Revisions

June 2, 2014, The Kill Zone: Pick up the Pace for a Real Page-Turner


May 19, 2014, The Kill Zone:

How to save a bundle on editing costs – without sacrificing quality


May 5, 2014, The Kill Zone: Tips for Loosening up Your Writing


April 7, 2014, The Kill Zone:

 Looking for an editor? Check them out very carefully!


March 31, Crime Fiction Collective:

Are YOU Being Plagiarized, Too, Without Your Knowledge?


March 24, The Kill Zone: Nail it with Just the Right Word


March 8, 2014, Resources for Writers:

Don’t Give Readers a Reason to Reject Your Novel


Feb. 24, The Kill Zone:

Dangling Participles, Misplaced Modifiers, and Other Awkward Constructions


Feb. 21 – John Yeoman’s blog, The Wicked Writers Blog:

Seven Quick Ways to Write Sentences That Sizzle 


Feb. 3, Crime Fiction Collective:

Indie Publishing – Lessons Learned and Still Learning


Jan. 27, The Kill Zone: Fire up Your Fiction with Foreshadowing


Jan. 13, The Kill Zone: Book Contests for Indie Authors


Jan 2, 2014, Resources for Writers (my post with the most pageviews of all):

Writers’ Conferences & Book Festivals in North America in 2014


Besides publishing her popular craft-of-writing books under the series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, the award-winning Fire up Your Fiction and Writing a Killer Thriller (and the upcoming Captivate Your Readers), Jodie Renner is a sought-after freelance fiction editor and author of numerous blog posts on writing captivating fiction.

www.JodieRenner.com; @JodieRennerEd; Facebook: Jodie Renner Editor-Author

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Southern Writers Magazine, ALA 2014 in Vegas, BC Youth Writers' Camp, Fire up Your Fiction for $1.75

Catch-up time! I've been so busy everywhere else - packing up an entire house, moving across the country, downsizing into an apartment, editing, writing, blogging elsewhere (like every second Monday on The Kill Zone blog), and traveling - that I've neglected my own blog. So today I thought I'd better do a bit of updating on recent and upcoming events.

Article by Jodie in Southern Writers Magazine

Great to see an article by me in Southern Writers Magazine, in the July 2014 issue, just out!

Here's a teaser on my article, and you can purchase an online or print subscription or individual issues here: http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/
American Library Association Annual Convention in Las Vegas

I made a whirlwind trip in and out of Vegas June 27 and 28 to attend an awards ceremony and sign books at ALA. What a zoo! Over 13,000 attendees, down from the more than 20,000 in Chicago in 2013 - still crazy busy to me! It took me an hour and a half of lining up just to check into my hotel - and attendees stayed at several other hotels, too! Then lineups for absolutely everything - registration, coffee, lunch, washrooms, book signings, you name it.

One perk was that my book, Fire up Your Fiction, was a Finalist in the Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book Awards, presented there. Unfortunately, it didn't win a medal at their awards ceremony on Friday night, but it's still an honor to be shortlisted as a Finalist. Congrats to all the award winners in each category! And a big thank-you to all the great people at Foreword Reviews who help indie (independent) authors get their books out there. Also, I love how they still labeled my book an Award Winner on the display shelf!


 
Then on Saturday, I gave away a lot of signed books to librarians at the IBPA booth. I sure hope some of them end up in libraries!
 

"Spark up Your Stories" Workshop at BC Youth Writers Camp

Came home, got a nasty flu bug that wiped me out for 3 days, then headed off to the BC Youth Writers Camp in Penticton, BC, today (July 2) to present a 2-hour writing workshop called "Spark up Your Stories" to 63 eager young writers, aged 8 to 18. Their energy, talent and creativity was impressive, and most of them didn't even mind sharing their stories!

 
 

Fire up Your Fiction on at Half-Price

I almost forgot -- FIRE UP YOUR FICTION is on half-price (so $1.75) for the ebook for the whole month of July 2014 on Smashwords! Here's the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/420725. Use the code provided to get 50% off at the check-out. Thanks, Mark Coker!

Upcoming:

I've finally found (a bit of) time to get back to finishing my third book, Captivate Your Readers, which has been 3/4 written for about 6 months, and which I plan to publish in September!

