Monday, September 1, 2014

FIRE UP YOUR FICTION Wins Another Award!

by Jodie Renner, editor & author

I'm pleased to announce that my editor's guide to writing compelling stories, FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, has won a third book award.

It just received another Silver Medal, this one in the Readers' Favorite Awards, in the category of Writing and Publishing.

Congratulations Jodie Renner!
Fire up Your Fiction
is a 2014 Readers' Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Non-Fiction - Writing/Publishing category!

Here's the certificate I received from Readers' Favorite Book Awards:

And the 5-star review this book received on the Readers' Favorite website:

Reviewed By Bil Howard for Readers’ Favorite

"Jodie Renner has done fiction writers a huge favor by compiling her blogs into Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories. She covers subjects that can get a story moving and not only draw the reader in, but hold their attention and keep them turning pages.

"She covers the issues involved with creating and keeping conflict, tension, and action burning throughout your story and showing rather than telling. [...]

"Renner also discusses wordiness and the use of clich├ęs, as well as cutting down your word count in order to get to the action and keep it moving. She also gives excellent advice on how to make your dialogue sizzle; a problem for nearly every author. All in all, this volume is packed with plenty of digestible literary protein that will feed writers and make them eager for action. [...]

"Packed with information, accurate and inspiring, Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories will help you transform your fiction into a more marketable product." 

Fire up Your Fiction - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories was also awarded a Silver Medal from the Florida Authors & Publishers President's Book Awards and an Honorable Mention from the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2013, and was a Finalist in Foreword Reviews' IndieFab Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Comments on this book by bestselling "writing gurus": 

"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 Conflict & Suspense

Brief excerpts from other comments by 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, January 2014

“the Strunk & White for writers who want to be not just mere storytellers but master story-compellers.”

- Lucy Wang, reviewer for IndieReader

Amazon Reviews:

Fire up Your Fiction has received 85 reviews on to date, with an overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Many writers and aspiring authors have emailed me to tell me how much this book and my other book, Writing a Killer Thriller, have helped them tighten up their writing and make it more compelling. If you have read either of my books and found them helpful for your writing, I'd love it if you could write a review on Amazon.

Click on the book title to go to Jodie Renner's eBooks on Amazon:

Fire up Your Fiction - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories

Writing a Killer Thriller - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction

And look for Captivate Your Readers, out in late 2014, as well as two shorter resources, Grammar on the Go and Spelling on the Go.

Jodie Renner, editor & author

Join me on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writers' Conferences & Book Festivals, Sept. 2014 to Aug. 2015

Winner of 3 book awards
by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

As I do a few times a year, I've compiled a list of writers' conferences and book festivals in North America. This one runs from September 2014 to August 2015. For June 2015 and on, a lot of websites haven't posted their dates for 2015, so I'll add them when I find out the dates.

Please tell us about any conferences or book festivals I’ve missed by posting the info in the comments below, or email me at Info (at) JodieRenner (dot) com, and I’ll add them to the list. Be sure to give me the name of the conference, the date(s), location, and website URL. Thanks a lot!

SEPTEMBER 2014:      

Sept. 5-7, 2014 Colorado Gold Writers Conference, hosted by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Sept. 4-7, 2014 – Writers’ Police Academy, Jamestown, North Carolina.

Sept 13-14, 2014 – Alaska Writer’s Guild Conference, Anchorage Alaska.

September 19-21, 2014, Imaginarinum Writing & Film Festival, Louisville, KY

Sept. 20, 2014 - ORAcon2014 - Fiction Writers Conference in Springfield, Missouri.

Sept. 19-21, 2014: Southern California Writers' Conference Newport Beach, Calif.

Sept. 24-28, 2014 - WORD Vancouver: Inspiring Words, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Sept. 25-27, 2014 – Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers’ Conference, St. Augustine, Florida.

Sept. 25-27, 2014 - The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference, St. Louis.

Sept. 26-28, 2014 – The Midwestern Book Lovers Unite Convention for Readers and Authors, Minneapolis, MN.


Oct. 3-5, 2014 – Write on the Sound Writers’ Conference, Edmonds, Washington.

Oct. 9-12, 2014 - Moonlight and Magnolias romance writers' conference in Norcross, Georgia; 

October 10-12, 2014 - The Southern Festival of Books, Nashville TN.

Oct.16-19, 2014 – Women Writing the West Conference, Golden, Colorado. 

