Sunday, July 17, 2016

15 Questions for Your Beta Readers – and to focus your own revisions


by Jodie Renner, editor & author; @JodieRennerEd

(This article by Jodie Renner appeared on The Kill Zone blog on Mar. 8, 2014. Reposted here by the author. This is also a chapter in Captivate Your Readers - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction.)

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel? Congratulations! Now it’s time to start the all-important revision process. Be sure not to shoot yourself in the foot by sending it off or self-publishing it too soon. That’s the biggest mistake of unsuccessful novelists – being in too much of a hurry to get their book out, when it still needs (major or minor) revisions and final polishing.

To start, put it aside for a week or more, then change the font and print it up and read it in a different location, where you don’t write. Or, to save paper, change the font and formatting, then put it on your tablet or e-reader and take it outside to a park or a (different) coffee shop to read. That way, you can approach it with fresh eyes and a bit of distance, as a reader, rather than in too close as the writer.

Using the questions below to guide you, go through the whole manuscript for big-picture issues: logistics, characterization, plot, writing style, flow. Try to put some tension on every page, even if it’s just minor internal disagreement. Remember that conflict and tension are what drive fiction forward. As you read, correct minor errors and typos that jump out at you and make notes in the margins and on the backs of the pages. Then go back to the computer and type in your changes.

Now it’s time to seek out about 3 to 6 avid readers to give you some feedback. It’s best not to ask your parent, child, significant other, sibling, or bff to do this “beta” reading, as they probably won’t want to tell you what they really think, for fear of jeopardizing your relationship. Or they may be so critical it actually will hurt your relationship! Your volunteer readers don’t need to be writers, but they should be smart, discerning readers who enjoy and read your genre, and are willing to give you honest feedback.

So how do you find your beta readers? Perhaps through a critique group, writing class, workshop, book club, writers’ organization, or online networking such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. In the case of a YA novel or children’s book, look around for be age-appropriate relatives, neighborhood kids, or the children of your friends – or perhaps you know a teacher or librarian who would be willing to read some or all of it aloud to students and collect feedback.

To avoid generic (and generally useless) responses like “I liked it,” “It was good,” or “It was okay,” it’s best to guide your readers with specific questions. Here’s a list to choose from, based on suggestions from novelists I know. If you’re hesitant to ask your volunteers so many questions, you could perhaps have them choose the ones that seem most relevant to your story and writing style. And of course, if you first use these questions as a guideline during your revisions, the responses from your beta readers should be much more positive, or of a nature to take your story and your skills up a level or two.

1. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?

2. Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?

3. Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel her/his pain or excitement?

4. Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?

5. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?

6. Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?

7. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?

8. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?

9. Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names or characters too similar?

10. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?

11. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?

12. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?

13. Was the ending satisfying? Believable?

14. Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?

15. Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?

And if you have eager readers or other writers in your genre who are willing to go the extra mile for you, you could add some of the more specific questions below. These are also good for critiquing a short story.


– Which scenes/paragraphs/lines did you really like?
– Which parts did you dislike or not like as much, and why?
– Are there parts where you wanted to skip ahead or put the book down?
– Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
– Which parts should be condensed or even deleted?
– Which parts should be elaborated on or brought more to life?
– Are there any confusing parts? What confused you?
– Which characters did you really connect to?
– Which characters need more development or focus?

Once you’ve received feedback from all your beta readers, it’s time to consider their comments carefully. Ignore any you really don’t agree with, but if two or more people say the same thing, be sure to seriously consider that comment or suggestion. Now go through and revise your story, based on the comments you felt were insightful and helpful.

What about you writers out there? Do you use beta readers? If so, how do you guide their reading? Do you have any questions or suggestions to add that have helped you focus their reading, so you can get a good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of your novel? And beta readers – do you have any questions you’d like authors to ask? I’d love to hear from all of you!

Also, see my post, “12 Essential Steps from Idea to Published Novel” on The Kill Zone.


 Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage, and has organized and edited two anthologies for charity. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, her blog, http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Basic Formatting of Your Manuscript (Formatting 101)


by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

Follow Jodie on Twitter.