And I'll be heading to the When Words Collide writers' conference in Calgary, Alberta Aug. 8-10 to present two workshops, one on Deep POV and the other on Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue to your story.

Jodie Renner, a sought-after freelance editor, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction, which has won two awards to date, and is a finalist for two more. Her third book in the series, Captivate Your Readers, will be out in fall 2014. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her group blog, The Kill Zone, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. To be the first to hear when Jodie's next book is out and to receive links to valuable, timely blog posts, sign up for her newsletter here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fire up Your Fiction Is Now Recommended for Writing Programs!


I’m thrilled to share that my writing guide Fire up Your Fiction has recently been recommended by a Writer's Digest Book Awards judge for creative writing programs:

"This should be on the booklist for Master's Programs in Writing for Publication."

Fire up Your Fiction (formerly titled Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power) won a Silver Medal in the Florida Authors & Publishers President’s Book Awards for 2013 and an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards for 2013.

This book has also recently been recognized as a finalist by (click here:) Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards.

“Foreword shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose groundbreaking work stands out from the crowd. Foreword’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eager to discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.”

Foreword Reviews 2013 Book of the Year medal award winners will be announced at the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas on June 27, 2014, and I've decided to attend the awards ceremony. Keep your fingers crossed for my book!

Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories is also a Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for 2014, in the Writing and Publishing category

 This book has also been IndieReader Approved by the IndieReader Discovery Awards.


“Fire up Your Fiction is the Strunk and White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.”

For the full review, click HERE or scroll down to the previous post here.



Excerpts from reviews of Fire up Your Fiction by contest judges:
"What a wonderful resource for writers at any stage of their career! I wish I had this book when I first started writing. ... I can't think of anything important that you haven't addressed succinctly and clearly. ... This should be on the booklist for Master's Programs in Writing for Publication. ... You must be a wonderful editor to be able to write such a readable, but comprehensive book."

~ Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards for 2013  (More of this review HERE.)

“Jodie Renner’s Fire up Your Fiction is a handy manual for writers looking to make the biggest impact with their craft....
“Fire up Your Fiction is the Strunk and White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.” (See more down in last post.)

~ Judge, IndieReader Discovery Awards

I hope you'll share my good news about this book! This recognition for my book is gratifying, and I'm so pleased that aspiring authors, published authors, and reviewers alike think Fire up Your Fiction is a worthwhile guide for helping writers take their craft to the next level. If you found this and/or my other book useful, I'd appreciate it if you could please pass along this newsletter to any aspiring authors or creative writing instructors you know, or even to college continuing education departments, libraries or bookstores. Thank you so much!

And if you haven't already, do check out my popular guide to adding tension, suspense, and intrigue, Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction.

The third book in the series, Captivate Your Readers, will be released in fall, 2014. 

Where to find the books: Both books are available at Amazon.com and other Amazon websites in both e-book and trade paperback, and from CreateSpace for the paperback versions. Fire up Your Fiction is also available in paperback through IngramSpark and Edelweiss online catalogue. The e-book will also be available for other e-readers in May.

ISBNs for trade paperback versions:
Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories - 978-0993700408
Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction - 978-1490389943

Upcoming Presentations:
And by the way, I’m also available as a speaker for craft-of-writing workshops and online webinars. Upcoming presentations include a webinar called “Spark up Your Stories - Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue” on April 11 at the Cyber Symposium for Editors & Writers; five workshops at the B.C. Youth Writers Camp, June 30 – July 5, 2014; and two workshops at When Words Collide – A Festival for Readers & Writers, in Calgary, Alberta on August 8-10, 2014.

Upcoming
Jodie Renner, a former teacher and librarian with a master’s degree, is a sought-after freelance fiction editor, presenter to writers' groups, and author of two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction. Jodie has also published numerous blog posts on writing captivating fiction, which appear on many blogs, including The Kill Zone, Crime Fiction Collective, and her own blog, Resources for Writers.

For more information on Jodie Renner and her books and editing, email Jodie at.
Info@JodieRenner.com or visit her websites: www.JodieRenner.com and www.JodieRennerEditing.com; Facebook: www.Facebook.com/Jodie Renner-Editor-Author, Twitter: @jodierennered.
to your stories,

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

IndieReader's Review of Fire up Your Fiction

I'm thrilled with IndieReader's recent glowing review of my book, Fire up Your Fiction - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories (formerly titled Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power).

