Monday, October 18, 2021


by Jodie Renner, editor & author 

Has your fiction or nonfiction manuscript already been edited? Or you've received extensive feedback and have made revisions? I'll do a detailed proofread for word choice, grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, stylistic consistency, repetitions, indents, spaces, formatting, headings, subheadings, and more. 

Besides being an award-winning author and independent publisher, I'm a former English teacher with a master's degree and have been a professional editor since 2007. My main reference guides are The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. If you have a preferred house style guide, I will use that.

My fee for final proofreading is $7 - $12 per 1000 words (minimum 9,000 words). Turnaround time is usually two weeks or less, depending on the length of the manuscript.

I will send you back both a marked-up copy, where you can "accept" or "reject" my changes if you wish, and a "clean" copy, with all my changes accepted. Both have comments in the margin.

Please note: Proofreading does not include editing for plot, characterization, dialogue, point of view, author intrusions, showing instead of telling, voice, logistics, discrepancies, pacing, or other effective fiction-writing techniques, all of which I look for in my editing services. Proofreading is the final step in the editing process.

Proofreading is best done after a manuscript has undergone a thorough line edit or copy edit, or the author has had significant feedback and has done a lot of revisions. There's no point in having a manuscript proofread if it's going to undergo significant changes, which would then require another proofreading pass at additional cost.

Below are some of the problems I look for when proofreading your fiction or nonfiction manuscript aimed at a general readership. (I don’t proofread academic or scientific documents.)


Spelling and word choice confusions:

  • Spelling errors and typos: I'll check for errors that spellcheck won’t catch, including common typing mistakes (e.g. "manger" instead of "manager", "fried" instead of "friend", etc.) and embarrassing errors, such as the "l" missing in "public".
  • Confusions between homophones, e.g., you're/your or there/they’re/their or effect/affect or peak/peek or counsel/council
  • Missing words, e.g., "to hospital" or word doubles, e.g. the the
  • Incorrect word choice (word used doesn’t fit the meaning desired), e.g. adverse/averse
  • Incorrect hyphenation of words and phrases. Is it takedown, take-down, or take down? follow-up or follow up? rear-view mirror or rearview mirror?
  • Misuse of definite and indefinite articles (the/a/an)
  • Misuse of prepositions (of, at, in, from, between, among, etc.)

Grammar and sentence structure:

  • Incomplete sentences, run-on sentences
  • Overly long, convoluted sentences
  • Inconsistent verb tenses (e.g., mixing past tense and present tense)
  • Lack of parallelism in lists
  • Passive rather than active voice

Repetitions and redundancies:

  • The same noticeable or specific word or root word used within a sentence or paragraph, e.g., “two big stacks of files were stacked on her desk.” or “Music blasted from a bar. A cold blast of air hit his face.
  • Overuse of words such as that, very, just, quite, smiled, etc.
  • Overuse of generic words such as “thing” or “good” or “big” or “walked” instead of more specific words
  • Overuse of speech tags where not needed.

Capitalization and Punctuation:

  • Missing, extra, or misused commas
  • Confusion between hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes
  • Incorrect punctuation and/or capitalization for dialogue
  • Incorrect use of apostrophes
  • Incorrect or overuse of semicolons, colons, and ellipses
  • Missing end (closing) quotation marks, parentheses, and periods
  • Inconsistent capitalization of words and phrases
  • Inconsistent or incorrect capitalization and punctuation for lists

Overuse or misuse of italics, underlining, bolding, or all caps:

  • Generally, italics are more acceptable for emphasis than underlining, bolding, or all caps
  • Italics for some but not all foreign phrases

Possible inappropriate style or word choices for your target readership:

I'll flag for your attention:

  • Jargon – technical terminology that a general readership might not understand
  • Pretentious language – wording or phrasing that might seem overly erudite, haughty, or condescending to your target readers.
  • Course language and profanities: If they seem a bit overdone, I might point them out and you can decide whether to keep them or tone them down.