Often, the first thing I have to do when I receive a manuscript for potential editing, before starting my  sample edit, is to reformat it, so it’s easier for me to read. Here are some guidelines for formatting your manuscript before submitting it to a freelance editor, a formatter, a contest, an agent, or a publisher. Most of these instructions are for Microsoft Word, 2007 or later.
1.      For editing, your manuscript needs to be in Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office). This is a must, as almost all editors use Word’s Track Changes.  

2.      Send the manuscript as a .doc or .docx, unless instructed otherwise. Some contests prefer or require rich text format (.rtf) or even plain text (.txt), but most submissions want .doc or .docx documents. 

3.      The preferred font is Times New Roman. It’s easier to read than many other fonts.

The font size should be 12-point. 

4.      To change the font and size for the whole manuscript instantly, click Control + A (for All) at the same time, which highlights the entire manuscript, then change the font and size by using the toolbar on “Home,” and then click “Enter.” 

5.      Left-justify the text, rather than justifying both sides. That way, it’s easier for the editor to spot spacing errors. That means the text is lined up straight down the left side (except for indents), but the right side is jagged, depending on the length of the last word in the line. To do that, click Control + A, then click the left-justify icon on the toolbar along the top (Click tab for Home first). You can also do that by clicking on the little arrow to the bottom and right of “Paragraph,” then click on the down arrow beside “Alignment” and click on “Left.” 

6.      Use only one space between sentences, not two. Two spaces between the period and capital went out with manual typewriters. 

7.      Do not press “Enter” at the ends of the lines to add an extra line-space between the lines (to double-space the document). This is a HUGE no-no! It causes major headaches and a lot of frustration. As soon as a few words are added or deleted (which is what editing’s all about), everything screws up. So make sure that when you’re typing and you come to the end of a line, do not press “Enter” unless it’s for a new paragraph. Let the text “wrap” around on its own. 

8.      A quick and easy way to double-space your whole manuscript: Control + A (for “all”), then Control + 2 (Click on Ctrl and on 2 at the same time). Voilà! It’s done! To go back to single-spacing later, Click Ctrl+A, then Ctrl+1. 

9.      To see at a glance all kinds of formatting errors, click on the paragraph symbol on the toolbar along the top. It’s called a “Pilcrow” and it looks like a backward “P”. Here it is: ¶. You’ll see dots where spaces are and a ¶ for every hard return (Enter), at the end of a paragraph or for an empty line space between paragraphs. 

10.  Correct spacing between sentences. Click on that ¶ symbol again to see a dot for every space (click of the space bar). If you have two (or 3 or 4) dots instead of one between sentences (between the period and the next capital), you need to take out the extra spaces and just have one space between sentences. You can fix that for the whole manuscript in a second or two by using Find and Replace. Click on “Replace,” then after “Find what” hit the space bar twice (if you have 2 spaces). Then after “Replace with” click the space bar once. Then click on “Replace all” and Voilà again! All fixed! 

11.  Correct line-spacing and paragraphing:  Click on that ¶ symbol in the toolbar again. You’ll see the pilcrow symbol ¶ at the end of every paragraph, to indicate a hard return (“Enter”), and then again at the beginning of a line-space. If you see the ¶ at the end of every line, all down the right margin, that’s a real problem – the biggest formatting mistake of all! You need to remove those pilcrows (returns) at the end of every line, either by using your “Delete” or “Backspace” keys before or after them, or by doing a “Find and Replace.” After “Find” you type in this: ^p (for the pilcrow or paragraph mark). After “Replace” you just hit the space bar once, to replace the carriage return with a space. 

When you click on that backwards “P”, also look for extra dots at the beginnings of paragraphs, before the first indented word, and take them all out. There should just be the indents, with no extra dots in front of them. 

Note that you should only see the pilcrow ¶ in two places – at the end of a paragraph, and on any blank line. If you see a ¶ anywhere other than those two locations, it’s misplaced and will probably cause some type of inadvertent mischief.  