I lost a couple of points for formatting glitches, as I erroneously sent them an e-copy I had uploaded to Kindle with formatting problems, a temporary situation I wasn't aware of at the time. Since then I've had the e-version of this book professionally formatted by BookNook.Biz. (The book, in its properly formatted form, has no typos!)

The reviewer, Lucy Wang, was very generous about the content of the book and its value to aspiring authors.

The review is below, in its entirety, and here's the link to the review on IndieReader.com: http://indiereader.com/2014/03/fire-fiction/.

And you can buy the e-book HERE and the print version HERE.

Fire Up Your Fiction      

By Jodie Renner         

Rating: 4.5 stars

IR Verdict: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION is the Strunk and White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.

Jodie Renner’s FIRE UP YOUR FICTION is a handy manual for writers looking to make the biggest impact with their craft. Renner shows and tells: Each chapter offers precise rules of what to do, and what not to do, with plenty of concrete examples. A section at the end invites the reader to be the editor and apply all the knowledge imparted throughout the book.

While this manual may be useful to authors at any stage of their careers, it is probably best suited for the novice or the writer who has completed a first draft and needs to go back and revise. With a whole draft in hand, the chapters serve as a trusty map, practical checklist and action plan all in one.

Renner once specialized in editing thriller fiction – and it shows. This book is packed with cries for action (Don’t overexplain! Don’t lecture!) and moves at a brisk, no-nonsense pace. There is a certain rush in seeing the sloppy, awkward “before” transform into the lean, mean “after.” Chapters are clear and succinct. Some leave you breathless. Chapter 21 offers a priceless lesson in the importance of choosing the right word, by demonstrating alternatives to such ordinary choices as “walked,” “run” and “looking.”

A couple of minor flaws: Many points are needlessly repeated, and there are numerous typos and formatting errors, at least in the Kindle version. Still, this book belongs next to that other must-have classic, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

FIRE UP YOUR FICTION is the Strunk and White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.

Reviewed by Lucy Wang for IndieReader

Added by IndieReader: << This book review was based on the e-version provided to IndieReader. Since the publication of this review, an updated version has been released. >> 
Fire up Your Fiction has also won two other awards to date: a Silver Medal from the Florida Authors & Publishers President's Book Awards, and an Honorable Mention from Writer's Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards. It is also a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards (winners to be announced at ALA, June 27, 2014).

For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her other blogs, The Kill Zone and Crime Fiction Collective, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. To be the first to hear when Jodie's next book is out and to receive links to valuable, timely blog posts, sign up for her newsletter here

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Press Release from ForeWord Reviews - Finalists for 2013 Awards

Foreword’s 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists Announced

Review journal narrows the field in its search for the best indie books of 2013

TRAVERSE CITY, MI, March 13, 2014 — Foreword Reviews, the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books, announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards today. Each year, Foreword shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose groundbreaking work stands out from the crowd. Foreword’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eager to discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.

In the next two months, a panel of over 100 librarians and booksellers will determine the winners of these prestigious awards. A celebration of the winners will take place during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Friday, June 27 at 6 p.m. with awards in over 60 categories, cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction, and widespread recognition.
Ready to read the best indie books of the year? Here is the complete list of Foreword Reviews’ 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists.

And here are the 7 finalists in the WRITING category, including Jodie Renner's writing guide, FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, which has already won two other book awards. Click HERE to go to the listing of Fire up Your Fiction as a finalist in this contest.

BOTYA 2013 Finalists in Writing (Adult Nonfiction)




About us: At Foreword Reviews, we love indie books and the art of great storytelling. We discover, curate, critique, and share reviews and feature articles exclusively on indie-publishing trends in our quarterly magazine and on our website. Foreword Reviews is distributed to librarians, booksellers, publishers, and avid readers and is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. Our website features a daily stream of reviews of indie books written by a team of professional, objective writers.
You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Our office is located at 425 Boardman Avenue, Traverse City, MI 49684.
Contact: Jennifer Szunko, Director of Marketing/Circulation
Foreword Reviews jennifer@forewordreviews.com 231-933-3699

Cyber Symposium for Writers & Editors, April 11 & 12

by Jodie Renner, editor & author

Besides getting ready to move across the country, I've been busy preparing a webinar presentation for an exciting cyber symposium to be held April 11 & 12, which offers 8 excellent topics of interest to editors, writers, and self-publishers.