Oct. 17-19, 2014 – Digital Authors 2.0 and Self-Publishing Conference, sponsored by West Coast Writers Conferences. Los Angeles Valley College, Van Nuys, California. 

Oct. 17-19, 2014 – Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, Los Angeles Valley College, L.A., CA.

Oct. 17-18, 2014 – Put Your Heart in a Book, New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Iselin, N.J.

Oct. 17-19, 2014 – Emerald City Writers’ Conference (Romance Writers of America), Bellevue, Washington.

Oct. 17-19, 2014 – Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Whistler, BC.

Oct. 17-19, 2014 - Genre-la writers’ conference, Los Angeles Valley College, Van Nuys, CA.

Oct. 19-24, 2014 – Salt Cay Writers’ Retreat, Salt Cay, Bahamas.

Oct. 25, 2014 – Boston Book Festival – free and excellent!

Oct. 21-26, 2014 - The Vancouver Writers Fest, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

October 22-26, 2014 – The Author’s World, the Novelist, Inc. (NINC) writers conference, St. Petersburg, Florida.

October 24 - 26, 2014 - 13th Annual Florida Writers Conference, Lake Mary, FL. 

October 24-26, 2014, Magna cum Murder in association with Crimefest, Indianapolis IN

Oct. 24-26, 2014 – Surrey International Writers Conference, Surrey, BC, Canada.

Oct. 24-26, 2014 - Chicago Writers Conference, University Center, Chicago, Ill.

Oct. 24-26, 2014 - Stars of Florida Writers, 13th Annual Florida Writers Conference, Orlando Marriott Lake Mary.

Oct. 24-26, 2014 – The La Jolla Writers Conference, Paradise Point Resort and Spa, San Diego, CA

Oct. 24-26, 2014 - South Carolina Writers Workshop annual conference, Myrtle Beach, SC


November 1, 2014 - Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge, LA 

Nov. 6-8, 2014 - Tony Hillerman Writers Conference, Santa Fe, NM.

Nov. 6-9, 2014 – Sanibel Island Writers Conference, Sanibel Island, Florida.

Nov. 7-8, 2014 - Charleston YA Book Festival – YallFest:

Nov. 7-9 - Kamloops Writers Festival, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

Nov. 7-9, 2014 – The New England Crime Bake Conference, Dedham, Mass. 

Nov. 8, 2014 - Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, 

Nov. 13-16, 2014 – Bouchercon Crime Fiction Convention, Long Beach, California.

Nov. 13-16, 2014 - Writing Across Boundaries, Windsor International Writers Conference, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Nov. 15, 2014 - Seattle PubCamp, hosted by (Jodie will be presenting a workshop on Deep Point of View.)

Nov. 15, 2014 - Baltimore Writers' Conference, Towson, Md.

Nov. 22, 2014 -'s PubCamp, Seattle, Wn.

Nov. 16-23, 2014 - Miami Book Fair International, Miami, Florida.


(Not usually any conferences in December)

To sign up to receive Jodie Renner's sporadic (3-6 times per year) newsletter with links to top craft-of-writing articles and other resources for writers, please click HERE.



Jan. 16-19, 2015 - 22nd Annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, Seaview Resort, New Jersey Shore.

Jan. 23-25, 2015 – San Diego State University Writers’ Conference, San Diego Marriott, Mission Valley.

Jan. 17-25, 2015: Writers in Paradise conference, St. Petersburg, Florida.

January 26-31, 2015 - 2015 Todos Santos Writers Workshop, Todos Santos, Baja Mexico.


Feb. 5-9, 2015 – Florida Romance Writers cruise conference. 

Feb. 6-8, 2015 - Love Is Murder Mystery Conference, Chicago, IL.

Feb. 11-15, 2015 - San Miguel Writers' Conference & Literary Festival.

Feb. 12-15, 2015 - San Francisco Writers Conference, San Francisco.

Feb. 12-15, 2015 – Savannah Book Festival, Savannah, GA. Free and open to the public.

Feb. 26 - Mar. 1, 2015 - Sleuthfest - an annual conference for mystery, suspense, and thriller writers, Deerfield Beach, Florida.

See Jodie Renner's craft-of-writing blog posts on The Kill Zone blog alternate Mondays.

MARCH 2015:

March 12-15, 2015 - Left Coast Crime annual mystery convention. This year it’s in Portland, Oregon.