12.  Paragraphing for fiction: For fiction manuscripts, don’t add an extra line-space between paragraphs. Just leave it at your normal double-spacing. Press “Enter” at the end of the last paragraph, then indent the new paragraph (0.3 to 0.5 inch) using the built-in paragraph styles. Do not indent paragraphs by using the Tab key or the spacebar. This only causes problems that will have to be fixed by you or someone else (at your cost). (See #15 below for instructions on how to indent the right way.) 

13.  Paragraphing for nonfiction: Nonfiction usually uses block formatting, with no indents for new paragraphs but instead an extra space between paragraphs.  

14.  General rule for indenting and spacing paragraphs: If you indent your paragraphs, don’t leave an extra space between paragraphs; if you don’t indent, insert the extra space between paragraphs. 

15.  How to indent the first line of each paragraph:

Do not press Tab or click repeatedly on the space bar to indent!

Click on that pilcrow again ¶ and if you see 2-7 dots at the beginning of the paragraph, you’ve used the space bar to indent. That’s another big no-no, and a bit of a headache to fix, especially if you don’t always use the exact same number of spaces. Using the “Tab” key to indent paragraphs is also a big no-no.  If you’ve done that, you’ll see an arrow at the indent. It’s important to indent for the first line of a new paragraph by using Word’s formatting. To do this for the whole manuscript at once, use Control + A (for All), then, in the toolbar along the top, click on the little arrow to the bottom right of “Paragraph” (in Word 2010), then under “Special” click on “First line,” then 0.5" or 0.4" or 0.3". Don’t go for less than .2" or more than .5". 

16.  To center your title and chapter headings, do not repeatedly click on “Tab” or the space bar.

Again, if you click on the pilcrow (¶) and you can see a bunch of dots in front of the title, you’ve used the space bar to get it over there in the middle. And don’t use the Tab key for that, either. Instead, highlight the title with your cursor, then click on the centering in the toolbar along the top, under the “Home” tab. Or go to “Paragraph” below that, and click on the arrow in the lower right corner, then go to “Alignment,” then click the down arrow and choose “Centering.” Or a quick trick is to place your cursor in the title you want to center, and simply click CTRL + C (at the same time), which will automatically center the paragraph (title) in which your cursor is located.

17.  For extra line spaces between chapters, do not repeatedly click on Enter or Return. To force a page break at the end of a chapter (in Word 2010), place your cursor at the end of the chapter, usually on the line below the last sentence, then, in the toolbar along the top, click on the tab “Insert” then click on “Page Break.” In Word 2007, click on “Page Layout” in the toolbar, then click on “Breaks”, then on “Page.” Another quick trick?  Press CTRL+Enter.  This will give you a forced page break for the end of each chapter. Do not do this at the end of a normal page, only for the end of a chapter. 

18.  Your next chapter heading (chapter name or number) should start at least 3 line-spaces down from the top of the page.  

19.  For more advanced, specific formatting, read the guidelines set out by the agent or publisher. Or stay tuned for “Formatting 102,” to appear here at some future time. 

20.  And a few quick notes about formatting for dialogue: 

Make a new paragraph for each new person talking. Also a new paragraph for someone else reacting to the previous speaker.

Comma after “said”: He said, “How are you?”     

Comma at the end of the spoken sentence, where a period would normally go, inside the last quotation mark. “Come with me,” she said.
 

If you have any other questions about formatting your document, please use the comment boxes below. 

Also, check out these three excellent blog posts on formatting, by others in the biz:

5 Book Formatting Mistakes to Avoid, by Chandler Bolt:
http://self-publishingschool.com/5-book-formatting-mistakes-to-avoid/.

First Steps in Formatting for Print by fiction editor Beth Hill.

Using Font Styles When Formatting for Print by Fiction Editor Beth Hill 



Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. Jodie recently organized and edited two anthologies for charity: a BC-wide anthology of stories and poetry for Doctors Without Borders, called Voices from the Valleys, and Childhood Regained – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, created to help reduce child labor in Asia, with proceeds to SOS Children's Villages. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Click HERE to sign up for Jodie’s occasional newsletter.