I think virtual conferences, which are showing up everywhere, are a win-win situation for everyone. Presenters and attendees alike save a LOT of money by avoiding booking flights or driving long distances, as well as on hotel and restaurant expenses. And we all get to participate from the comfort of our own homes!

8 Topics to choose from:
"Sentences with Style" by Frances Peck, "Spark up Your Story - Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue" by Jodie Renner, "Write Your Way with Scrivener" by Gwen Hernandez, "Demystifying Self-Publishing" by Tammara Kennelly, "Adobe Acrobat X for the Wordsmith" by Donna Baker, "Beyond the Early Drafts: What Makes a Story Unique" by Beth Hill, "Wild about Wildcards in Microsoft Word" by Jack Lyon, and "Getting Started with FreshBooks Cloud Accounting" by Joele Ferreira. 

Here's a brief description of my own webinar, on Friday April 11 at 10:30 am to 11:30 am MDT (12:30 to 1:30 EST):


Spark Up Your Story - Adding Tension, Suspense & Intrigue
by Jodie Renner

We all know that thrillers and other fast-paced popular fiction need lots of tension, conflict, suspense, and intrigue to grip readers and provide a riveting, satisfying reading experience. But so does any other compelling story that will create a buzz and take off in sales. No matter what genre you write, it’s all about hooking your readers in, engaging them emotionally, and ensuring they keep eagerly turning the pages. Editor and author Jodie Renner presents a checklist of essential elements and effective techniques for ratcheting up the “wow” factor of any novel or short story.


Below is more info on the conference, plus the schedule of events.

Click HERE to go to the symposium website, read more, and sign up for webinars. Scroll down there for all the details.

Editors' Association of Canada - Prairie Provinces Branch (EAC-PPB)
Calgary Association of Freelance Editors (CAFE)
 
present
Cyber Symposium
PD Event for Editors & Writers
 
Create your own PD (Professional Development) experience.
There are 8 dynamic webinars to choose from.  
 
Register for as many webinars as you like. (Note: If you decide to register for 6 or more webinars, be sure to choose the “Full Symposium” rate. It costs the same as 6 individual webinars, and you can take in all 8 webinars.)
 
SCHEDULE:
Friday, April 11, 2014 – Note: Times are inMountain Daylight Time
9:00 - 10:00 amSentences with Style (Frances Peck)
10:30 - 11:30 am Spark Up Your Story: Adding Tension, Suspense & Intrigue (Jodie Renner)
1:00 - 2:00 pm Write Your Way with Scrivener (Gwen Hernandez)
2:30 - 3:30 pm Demystifying Self-Publishing (Tammara Kennelly) 
6:30 - 11:00 pm Evening Social Events in Edmonton & Calgary (details below) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 12, 2014 – Note: Times are in “Mountain Daylight Time
9:00 - 10:00 amAdobe Acrobat X for the Wordsmith (Donna Baker)
10:30 - 11:30 amBeyond the Early Drafts: What Makes a Story Unique (Beth Hill)
1:00 - 2:00 pmWild about Wildcards in Microsoft Word (Jack Lyon)
2:30 - 3:30 pmGetting Started with FreshBooks Cloud Accounting (Joele Ferreira) 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Don't Give Readers a Reason to Reject Your Novel

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

Have your trusted friends or beta readers told you your WIP (work in progress) novel is too long, confusing, or just doesn't grab them? Here are some typical “big-picture” weaknesses to watch out for in your fiction and correct before publishing it or pitching it to an agent. These types of glaring gaffes in writing, pacing, plot, or structure will bog down your story and invite bad reviews, which could sink your reputation as a novelist. Fortunately, they can all be remedied at the revision and self-editing stages.

~ Overwriting. Not enough self-editing.
Today’s bestselling novels are mostly between 70,000 and 90,000 words long. Unless you’re an absolutely brilliant writer, and experts in the business have told you so, if your manuscript is over 95,000 words long, it definitely needs tightening up. Cut way back on explanations and descriptions, and trim down long, convoluted sentences to their essence. Make every word count.