March 14, 2015 - Unicorn Writer's Conference, Purchase, NY. 

March 14-15, 2015 – The Tucson Festival of Books, University of Arizona campus, Tucson, AZ. Free and excellent!

March 18-22, 2015 – Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, Virginia,

March 20-22, 2015 – Wordcrafters in Eugene Writers’ Conference, Eugene, Oregon. “The focus is on fiction.”

Mar. 27-28, 2015 - Northern Colorado Writers Conference, Fort Collins, CO. 

March 28-29, 2015 - The Dahlonega Book Festival, Dahlonega, Georgia

March 27-31, 2015 - The Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference,

APRIL 2015:

April 8-11, 2015: AWP Writers’ Conference & Bookfair, Minneapolis, Minn., Assoc. of Writers and Writing Programs.

April 10-11, 2015 – IBPA Publishing University, Austin, Texas. 

April 11, 2015 – Alabama Book Festival, Montgomery. Free.

April 17 & 18, 2015 – Southern Kentucky Writers’ Conference and Bookfest 

April 23-25, 2015 - Las Vegas Writers Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada.

April 24-26, 2015, Tallahassee Writers Conference, Tallahassee, Florida.

April 24-26, 2015 – Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

April 24-25, 2015 - Ontario Writers Conference, Ajax, Ontario, Canada.

April 24-26, 2014 - Arkansas Literary Festival. Little Rock, AR
(check back for 2015 dates)

MAY 2015:

May 1-3, 2015 - Malice Domestic, annual traditional mystery fan convention, in Bethesda, MD.

 May 3-4, 2014 - Dallas - Fort WorthWriters Conference, Hurst Conference Center, DFW Metroplex, Texas. Twitter: @dfwcon. (2015 dates not up yet)

May 6-8, 2015 - Nonfiction Writers Conference, virtual.

May 13-17, 2015 – Romantic Times Book Lovers’ Convention, Dallas, Texas

May 15-17, 2015 – Pennwriters, Pittsburgh, PA.

May 15-17, 2015 - SC Book Festival, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, South Carolina.

JUNE 2015:

June 6-7, 2015 – California Crime Writers Conference, Pasadena, Cal. 

June 12-16, 2015 – Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, Lands End Resort, Homer, Alaska.

June 19-23, 2015 - Southeastern Writers Workshop, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

June 23-27, 2015 - Western Writers of America convention, Sacramento, Calif.

JULY 2015:

July 7-11, 2015 – Master Craftfest, Craftfest, and THRILLERFEST – International Thriller Writers annual conference, New York, NY.

July 22-25, 2015 – Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, New York City.

July 23-26, 2015 – Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference, Corte Madera, CA.
AUGUST 2015:
TBA - as the info comes out. Suggestions most welcome!

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 (alternate Mondays on The Kill Zone) on writing captivating fiction. Find Jodie on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Websites: ;
Subscribe to Jodie's sporadic (3-6 times a year) newsletter HERE.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spark up Your Story - Adding Suspense, Tension & Intrigue – Handout

by Jodie Renner, editor & author, @JodieRennerEd  

This is the HANDOUT for my recent 50-minute workshop, "Spark up Your Story - Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue" at When Words Collide conference in Calgary, Aug. 8-10, 2014.

All genres of fiction, not just thrillers, suspense novels, and action-adventures, need tension, suspense, and intrigue to keep readers eagerly turning the pages. And of course, you’ll need to ratchet up the tension and suspense a lot more if you’re writing a fast-paced, nail-biting page-turner. 

A. Some “big-picture” techniques for adding suspense, tension, and intrigue:

~ First, make your readers care about your protagonist by creating a likeable, appealing, strong, smart and resourceful but vulnerable character, with some inner conflict, regrets, and secrets. If readers haven’t bonded with your character, they won’t care what happens to him. 

~ Put your character in motion right away. Start right out in the head and body of your main character, in an active scene with others, with some discord and tension.

~ Get up close and personal. Use deep point of view (first-person or close third person) to get us into the head and body of your main character. This makes readers care about the character and worry about him. A worried reader is an engaged reader.

~ Challenge your protagonist. Now that your readers care about your main character, insert a major threat, challenge, or dilemma within the first chapter or two that won’t be resolved until the end. Create an over-riding sentence about this to keep in mind as you’re writing your story: 

“Will (name) survive/stop/find/overcome (ordeal/person/difficulty/threat) on time?” 