Monday, April 25, 2016

CHILDHOOD REGAINED - Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, out May 10!

Great news -- Childhood Regained - Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers will be released world-wide on May 10 and is now ready for pre-order on Amazon.  This is a compelling collection of 20 touching, yet hopeful short stories and a poem, by 19 talented writers, about various children in South Asia laboring long hours in factories, quarries, plantations, mines, and other situations.
 
All net proceeds go to SOS Children's Villages http://www.soschildrensvillages.ca

If you know of any middle-grade or high school teachers, school librarians, public librarians, or booksellers, please let them know that the book is on NetGalley for them to download and review. Here's the link to Childhood Regained on NetGalley: https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/88226.

Please "Like" our Facebook page for this anthology for charity here: https://www.facebook.com/ChildhoodRegained/. We'll be having a release day party there on May 10, with lots of fun and giveaways!

To read descriptions of the stories and excerpts, please go to the website page for the anthology: http://www.jodierenner.com/books/anthologies/childhood-regained-stories-of-hope-for-asian-child-workers/

All 20 stories and one poem were written specifically for this anthology by writers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Sweden, Malta, and India, and have not been published anywhere else.

Contributors: D. Ansing, Della Barrett, Hazel Bennett, Edward Branley, Fern G.Z. Carr, Tom Combs, Sanjay Deshmukh, E.M. Eastick, Peter Eichstaedt, Patricia Anne Elford, Lori Duffy Foster, Sarah Hausman, Barbara A. Hawley, Rayne Kaa Hedberg, Steve Hooley, Eileen Hopkins, Kym McNabney, Jodie Renner, Caroline Sciriha

Compiled and edited by Jodie Renner

ALL NET PROCEEDS GO TO

“The central theme of the Childhood Regained anthology concerns one of our world’s darkest yet most deeply hidden problems. These are tales that demand to be widely read, written by authors who deserve the widest possible audience. You can’t read these stories and remain passive about the current state of child labor in Asia, or anywhere, really. Strongly recommended.”
~ Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter.com


“Each well-researched story in Childhood Regained is rooted in the point of view of child workers, starting with the harsh realities of their lives and reaching hope-filled, satisfying conclusions. Yet, the contributing authors from around the world, with their unique writing styles, avoid clichéd, predictable, or overly sweet endings. For young readers, the poignant cover image and evocative sensory details in the writing will draw them into the book. They will be impacted by being exposed to the unfamiliar worlds in these transformative stories. As the characters experience hardship, then rescue, education that brings hope, and childhood joys restored, the reader may gain a new appreciation for all they have and a desire to help make a difference in the world. Highly recommended.”

~ Karen Autio, award-winning author of books for young readers: historical novels Second Watch, Saara’s Passage, and Sabotage; chapter book Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter; and picture book Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon   www.karenautio.com

Hidden in darkness and unnoticed by the rest of the world, there exists a horrible situation in South Asia - India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Millions of children as young as five, forced to work up to 16 hours a day. Barely enough food. Poor accommodations for sleep and hygiene. Working in dangerous situations – mines, quarries, factories, brickyards, and on the streets.

Governments and charitable organizations are making inroads, but poverty and natural disasters have added to the stresses that increase the number of children involved.

This collection of short stories and a poem seeks to shine light on the darkness, exposing the situation and raising awareness of the plight of these children.

You can help with your purchase of this book, as all the net proceeds will be donated to a highly respected and trusted charity that works with these children, helping them to regain their childhood, attend school, and develop skills that will allow them to live a productive life.

Available in trade paperback ($14.95 US, $18.95 CAD) and ebook ($3.95 US)
274 pages; includes illustrations


ISBN: 978-0993700446
www.CobaltBooks.net, 2016 


Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor, workshop presenter, judge for fiction contests, and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. Jodie recently organized and edited two anthologies for charity: a BC-wide anthology of stories and poetry for Doctors Without Borders, called Voices from the Valleys, and Childhood Regained – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, created to help reduce child labor in Asia. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Click HERE to sign up for Jodie’s occasional newsletter.