~ Meandering writing – the main story question / problem is fuzzy or buried.
What’s the protagonist’s main goal and fear, and his main problem? This should be obvious early on and be the overriding driving force behind your whole story. Don’t let it get lost in meandering writing, too much backstory, frequent info dumps, too many characters, too many subplots, and unrelated plot details.

~ One unrelated thing after another happens.
Don’t get caught up in “and then, and then, and then,” with a bunch of sub-stories or episodes that aren’t related to each other and don’t directly tie in with the main plot problem and story question. Your events and scenes need to be connected by cause and effect. Each scene should impact the following scenes and complicate future events.

~ Way too much going on.
A common problem is too many characters crowding the scenes, and readers getting confused and frustrated trying to remember who’s who. Or maybe you have too many subplots that veer off in different directions and confuse the issue. Or a convoluted story where many issues or subplots don’t tie in with the main character and his or her overarching problem.

~ The main character is flat, unsympathetic, predictable, or wishy-washy.
Readers want a protagonist they can bond with and root for. Create a lead character who is smart, likeable, and charismatic, but with inner conflict and a few flaws.

~ A thin plot
This is where the premise / story line is obscure, with all kinds of unrelated happenings and way too much yak-yak dialogue that doesn’t have enough tension, conflict, or purpose. Also, often the issues and stakes aren’t serious enough. Anything that doesn’t directly relate to your major story problem, develop your characters, or drive the story forward should be cut.

~ A predictable story line
Write in some twists, surprises, reversals. When a character has to make a decision or her actions cause repercussions, brainstorm for all possible consequences and choose one readers won’t be expecting. Add in reversals here and there that force a change in goals, actions, reactions, or consequences. Don’t overdo this, though, and be sure your reversal makes sense and is in character, or your readers will feel manipulated or cheated.

~ Flat scenes
When scenes are boring, it’s because there’s not enough conflict, tension, suspense and intrigue. Make sure every page has characters interacting, with action, dialogue, conflict and tension. Every scene needs a focal point or a “hot spot” – its own mini-climax. Also, be sure to start scenes late and end early. And don’t tie everything up with a neat little bow at the end. End with the protagonist in more trouble (most of the time), or with a cliffhanger.

~ La-la land
Everybody’s getting along so well. What’s wrong with that? It’s great in real life, but in fiction it’s the kiss of death. Why? Because it’s boring. Conflict is what drives fiction forward and keeps readers turning the pages.

~ Overkill: Nonstop action
Unrelenting chases, explosions, and violence, with a constant break-neck pace, can numb readers. Vary your pacing, and write in some quieter moments here and there for variety and breathing space between high-action scenes.

~ Plot holes
Watch for those actions, events, character reactions, and other details that just don’t make sense for one reason or another. Look for any inconsistencies, illogical details, or discrepancies. Make sure all your story questions are answered at some point. These types of gaffes are often difficult for the author to see, so this is where your critique group or beta readers can be invaluable, especially if you specifically ask them to flag anything that doesn’t make sense for any reason.

~ A sagging middle
It’s easy to get bogged down in the middle and turn it into a muddle. If you’re losing interest or inspiration, go back to where the story really grabbed you, and consider what came between that and the scene you’re at now. Can you oomph up, change, or delete the scenes in between?

~ No noticeable character arc
With the exception of action-adventure or military stories, most compelling novels show the main character undergoing change, caused by the adversity they’ve gone through and the resources they had to pull out of themselves to overcome adversity. They’ve developed and matured, and are now more confident and hopefully happier, which is satisfying to readers.

~ An unsatisfying ending
 This can be caused by a number of factors, such as:

– The protagonist succeeds through coincidence, an Act of God, or help from a minor character. He should attain his goal through his own resourcefulness, cleverness, determination, courage, and inner strength.

– The ending is tragic, and the protagonist is unhappy. Unsatisfying and disappointing. Leave that for literary fiction. Or if you must make her lose or suffer in one way, make her win/gain in another way.

– Ending is too predictable. Brainstorm for possible ways to add a surprise twist at the end.

