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) 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Don't Give Readers a Reason to Reject Your Novel

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And see this great post on what makes you fall in love with a novel and the characters: "Falling in love, one book at a time," by A.M. Khalifa.
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), as well as her handy, clickable e-resources, Spelling on the Go and Grammar on the Go, Jodie Renner is a sought-after freelance fiction editor and author of numerous blog posts on writing captivating fiction. Find Jodie on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her posts alternate Mondays on The Kill Zone blog. Subscribe to Jodie's sporadic (3-6 times a year) newsletter HERE.