Monday, January 4, 2016

5 Essential Writing Guides for Writers & Editors, $0.99 each!



If you're a fiction writer at any stage or a fiction editor, don't miss this excellent deal. For the first time ever, I've put all my writing guides and resources on sale for $0.99 USD ($1.37 CAD) each for the ebooks, for 6 days.

And you don't need an ereader to read ebooks - you can also read them on your PC, laptop, iPad or other tablet, or your smartphone.

Here are the e-books you can get all this week (Jan. 4-9, 2016) for $0.99 on Amazon.com, $1.37 on Amazon.ca, and the equivalent on all other Amazon sites. Click on the links to go to the ebook on three main Amazon sites. 

Books by Jodie Renner:

CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction   Amazon.com    Amazon.ca  Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 53 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars

~ FIRE UP YOUR FICTION – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca   Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 112 reviews, overall average of 4.7 out of 5 stars

~ WRITING A KILLER THRILLER – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction   Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com: 94 reviews, average 4.6 out of 5 stars

~ QUICK CLICKS: WORD USAGE – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips  Amazon.com , Amazon.ca , Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 16 reviews, 4.8 out of 5 stars

~ QUICK CLICKS: SPELLING LIST – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips   Amazon.com , Amazon.ca , Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 22 reviews, 4.9 out of 5 stars

Also, a new anthology (Nov. 24, 2015) organized and edited by Jodie Renner:

~ VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS - Stories & Poems about Life in BC's Interior - 300 pages, 51 contributors, all net proceeds to Doctors Without Borders  Amazon.com    Amazon.ca  Amazon.co.uk

DETAILS on some of the books:

CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction 
 Amazon.com    Amazon.ca    Amazon.co.uk  
53 reviews on Amazon.com, average 4.8 out of 5 stars. Amazon.ca

This award-winning editor's guide to writing compelling fiction provides specific advice, with examples, for captivating readers and immersing them in your story world.

It’s all about engaging the reader and providing a direct connection with the characters through deep point of view, showing instead of telling, avoiding author intrusions, and letting the characters tell the story.

And like Jodie Renner's other writing guides, which are designed for busy writers, the format of this one is reader-friendly, with text broken up by subheadings, examples, and lists. 

Praise for Captivate Your Readers- An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction

"A handy compendium of techniques that will also serve as a checklist for authors who aspire to write page-turning fiction."
- James Scott Bell, author of Super Structure: The Key to Unlocking the Power of Story

"Jodie Renner's books are packed with practical writing and editing advice. Get ready to improve your manuscript today."
- Steven James, author of Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules

"Want to write solid, marketable fiction? Read this book. Regardless of your experience level, Captivate Your Readers gives you clear and concise tools that will help you create a believable story world and spin a good yarn."
- DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Dub Walker and Samantha Cody thriller series

"Jodie Renner nails it! Captivate Your Readers should be at the top of every new and experienced writer's arsenal, as well as a preferred resource for every teacher of writing. Her no-nonsense, easy-to-understand approach is perfect. Bravo, Jodie Renner!"
- Lynn Sholes, bestselling author of the Cotten Stone series and The Shield 

VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS - Stories & Poems about Life in BC's Interior

Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.co.uk

- 308 pages, 51 contributors, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All net proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders. The print version includes drawings and photos of BC.

This anthology for charity features entertaining short stories, fascinating memoirs, and thought-provoking poetry by 50 talented BC writers, depicting life in every region of the interior of British Columbia, Canada, from the ’50s to today.

Peruse the pages and you’ll find stories about challenging experiences in remote areas, experiences with BC’s deer, bears, moose, and other wildlife; harrowing experiences with forest fires, humorous people-watching stories, touching memoirs, tales of tragic incidents, stories about relationships, and funny-only-in-hindsight true stories.

You’ll find beautiful, thought-provoking poetry about early ranching life, rock climbing, a beloved motorcycle, the loss of orchards, prospecting, experiences with forest fires, encounters with wildlife, and other special moments from various regions in BC.