– Logic flaws – the ending doesn’t really make sense given the details supplied earlier.

– Things wrap up too suddenly. Don’t be in a hurry to finish your story – make sure all the story questions are addressed and all the elements of the ending make sense.

– Things dribbling on for too long after the resolution. Know when to stop.

The fix: To remedy these kinds of gaffes, be sure to enlist some savvy beta readers who read popular novels in your genre. Then, after you've considered their suggestions and revised accordingly, contact a well-respected freelance editor to go over your manuscript.

For more tips with examples for writing compelling fiction, see my editor's guides, Fire up Your Fiction and Writing a Killer Thriller.

And see this great post on what makes you fall in love with a novel and the characters: "Falling in love, one book at a time," by A.M. Khalifa.
 
Jodie Renner has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction (Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power), which has won two book awards so far. Look for her third book in the series, out soon. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her blogs, Resources for Writers and The Kill Zone, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And sign up for her newsletter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

by Chuck Sambuchino

Here's the beginning of a great post by Chuck Sambuchino about the optimal word-count range for novels of various genres, and also includes recommended length for YA, middle grade, and picture books. Click on the link below to read the rest of the article.
  


Word count for novels and books is something I don’t think about too often until I travel to a writers’ conference, and then someone asks a simple, innocent question: “How long should a book be?” With that in mind, I’ve tried to put together the definitive post on word count for fiction (novels, young adult, middle grade, children’s books and even memoir).


The most important thing here is to realize that there are always exceptions to these rules. And man, people love to point out exceptions—and they always will. However, if there is one thing I remember from when my wife dragged me kicking and screaming to He’s Just Not That Into You, it’s that you cannot count on being the exception; you must count on being the rule. Aiming to be the exception is setting yourself up for disappointment.
What writers fail to see is that for every successful exception to the rule (e.g., a first-time 150,000-word novel), there are at least 100 failures if not 300.

Almost always, high word count means that the writer simply did not edit their work down enough. Or—it means they have two or more books combined into one.

“But what about J.K. Rowling???” asks that man in the back of the room, putting his palms up the air. Well—remember the first Harry Potter book?  It wasn’t that long. After JK made the publishing house oodles and oodles of money, she could do whatever she wanted.  And since most writers haven’t earned oodles, they need to stick to the rules and make sure they work gets read. The other thing that will make you an exception is if your writing is absolutely brilliant. But let’s face it. Most of our work does not classify as “absolutely brilliant” or we’d all have 16 novels at this point.

(Should you sign with a new literary agent? Know the pros and cons.)

ADULT NOVELS: COMMERCIAL & LITERARY

Between 80,000 and 89,999 words is a good range you should be aiming for. This is a 100% safe range for literary, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror. Anything in this word count won’t scare off any agent anywhere.

Now, speaking broadly, you can have as few as 71,000 words and as many as 109,000 words. That is the total range. When it dips below 80K, it might be perceived as too short—not giving the reader enough. It seems as though going over 100K is all right, but not by much. I suggest stopping at 109K because just the mental hurdle to jump concerning 110K is just another thing you don’t want going against you. And, as agent Rachelle Gardner pointed out when discussing word count, over 110K is defined as “epic or saga.” Chances are your cozy mystery or literary novel is not an epic. Rachelle also mentions that passing 100K in word count means it’s a more expensive book to produce—hence agents’ and editors’ aversion to such lengths.

In short:

 80,000 – 89,999:       Totally cool
90,000 – 99,999:       Generally safe
70,000 – 79,999:       Might be too short; probably all right
100,000 – 109,999:    Might be too long; probably all right
Below 70,000:           Too short
110,000 or above       Too long


Chick lit falls into this realm, but chick lit books tend to be a bit shorter and faster. 70-75K is not bad at all.

SCI-FI AND FANTASY

Science fiction and fantasy are the big exceptions because these categories tend to run long. It has to do with all the descriptions and world-building in the writing.

With these genres, I would say 100,000 – 115,000 is an excellent range....

For the rest of this excellent blog post by Chuck Sambuchino, CLICK HERE.
 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

March to a Bestseller - A One-Day Sale on 16 Books for Authors

Mark your calendar for this Friday! You can get 16 great guides to writing, publishing, and marketing your book, all $0.99 each on February 28!