~ Create a cunning antagonist. Your villain needs to be as clever, determined and resourceful as your protagonist – or even more so. Make him or her a serious force to be reckoned with!

~ Create a mood of unease by showing the main character feeling apprehensive about something or someone or by showing some of the bad guy’s thoughts and intentions. For a thriller, establish a sense of urgency, a tense mood, and generally fast pacing.

~ Show, don’t tell. Show all your critical scenes in real time as they’re happening, with action, reaction, and dialogue. Show your main character’s inner feelings and physical and emotional reactions. Don’t have one character tell another about an important event or scene.

~ Use multiple viewpoints, especially that of the villain. For increased anxiety and suspense, get us into the head of your antagonist from time to time. This way the readers find out critical information the heroine doesn’t know, things we want to warn her about!

~ Keep the story momentum moving forward. Don’t get bogged down in backstory or exposition. Keep the action moving ahead, especially in the first chapter. Then work in background details and other info little by little, on an “as-needed” basis only, through dialogue or flashbacks – not as the author telling the readers. 

~ Every scene needs conflict and a change. There should be something unresolved in every scene. Your character enters the scene with an objective or goal (agenda), but she encounters obstacles in the scene, so she is thwarted in her efforts to reach her goal. But circumstances or the character have changed by the end of the scene.

~ Put tension on every page. Every page needs some tension, even if it's just disagreement, resentment, doubt, or questioning simmering below the surface.

~ Vary the tension. But of course, you can’t keep up tension nonstop, as it’s tiring for readers and will eventually numb them. It’s best to intersperse tense, nail-biting scenes with a few less tense ones.

~ Add in tough choices and moral dilemmas. Devise ongoing difficult decisions and inner conflict for your lead character. Besides making your plot more suspenseful, this will also make your protagonist more complex, vulnerable, and intriguing.

~ Withhold information. Don’t tell your readers too much too soon. Dole out critical information little by little, through dialogue, thoughts, and brief flashbacks, to tantalize readers and keep them wondering. 

~ Delay answers to critical plot questions. Look for places in your story where you’ve answered readers’ questions too soon, so have missed a prime spot to increase tension and suspense. Draw out the time before answering that question. In the meantime, hint at it from time to time to remind readers of its importance.

~ Use foreshadowing to incite curiosity. Tease the readers with innuendos. Drop subtle hints of troubles to come. Hint at the main character’s past secrets. What is the character worried about or afraid might happen? Capitalize on this.

~ Add in some revelations and epiphanies to put a twist on things and reward readers for their interest and involvement.

~ Use the setting to establish the mood and create suspense. This is the equivalent of ominous music, harsh lighting, strange camera angles, or nasty weather in a scary movie. 

~ Make use of compelling, vivid sensory imagery to take us right there, with the protagonist, vividly experiencing and reacting to whoever/whatever is challenging or threatening him. 

~ Use brief flashbacks at key moments to reveal your main character’s childhood traumas, unpleasant events, secrets, emotional baggage, hangups, dysfunctional family, etc. 

~ Keep hampering your hero or heroine throughout the novel to increase worry, tension, and suspense. Stir in some of these ingredients: a ticking clock, obstacles, chases, traps, restrictions, handicaps, injuries, bad luck, etc.

~ Keep raising the stakes. Keep asking yourself, “How can I make things worse for the protagonist?” As the challenges get more difficult and the obstacles more insurmountable, readers worry more and suspense grows.

~ Plan a few plot twists. Readers are surprised and delighted when the events take a turn they never expected. Don’t let your readers become complacent, thinking it’s easy to figure out the ending, or they may stop reading.

See Jodie’s book Writing a Killer Thriller for a lot more detail on each of the points mentioned above.

B. Revision stage:
Amp up, condense, or delete any scenes that lag, and tighten up your writing. Now go back and make sure every scene and paragraph drives the story forward. Make every chapter, scene, page, paragraph, sentence, and word count! 

 See Jodie's Fire up Your Fiction for lots of concrete tips with examples for tightening your writing and revising your novel or short story to make it more compelling.

Do you have any good ideas to add for adding tension and intrigue to your stories? Please share in the comments below! Thanks.