FIRE UP YOUR FICTION - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories

Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 112 reviews, overall average of 4.7 out of
5 stars

Fire up Your Fiction has won three awards to date: a Silver Medal in the FAPA President’s Book Awards, a Silver Medal in the Readers' Favorite Book Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards for 2013, under its former title, Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power. It was also a Finalist in Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards.

“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

“Jodie Renner’s Fire up Your Fiction is a handy manual for writers looking to make the biggest impact with their craft.
“Fire up the Fiction is the Strunk and White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.”
~ IndieReader Approved review, March 2014

Fiction writers – if you’re looking to hone your style, bring your scenes to life, tighten up your writing, add tension, find just the right words, pick up the pace, and develop a more authentic, appealing voice, this multi-award-winning guide to the indispensable style elements of writing a popular novel is for you. This reader-friendly book is chock-full of excellent tips to help you learn to write like the pros and create a compelling novel that sells. Not only that, but if you apply these tips to your manuscript, you'll save a lot of money on editing costs.

“This book is packed with good advice on how to spot and fix weaknesses in your fiction writing. It summarizes the combined wisdom of the last century or so of fiction teachers into one handy volume.”
- Randy Ingermanson, bestselling author of Writing Fiction For Dummies

“A handy checklist and self-editing guide that will get any fiction writer to a stronger, well-told tale.”
James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Revision & Self-Editing, Plot & Structure, and The Art of War for Writers

QUICK CLICKS: WORD USAGE - Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips

Amazon.com , Amazon.ca , Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 16 reviews, 4.8 out of 5 stars
 
Find just the right word in a second or two with a click of your mouse.

Is it "Please join Paul and I" or "Please join Paul and me"? Do I lie down or lay down for a nap? How does violence on TV effect (or is it affect) young viewers? Do you insure or ensure that your seatbelt is fastened? Should you hone in or home in on your objective? And did the bride walk down the aisle or the isle? Did the dog bury its or it’s bone? Is alright a word? How about alot? And did she pour over or pore over the details?

And how do you know when to put in a hyphen and when to leave it out? Is it re-read or reread? over-rule or overrule? extramarital or extra-marital? under-employed or underemployed? semicircle or semi-circle? sub-category or subcategory?

This quick and easy, reliable e-reference to current word usage and style answers all those questions and many more.

Just keep this handy, clickable guide up on your computer screen or beside you on your e-reader, tablet, or smartphone when you’re writing or editing and find the word or term you're looking for with a click of your mouse.

Quick Clicks: Word Usage is a user-friendly, time-saving guide to the most appropriate words and usage for every level of (mainly North American) English communication, from more formal written projects to casual everyday conversations using colloquial expressions.

Who’s it for? Writers, journalists, students, teachers, bloggers, copy editors, proofreaders, small business owners, academics, and anyone with a writing project on the go will love this time-saving e-reference. All the internal links throughout the document make it super-easy for busy writers and editors to navigate, so you can get in quickly, verify the word or term, and get back to work in seconds.

QUICK CLICKS: SPELLING LIST - Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips
 
Amazon.com , Amazon.ca , Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com: 22 reviews, 4.9 out of 5 stars
      
This time-saving writers’ resource is a clickable list of words and phrases that, for one reason or another, often trip up even good spellers and slow down their work. By using this handy alphabetical spelling glossary with lots of links, and also Renner’s companion guide, Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips, you can find answers in seconds and get back to what really matters – your message and content.

Whether you’re a journalist, fiction or nonfiction writer, student, teacher, blogger, editor, or anyone else on a busy schedule (aren’t we all these days?), this clickable spelling list will save you tons of time. Not 100 percent sure of the spelling of a word, or whether it’s hyphenated or capitalized? Keep this resource on your screen or beside you on your Kindle or tablet or smartphone, then just click on the first two letters, check the word quickly, and you’re back to your writing project within seconds.