Click on the title below to find out more about the event and view the list of books offered, with covers and a brief description of each book.

March to a Bestseller - A One-Day Sale on Books for Authors

And join the event on Facebook here and enter to win prizes and giveaways!

Here's the list of books that will be offered for $0.99 each on February 28

- Your First 1000 Copies - Tim Grahl - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DMIWAIC

- Writing Online - Sean Platt - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0055LHDQ8/

- Fire Up Your Fiction - Jodie Renner - http://www.amazon.com/Sizzles-Editors-Writing-Compelling-ebook/dp/B009BWWOR0/ 

- 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self Published Book - Laura Pepper Wu - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00994N0KU/

- 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 - Bryan Cohen and Jeremiah Jones - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GHXYASM

- How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – Rachelle Gardner - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B4JRNN8

- The Easy Way to Write a Novel That Sells - Rob Parnell - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FR155MU

- Writing Habit Mastery - S.J. Scott - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EORO844/

- How to Write for Kindle: A Non-Fiction Book in 72-Hours or Less - Nancy Hendrickson - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AQRMRLW/

- How to Write Dialogue - Marcy Kennedy - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H17HGY8/

- Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View - Jill Elizabeth Nelson - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007PUMQ1O/

- Writing Fight Scenes - Rayne Hall - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005MJFVS0/

- Practical Emotional Structure - Jodi Henley - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0ZI7HU/ -

- Author Publicity Pack - Heather Hart and Shelley Hitz - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BGXAADC/

- The Writer's Tune-Up Manual - Craig Hart - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPEHPR4 -

- Make Money Online - Connie Brentford -  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CXT70VS




Jodie Renner has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction (Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power), which has won two book awards so far. Look for her third book in the series, out soon.  For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her blogs, Resources for Writers and The Kill Zone, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

STYLE THAT SIZZES becomes FIRE UP YOUR FICTION

I decided to change the title of my award-winning Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction from Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power to Fire up Your Fiction, so it's more easily evident what the book is about - amping up your prose and making it zing.

I've kept the same cover design and made it clear in the description and title
page that it's the same book, so hopefully nobody who already owns Style That Sizzles will buy this one by mistake.

*16 Great Guides to Writing, Publishing, & Selling Your Book, all $0.99 each on February 28!*

And serendipitously, author Bryan Cohen contacted me recently about participating in a fabulous group promo he's organizing for February 28, when 16 great guides on writing, publishing, and selling your book will all be on sale for 99 cents each.

Click on the title below to find out more about the event and view the list of books offered, with covers and a brief description of each book.

March to a Bestseller - A One-Day Sale on Books for Authors

And join the event on Facebook here.

Here's the list of books that will be offered for $0.99 each on February 28:

- Your First 1000 Copies - Tim Grahl - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DMIWAIC

- Writing Online - Sean Platt - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0055LHDQ8/

- Fire Up Your Fiction - Jodie Renner - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00II2773K

- 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self Published Book - Laura Pepper Wu - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00994N0KU/

- 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 - Bryan Cohen and Jeremiah Jones - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GHXYASM

- How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – Rachelle Gardner - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B4JRNN8

- The Easy Way to Write a Novel That Sells - Rob Parnell - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FR155MU

- Writing Habit Mastery - S.J. Scott - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EORO844/

- How to Write for Kindle: A Non-Fiction Book in 72-Hours or Less - Nancy Hendrickson - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AQRMRLW/

- How to Write Dialogue - Marcy Kennedy - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H17HGY8/

- Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View - Jill Elizabeth Nelson - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007PUMQ1O/

- Writing Fight Scenes - Rayne Hall - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005MJFVS0/

- Practical Emotional Structure - Jodi Henley - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0ZI7HU/ -

- Author Publicity Pack - Heather Hart and Shelley Hitz - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BGXAADC/

- The Writer's Tune-Up Manual - Craig Hart - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPEHPR4 -

- Make Money Online - Connie Brentford -  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CXT70VS
 
 
Jodie has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction (Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power), which has won two book awards so far. Look for Immerse the Readers in Your Story World, out soon. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her blogs, Resources for Writers and The Kill Zone, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And sign up for her newsletter.

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