Stylistic inconsistency:

  • Inconsistency of style and tone (word choices, sentence structure), based on target readership
  • Overly formal or overly casual wording that doesn’t fit the overall style
  • Consistency of UK, US, Canadian, or Australian spelling (labour/labor, theatre/theater, travelling/traveling, judgement/judgment, licence/license, organise/organize, etc.)
  • Inconsistent treatment of numbers (30/thirty, 65/sixty-five)
  • Inconsistent capitalization and punctuation in headings and subheadings
  • Inconsistent or incorrect capitalization and punctuation in lists
  • Inconsistent presentation of abbreviations (e.g. Nasa/NASA/N.A.S.A. or U.S./US)

Basic formatting issues:

  • Inconsistent font style or size
  • Incorrect spacing between words, sentences, and paragraphs
  • Inconsistent paragraph indentation and spacing
  • Incorrect or missing page breaks between chapters
  • Inconsistent formatting of headings and subheadings
  • Inconsistent formatting of lists and bullet points
  • Inconsistencies between the Table of Contents and the actual headings and subheadings


If you’d like me to do a thorough, professional final proofread of your manuscript, please email me at with:

  • Whether it's fiction or nonfiction
  • The subject or genre
  • Total word count
  • British, American, Canadian, or Australian English
  • Target readership
  • Your preferred style (chatty, casual, formal, businesslike, etc.)
  • A brief description of what it’s about (one paragraph)
  • 10 pages of the document
  • Your preferred deadline

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction:
FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

NaNoWriMo Prep for Beginners

... and anyone else who could use some ideas to on how to use October to get ready for National Novel Writing Month in November

by Jodie Renner, editor & author   

November is National Novel Writing Month. Many writers use this as an impetus to start a new novel or make significant headway on their writing, or even do a first draft of 50,000 words. If that seems daunting, you can make your goal for NaNoWriMo 30,000 words. That’s 1000 new words per day, rough draft. Or, if you have a busy slate, maybe you just plan to write a short story or two for NaNoWriMo.

October is a great time to do some essential planning for the story you’ll be writing in November, so you can take off from the starting gate with a lot of planning already done.

If you've never written a novel or maybe just a short story or two, here are some tips to plan out and create a compelling story readers will love. Experienced fiction writers may also find these checklists useful as reminders for your next WIP. 

As with most of my advice, these tips are for writing popular fiction, rather than literary fiction. 

First, the Essential Ingredients of a Captivating Story

To engage and captivate readers, you’ll need to:

~ Imagine a unique story world.

~ Choose or invent a believable, interesting setting.

~ Create a fascinating, complicated, vulnerable main character.

~ Give your protagonist a driving goal or desire.

~ Add an antagonist or hindrance of some sort.

~ Create an intriguing plot that revolves around the driving goal and a major dilemma, conflict, threat, or challenge the protagonist faces.

~ As the story goes along, add some more challenges and problems for your protagonist.

~ Try to add a surprise twist or two. Don't make it too predictable.

~ Create a riveting climax where your protagonist is challenged to the max (physically or emotionally or both).

~ Devise a satisfying ending with some resolution.

Planning Your Story:

First, you'll need to create an interesting main character that readers will care about and worry about, and a significant conflict, challenge, dilemma, or obstacle that character encounters. 

Every scene should have some kind of challenge or problem that the protagonist (or viewpoint character for that scene) must deal with.

In planning your story, whether it’s a short story or longer fiction, use this as a rough guide. Make some jot notes under each of these headings.

1. Who’s your target readership (audience)? (rough age group, gender, interests)

2. What kind of story (genre) would you like to write that would interest your target readers? (fantasy, action, chick lit, suspense, romance, mystery, etc.)

3. Who is your main character, and why will readers care about him or her? How is he or she vulnerable? What’s especially interesting about your protagonist?

4. Where and when does this story take place? What’s going on?

5. Who are your character’s sidekicks? (A few close friends or family members)

6. Who is your character’s worst enemy, and why? Invent a rival or antagonist of some kind.

7. What is your main character’s deepest secret, regret, fear, or phobia?

8. What is their biggest hope, their main wish or desire? Their driving goal? Or, as Alan Watt says in The 90 Day Novel, “What do they want? What do they need?”

9. Who or what thwarts that desire? Who or what causes them some major problems? Perhaps related to their secret, regret, or fear.

10. How does the protagonist confront the challenges? What do they do to try to resolve the issues and get (back) to how they want things to be? 

Then, if you have time, you can continue making rough notes on:

11. How do things get worse for them? What will happen if they don’t succeed?

12. What’s their lowest point, their bleakest moment, when all seems lost?

13. How do they finally manage to resolve (most of) the issue or defeat the enemy?

14. How is their life different now?

15. How have they changed by what they’ve been through? (Character arc)

If you answer all of the above questions, you’ll have a compelling story readers won’t want to put down.