Some of the 5-star reviews for this guide:

“One word or Two? Hyphen or no hyphen? I never can keep all that straight. This books clears the air. A must for every writer.”
~ DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Samantha Cody and Dub Walker thriller series

“This is a great resource for word usage, with clickable links that make it easy. I see it becoming indispensable.”
~ L.J. Sellers, author of the bestselling Detective Jackson and Agent Dallas series

“Must-have useful reference for editors and writers! The organization is brilliant.  This time-saving reference is incredibly useful for writers and editors. It’s a very well-organized book and the clickable links are absolutely one of the best features. I’m going to use this again and again!”
~ Eve Paludan, author and editor

WRITING A KILLER THRILLER - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction

Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com: 94 reviews, average 4.6 out of 5 stars

Whether you’re planning your first novel or revising your fourth, you’ll discover lots of concrete

“Finally, someone who understands the thriller! More than ever an author must also be his own best editor and Jodie Renner is there to help. Writing a Killer Thriller should be on every thriller writer’s desk. It breaks down the thriller into its must-have component parts to write a scintillating, edge of the seat novel that will get readers buzzing and sales flowing.”
~ Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of The Jury Master and Murder One

“Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner is an in-depth journey through each component of the thriller. Renner breaks down the process into key elements, each essential to keeping the reader turning those pages. From character development to building suspense, Writing a Killer Thriller should be on the desk of every thriller author out there. A staple for the beginner, a refresher for the pro.”
~ Joe Moore, #1 Amazon and international bestselling co-author of The Blade and The Phoenix Apostles

“Writing is hard, editing harder, and self-editing almost impossible. Writing a Killer Thriller demystifies each of these steps on the road to a published manuscript. Read this book. It will help you now and for many years to come.”
~ DP Lyle, Macavity Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, Scribe, and USA Best Books nominated author of the Dub Walker thriller series
ideas here for taking your fiction up a level or two, captivating readers, and gaining fans. Both published and aspiring authors of fast-paced, popular fiction will find these tips indispensable for plotting a riveting story and creating compelling characters, then writing a gripping opening and designing suspenseful scenes. And the reader-friendly format makes it easy to zoom in on specific advice, with examples, for picking up the pace, ramping up the tension and intrigue, revising for power, and creating a page-turner that sells. 
 
Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. Jodie recently organized and edited a BC-wide anthology of stories and poetry for Doctors Without Borders, called Voices from the Valleys, and is working on a second anthology, Childhood Regained, to help reduce child labor in Asia. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Click HERE to sign up for Jodie’s occasional newsletter.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year-End Reflections and Aspirations of a Fiction Editor and Writing Coach


HAPPY NEW YEAR, writers! May all your hopes and aspirations reach fruition in 2016!

As I have in the past, I hope to continue in the upcoming year to help writers sharpen their skills and reach their publication goals through my editor's guides to writing compelling fiction, as well as my clickable e-resource guides, blog posts, and workshops -- and of course my editing of novels and short stories.

If you're looking to hone your craft at writing and also network with other writers, editors, agents, and publishers, my New Year's gift to you is a very comprehensive list of Writers' Conferences and Book Festivals in North America in 2016, just below this blog post. Or click here to view the list, organized by month, with links to their websites.

And here's a list, with active links, of my most popular tips for writing compelling fiction: Links to Jodie Renner's Top Craft of Writing Posts.

2015 was a very productive year for me -- in fact, a little too busy, for someone who is supposed to be retired and slowing down!

On February 28, I published my third writing guide, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction. This book is all about engaging readers emotionally and keeping them eagerly turning the pages of your fiction using techniques such as deep point of view, avoiding author intrusions, and showing instead of telling. It has already won two book awards plus an Honorable Mention. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

And here's my Amazon Author Page, in case you're interested in my two other writing guides; two handy, clickable resources for writers, editors, and students; and the regional anthology I organized and edited and published on Nov. 24, 2015.

In April 2015 (for the second time in a year!), I moved to a new town closer to my family, which I love. Think I'll put down roots here in beautiful Penticton, BC, situated between two lakes, with mountains on the other two sides - and mild winters, for Canada! I'm a member of the local writers' group, Penticton Writers and Publishers, and am on the organizing committee for a writers' conference here in April, the Okanagan Valley Writers' Festival, April 8-10, 2016.