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing and Killer Thriller, and the multi-award-winning Fire up Your Fiction. The third book, Captivate Your Readers, will be out in late 2014.;; Twitter: @JodieRennerEd; Facebook: Jodie Renner Editor-Author

Monday, August 11, 2014

Engage Your Readers with Deep Point of View

by Jodie Renner, editor & author, @JodieRennerEd  

This is the HANDOUT from Jodie's recent workshop on deep point of view at When Words Collide literary festival, Calgary, Aug. 8-10, 2014.

(POV = point of view = viewpoint – Who’s telling the story? or Whose head are we in for that scene?)

Some quick tips for avoiding POV gaffes in your fiction:

(The actual presentation of course had/has an introduction to point of view and deep POV or close third-person viewpoint, with lots of details and examples.)

~ First, decide whose scene it is. Who has the most at stake? (If in doubt, show it from the POV of your protagonist.)

~ Now, get into that character’s head and body and stay there for the whole scene or chapter. Don’t flit around to the thoughts of other characters or show anything that’s going on outside of your POV character’s range or perceptions.

~ Don’t show or describe things going on behind the character’s back, in another room, or anywhere out of their sight or hearing range. Only show us what the character can logically perceive at that time.

~ To describe the setting, use the perceptions, words, goal, attitude, and mood of the POV character for that scene. Don’t describe a scene as a neutral observer or as the author talking to the readers.

~ Color your descriptions of other characters with the attitudes of your POV character toward them. Avoid neutral descriptions.

~ Don’t describe other characters in a way that the POV character wouldn’t. For example, don’t give a detailed description from head to toe of a character the POV character is looking at and already knows very well, like a family member.

~ Don’t get into the inner thoughts or feelings of any other characters in that scene. Show their thoughts, emotions, attitudes and intentions by their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, words, and actions – anything the POV character can perceive.

~ When starting a new scene or chapter, use the name of the viewpoint character right away, in the first sentence, to establish immediately for the reader whose head we’re in now. 

~ After introducing the POV character, refer to him or her in an informal way, as they would think of themselves.

~ Use the POV character’s name at the beginning of scenes (full name for first mention), then use mainly “he” or “she” except when their name is needed for clarity. (The “he” or “she” is like “I”.)

~ Refer to other characters by the name the POV character normally uses for them. 

~ Avoid lengthy "info dumps." Don’t butt in as the author to explain things to the readers, outside of the character’s viewpoint. Instead, reveal the info from the character’s POV or as a question-and-answer dialogue, with some attitude and tension to spice things up. 

~ Don’t show the POV character’s facial expression or body language (unless they’re looking in a mirror). They don’t know what’s going on with their face. Or indicate it somehow through their thoughts or fears. For example, you could say “She felt her face flush” to indicate that she’s blushing.

~ Show the POV character’s inner thoughts, emotions, and reactions constantly to increase reader engagement.

~ Sprinkle in direct thought-reactions in italics, to reveal the character’s true feelings and increase intimacy with the readers.
What a great audience!

~ Show the POV character’s sensory reactions to their environment, other characters, and what’s happening. Use as many of the five senses as is appropriate to get us into the skin of the character. 

~ Keep the narration in the POV character’s voice. Not only should the dialogue be in the character’s voice and style, but the narration should too, as that’s really the character’s thoughts and observations.

~ Avoid lengthy backstory dumps, the author telling the readers about the character and their background. Introduce only the essential info, through the characters. Or use brief flashbacks, in scenes in real time, with action and dialogue.

~ Don’t have characters magically knowing the names of other characters they’ve never met or heard of, just because we, as the readers, have met those other characters. This is an easy gaffe to make inadvertently.

Copyright © Jodie Renner, 2014   

For more tips on using deep point of view to engage your readers and bring your characters and story
to life, see Jodie’s writers’ guides in the series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction – the award-winning Fire up Your Fiction (81 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars) and Writing a Killer Thriller (61 reviews, 4.7 av.), and especially her upcoming book, Captivate Your Readers.

For more info on Jodie’s editing or writing, or to read her popular writing craft blog posts, please visit Jodie’s websites, and, and her group blog, The Kill Zone. Also, please join Jodie on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Google+. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Quick, Basic Tips for Writing a Riveting Short Story

Find on Amazon
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.;

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.; @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:
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: Use the code provided to get 50% off at the check-out. Thanks, Mark Coker!


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 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.

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. or visit her websites: and; Facebook: 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

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 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)
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.)
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) 

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