Create a Potential Back-Cover Blurb:

Here’s a premise in a nutshell for a gripping, entertaining story your readers will love:

Use this as a general guideline for mapping out your story, novel, or novella:

(Hero or heroine’s name) wants ... (what will complete their life, make them happy, fulfill their main goal, satisfy their biggest hope or desire?). But he/she is hampered by ... (describe the misfortune, conflict, dilemma, problem, villain), and s/he has ... (time limit or other hindrance) to ... (describe the almost impossible task) or ... (describe a negative consequence that will happen). He/she has to choose between... and .... (Continue from there.)

Good luck with your October planning for November's NaNoWriMo!

For more fiction-writing tips, explore this blog and check out my award-winning, reader-friendly writing guides, which all have lots of bolded subheadings, bulleted points, and before-and-after examples. Click on the links below:

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction:
FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Are You Looking for Professional Help with your Nonfiction Book?



by Jodie Renner, editor & author

Are you an expert on or passionate about a topic and want to share your knowledge about it in a book? And add to your resume and make some money at the same time? 

Maybe you’ve made a good start but reached a roadblock with your project. Now's the time to find some professional help with rewriting, revising, and restructuring your book so it will appeal to your target readership and sell well.

I’m accepting nonfiction books for substantive/structural editing or rewriting on these or related topics, aimed at a general (not academic or scientific) audience:


personal growth, healthy living, self-help, wellness, lifestyles, nutrition, health, senior living or issues, relationships, or alternative healthcare and wellness.


I will work with you on your nonfiction book to do a detailed  substantive/structural edit, as well as a thorough copyedit and final proofread, which will include:


·         Helping you define your target readership

·         Clarifying your goals with this book

·         Discussing the scope of your book (maybe too narrow or too broad?)

·         Helping you, if needed, to develop a “voice” and style that will appeal to your target readership

·         Discussing the overall organization and flow of your book, and transitions between chapters

·         Helping you with an enticing opening (first paragraphs)

·         Checking for overly technical phrases and jargon your target audience may not easily understand

·         Rearranging, adding, or condensing chapters, topics, and subtopics to make the whole structure more appealing and cohesive

·         Moving, adding, rewriting, or deleting details, sentences, and paragraphs

·         Watching for any inconsistencies and discrepancies

·         Flagging and helping you rewrite any confusing statements

·         Asking for clarification and examples if needed

·         Suggesting anecdotes, interesting facts, or a bit of humor, if needed

·         Noting repetitions or redundancies within a sentence, paragraph, or elsewhere in the book

·         Flagging digressions and off-topic references

·         Rewriting overly long, overly formal, or convoluted sentences

·         Fixing spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and typos

·         Clicking through any references to make sure they lead to the intended source

·         Checking your references, using an acceptable style guide


I'm a former English teacher and librarian with a Master's degree. I edit American and Canadian English, and my main two reference sources are The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


Finally, I will format your book for publishing, including creating proper chapter headings, subheadings, and a Table of Contents (made clickable for an ebook).


Fee Structure: For info on fees, please visit the Editing page of my website.


My process is interactive, so the manuscript goes back and forth several times, with plenty of input by the author. 

If your manuscript, article, or webpage only needs a basic copyedit and proofread, I can do that too, at a considerably lower fee.


Contact me at info (at) JodieRenner (dot) (com) with your topic, target readership, projected number of words/pages, ideas and/or table of contents, and your first 10-20 pages. If your project interests me or I have time to take it on, I’ll get back to you with some ideas and a sample edit/rewrite.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

How to Snag the Best Freelance Editor for Your Novel


How to Snag the Best Freelance Editor for Your Writing Project

by Jodie Renner

With so many authors self-publishing these days, the best freelance editors are in high demand. So if you’re looking for a knowledgeable, experienced professional editor to help you make your manuscript the best it can be – and improve your overall writing skills in the process – be sure to take some care with how you seek out and approach them.

Due to the high volume of requests, sought-after freelance editors turn down many more writer clients than they can accept. So it’s important to make a good first impression.

Don’t Send a Rough Draft to a Freelance Editor

First, make sure your manuscript isn’t still in rough draft. Try to find time to hone your craft by reading writing advice by experts such as James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Elizabeth Lyon. (Also check out my three award-winning fiction-writing guides on Amazon.)

Then go over the manuscript several times, looking for issues you read about and those listed below.