Penticton, BC, Canada; photo by Doug McLauchlan

I've continued to edit novels for my clients around the world (but mainly in the U.S.), which I find very rewarding, both because of the opportunity to work with talented authors to polish their exciting stories, and for the warm, long-lasting relationships that are created as a result of long-term collaborations.

I also presented writing workshops at several conferences in 2015, including, in January, at bestselling author Steven James' Troubleshooting Your Novel workshops in Nashville, at Word on the Lake Writers' Festival in Salmon Arm, BC, in May, and at When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta, in August. And I've been busy judging short stories for various contests and anthologies, including again this year for Writer's Digest's Popular Fiction Awards.

After being an active blogger, publishing my tips on writing compelling fiction first on Crime Fiction Collective for three years, then for two and a half years every second Monday on the award-winning The Kill Zone blog (both blogs mainly aimed at writers and readers of mysteries and thrillers), I decided to step down from regular blogging to focus my energies more locally, with occasional posts here on my own blog.

In 2015, I again served as a fiction judge for short stories for Writer's Digest's Popular Fiction Awards. My category was thrillers, and I received about 245 short stories, which I had to narrow down to my top 10 choices, in order. That was a huge job, but I'm confident that the final 10 I chose were the most exciting and well-written stories in that category.

This year I've also been busy organizing and editing two anthologies for charity, with more to come in the future.

Because I was so delighted to be back in beautiful British Columbia, on Canada's West Coast after an extended absence, I decided to organize a high-quality anthology of stories and poems that typify and celebrate life in BC. This ended up to be a huge undertaking, reaching out to writers around the province and reading, then choosing, and editing their submissions. Many of the stories went back and forth several times during the editing process. Then I had to decide how the contributions would be organized and format the book. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet talented writers in BC and collaborate with them to produce a polished product that would also benefit a very worthy charity, Doctors Without Borders.

On November 24, we proudly released VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS - Stories & Poems about Life in BC's Interior.  Within 3 weeks, we were sold out of the first printing of 400 copies! We're on the second printing now, and I've already sent our first monetary donation to Doctors Without Borders.

At 107,000 words long and 308 pages, this high-quality anthology includes fiction, true stories, and poetry by 51 contributors, organized by region of the interior of BC, as well as drawings and both colour and black-and-white photos of BC.

The e-book version is without the images but contains a few extra stories and poems that I couldn't fit into the print version.

For more on this fabulous celebration of life in British Columbia, Canada, plus a link to a PDF of excerpts from the book, click HERE.


I'm also in the process of organizing and editing CHILDHOOD REGAINED - Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. This collection of short stories, aimed at readers age 12 and up, is about children working in difficult conditions in South Asia - India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It's meant to raise awareness of the conditions these children are living under and to raise money to help eradicate child labor in Asia. It will be released in spring 2016, and we're still trying to find the best charity for it. The proceeds will definitely go to a charity aimed at helping third-world children. likely Save the Children.

For 2016, I'm thrilled to have been invited to present again at Word on the Lake Writers Festival in May in Salmon Arm, BC, where I will join esteemed Canadian writers such as Arthur Slade, Alan Twigg of BC BookWorld, Robert J Sawyer, and Richard Wagamese.

I'll also be presenting two workshops at the Okanagan Valley Writers Festival, April 8-10, and will be judging short stories for the Federation of BC Writers' contest, Literary Writes 2016. I also plan to continue editing novels and producing anthologies in 2016 and beyond.

What about you? How was your 2015? Please share any writing-related news in the comments below. How about 2016? What are your writing, editing, and publishing goals for the year to come? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks!

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. Jodie recently organized and edited a BC-wide anthology of stories and poetry for Doctors Without Borders, called Voices from the Valleys, and is working on a second anthology, Childhood Regained, to help reduce child labor in Asia. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Click HERE to sign up for Jodie’s occasional newsletter.
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