Use Beta Readers First

Enlist 3-5 voluntary beta readers who read in your genre to give you feedback on what excited, confused, or bored them. Also ask where plot points, dialogue, or character reactions didn’t ring true or make sense for them. Here are 15 questions for your beta readers.

If grammar and sentence structure aren’t your strong suit, make the first volunteer you send your manuscript to someone who excels at English. It helps if they are willing to proofread it for typos and grammatical and spelling errors.

That way your other beta readers won’t be distracted by those kinds of errors and can get right into the story. ...

For the rest of this post, go to Anne R Allen's blog at:

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

What to Include When Contacting an Editor

Looking for a Freelance Editor for Your Novel? 

Here's what to include when you first contact them.

In-demand freelance editors, like agents, are very busy people. A well-respected editor will receive a lot of submissions for editing, more than they can take on, so it's important to send them everything they need when you first contact them, rather than just introducing yourself.

Be sure to check out their website first and see what they specialize in editing and what they need from you before they can consider taking on your work. If they don’t include that info, just use the guidelines below and send them all the information listed, so they can see the subject matter and quality of the writing right away.

Here’s an email I received today that gives me no information whatsoever about the type of project it is or the quality of writing, i.e., how much work it will need to bring it up to industry standards and sell well.

Dear Jodi

I want to ask you if you have time to help me with a project that I need to submit next month. If you can help, that will be great. I need proofreading, copy-editing  too. 

Let me know if you can help and how much you charge. 


How can I respond to this query, with no further information included or attached? I really need to know what kind of project it is and see a sample of the writing as well. (Never mind that they misspelled my first name!) When I’m busy (which I am now), I just don’t have time to email them back and list the items they need to send me. And I certainly can't give a fee, even if they had included the word count, without seeing at least some of the project and doing a sample edit.

If you want to get a timely response from an editor, include everything they need in your initial inquiry. A brief email asking if I have time to take on a project, with no additional information, is a bit frustrating. What if I say yes and it turns out it’s not the kind of thing I want to edit at all. How do I turn them down diplomatically when I’ve just said I have time to take on their project? I want to see at least some of the project first, before I say whether I’m available or not. 

Here’s what to include when you first contact a potential freelance editor for your novel or short story:

~ Your full name. If your author name is different, best to include both.

~ The genre of your novel or story. 

This is the main category it would fit into, where it would be shelved in a library or bookstore. Mystery, romance, fantasy, literary, sci-fi, historical, suspense, thriller, YA mystery, middle-grade fantasy, romantic suspense, action-adventure, horror, etc.

~ Total word count. 

(Or projected word count.) For a novel, should be between 75K and 100K words, usually 80-90K. Don’t need the exact number of words – round it out to the nearest 100. 

By the way, if your novel is over 95 thousand words, it very likely needs tightening up. See "How to Slash your Word Count by 20-40%, without losing any of the good stuff."

~ Character sketches

Give a brief description of each of the most important 4-6 characters, in order of importance, in list form. Begin with the main viewpoint character of the story. Give the full name of each character, bolded, and their age (or approximate age). Include the love interest if there is one and the antagonist or villain, as well as anyone else who plays a significant role, such as a spouse, boss, partner, close buddy, or confidante. A line or two for each is fine. What is their strongest desire or motivation or their biggest problem? What is their role in the story?

~ A SYNOPSIS (Plot Outline, Story Outline)

A brief description (usually a paragraph to half a page is fine) of the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Unlike with a blurb or back cover copy, which just gives enough tantalizing detail to pique the reader’s interest, a synopsis for an editor or agent needs to reveal the ending as well. 

Include the title (or working title) of your book and your name at the top, and the word "Synopsis" or "Short Synopsis."

Start with your protagonist and his/her main goal, desire, worry, fear, or secret, and tell what or who is standing in the way of him reaching his goal. Who or what is the antagonist? Also mention any other significant characters, like maybe a love interest. No need to mention subplots or minor characters. Mention the setting or story world if it's significant.

For the first mention of each character, give their full name in all caps or bolded, followed by their age in brackets. After that, just use normal font for their name. Tell the main points of your story in third-person (he/she/they), present tense, even if your novel is written in first person (I, me, we, our), past tense. Try to convey the tone and voice of your novel in the synopsis.

Individual editors and of course literary agents may ask for a longer synopsis, in which case you might include the main subplot or subplots.

~ A short bio. 

A little about yourself. Rough age would be good, maybe family situation and where you live, plus any relevant experience, etc. A sentence or two is fine.

~ Your preferred timeline, if you’re in a rush. (I highly recommend not being in a rush if you want the best job possible. I usually turn down people with a tight deadline as I'm already very self-motivated and I don't need the added pressure.)


~ The first 20 pages (roughly) or the first 3 chapters of your novel. 

*Be sure to include the title (or working title) of the book and your name at the top.*

Don’t include the front matter or Table of Contents. No photos, maps, diagrams, or any of that fancy stuff you may want to include in the book.


  • Times New Roman font, 12-point  
  • double-spaced 
  • paragraphs indented 
  • no extra space between paragraphs 
  • left-justified 
  • one-inch margins on all sides

You can change it to your preferred font after the editing process. Sending it in Times New Roman, double-spaced is a courtesy to editors as that's what we're used to looking at and it means we can get into the story right away without reformatting it first.

If you have time, change any incorrect paragraph indents that you’ve made using Tab or the space bar to proper indents using Word’s Paragraph function.

For more on formatting a manuscript to send to editors or agents, see Formatting 101.

Good luck!

For more on this topic, see my guest post on Anne R. Allen's award-winning blog, "How to Snag the Best Freelance Editor for Your Writing Project."

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction:
FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Q&A with Jodie Renner on Kay DiBianca's blog, The Craft of Writing

Today I was interviewed by Kay DiBianca over at her excellent blog, The Craft of Writing. We talk about some of the advice in my Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories, FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, including revising and editing your own work, viewpoint, showing instead of telling, writing with "attitude", working with an editor, and submitting your story to writing contests.

Here's the beginning of the Q&A session, with a link at the end to the whole interview.



One of the great things about hosting the Craft of Writing blog is getting to meet so many accomplished professionals, and I’m thrilled to welcome craft expert Jodie Renner to the blog for the first time.

I titled this blog interview VISION AND REVISION since we’ll be talking about Jodie’s award-winning book Fire Up Your Fiction. Much of that book has to do with revising your first draft. However, it’s also a wonderful guide to read *before* you start that new novel.

So grab your literary blowtorch and let’s add some spark to our stories.

Welcome to the Craft of Writing blog, Jodie Renner. Thank you for joining us!

JR: Thanks so much for inviting me, Kay. I’m honored to be in the same company as some of my favorite writing craft gurus – James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, Steven James, K.M. Weiland, Renni Browne, and Dave King, among others. 

How important is the revision process when writing a novel?

JR: The revision process is an indispensable step in the creation of an engrossing novel or short story. Of course, first, it’s important to just write with wild abandon. Get your ideas down without thinking about word choice or making the sentences perfect. But then, once you’ve written your first draft (or are at a point where your muse is taking a break), it’s time to go back and reread, revise, and polish.

Did you use the best word there? Would a different word choice bring the scene to life more vividly? Have you varied your sentence structure and included short, medium, and long sentences? Look at pacing. Are you keeping readers interested and intrigued? Is your writing bland or rambling and repetitive in places? It may be time to do some weeding and tighten it up by deleting excessive words, combining and shortening sentences, etc. Are some of your paragraphs too long? Condense them or break them up for more white space. Have you included a balance of narration and dialogue, not too much of one or the other?

Read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound natural, like that character would actually speak? Or stilted, too correct, overly wordy, or more like the author would speak? In dialogue, cut many of those complete sentences down to a few words or even one word or a silence.

And of course, there are macro issues that may need to be considered, such as premise, plot, characterization, point of view, pacing, inconsistencies, discrepancies, and more. As writers, we’re too close to our work, so we don’t see what might confuse others. Often a fresh set of eyes will help with those. 

How important is it for an author to work with a professional editor?

JR: If you’re serious about getting your book published, selling well, and garnering great reviews, it’s essential. But never send an editor your first draft. You run the risk of having it rejected, or the editor could get bogged down on correcting basic errors and won’t have time to address bigger issues and really take it up several notches. Go through your manuscript several times, fine-tuning and polishing. Also, read writing craft books, as there may be several important fiction-writing techniques you’re not even aware of or have not yet mastered; for example, head-hopping, showing instead of telling, and info dumps.

Then try to find some volunteer beta readers ...

For the rest of this interview with numerous tips on writing compelling fiction, CLICK ON THIS LINK.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.