Sunday, November 18, 2012

Honing Your Craft

by Jodie Renner, editor & author

Follow Jodie on Twitter.

A small section of Jodie's bookcase

Want to succeed as a writer? There’s only one sure way: Roll up your sleeves, hone your fiction-writing skills, and start rereading and revising!
Ask any successful writer, and they’ll tell you that the first drafts of their novels were just the beginning, and that it was only after many revisions that the story and characters took shape to their satisfaction and they polished their writing style to a point where they could submit it to their agent or an editor, who then put them through several more rounds of editing before the story was ready for publication.
“Writing is Rewriting.” ~ Stephen King
For years, I’ve been helping writers become authors, offering concrete advice and guidance to take manuscripts up a level or three. I’m always amazed when occasionally someone contacts me about editing their novel, then gets offended when I suggest ways in which it can be improved. (Fortunately, the vast majority of my clients want to succeed and sell their books, so they welcome my suggestions.)
“Amateurs fall in love with every word they write.” ~ William Bernhardt
If you’re looking for someone to tell you your novel manuscript is perfect as it is, save your money and just ask your mom! (Or your spouse or best friend.) Authors of best-sellers aren’t afraid to admit that they revised their novel numerous times, often going through it and making changes thirty or forty times, then had agents’ and editors’ input and revised it again.
“Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.” ~ Oliver Herford
Maybe you’ve got a story you’re itching to tell and you think nobody should mess with it or tell you how to write it. That’s okay – get your story down first. But then, if you want to get it published, it’s important to be open to input and ideas on how to make it more compelling so it grabs the readers – and agents and acquiring editors, if you’re going that route. As you’re revising and learning, you’re honing your craft and getting closer to producing a best-seller. And you can always keep your early drafts, in case you want to go back to them, or pick out bits here and there to use.
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” ~ Michael Crichton

Remember, there are hundreds of effective, compelling ways to tell a story, and thousands of ineffective / boring / confusing ways to tell that same story.
“There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.” ~ Anthony Trollope
If you decided to build a house and you’d never built one before, you probably wouldn’t just buy a bunch of lumber and start building it without first consulting experts, reading books, googling info, asking carpenter friends for advice, etc. So chances are high that you, as an aspiring author, won’t yet have acquired the skills to write a novel that sells, without doing some research into the fiction-writing techniques that make a story effective, compelling and publish-worthy.
“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela
And as a freelance manuscript editor, specializing in fiction, that’s what I – and other editors like me – am here for: to point out not only your story’s strengths, but also areas that would benefit from rethinking, reworking, revision and maybe even – gasp! – cutting and/or rewriting. Writing workshops, craft-of-fiction resource books, and reputable blogs on writing fiction, as well as articles in magazines like Writer’s Digest, and of course freelance book editors like me, can all guide you and inform you of the latest effective fiction-writing techniques for crafting your opening, point of view, plot, characterization, dialogue, etc., with a natural flowing style and pacing that keep readers turning the pages.
“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.”
~Russell Lynes

I find that I give the most advice and suggest the most revisions on the first few chapters (and prologue, if there is one), because the opening of your story is incredibly important. It’s what will make or break your novel. If the story hasn’t grabbed your readers in the first five pages or so, most readers will put it down and never pick it up again. In fact, if the first half page is weak, most agents or acquiring editors will chuck it. Your first page is critical – it sets the tone for the whole novel and introduces your protagonist and his dilemma – or at least hints at it.
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”  ~Elmore Leonard
A typical fault among novice fiction writers (even if they’re technically excellent writers and have published nonfiction books) is to spend too much time revving their engines at the beginning of their novel, setting the scene with description and providing background on the main character and his situation. Today’s readers don’t have the patience for all this long-winded meandering around and explaining at the beginning – they want to be swept up with your story and main character and his problems right away. You can always add in background details as your story progresses, on a “need to know” basis.
“I’m not a very good writer, but I am a good rewriter.” ~ James Michener
So if you’ve contacted me about editing your fiction manuscript, and I jump right in with advice on how to make your first pages more compelling and effective, which may well be to cut out all or most of your prologue and some or even most of your chapter one, don’t be insulted or alarmed. Remember that we both have the same goal in mind – to get your story published and read by a lot of people. So some deadwood may need to be trimmed at the beginning so you can start your story at a more compelling moment, with your protagonist, if not in hot water already, on the verge of it. Then you can work in that backstory little by little, as you go along.
“Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer.  But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity,
and destroy most of it.”  ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964 

I find that typically, once the beginning is pared down to delete some of that excess description and “cut to the chase,” the rest of the novel goes much more smoothly, with way fewer major revisions.
“The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.”  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer
An “okay” novel can often be turned into a remarkable one by:
~ Adding more conflict and intrigue. See my book, Writinga Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction. 
~ Deepening the characters to make them more compelling. See Creating Compelling Characters.
~ Doing more “showing” and less “telling” (“Show, Don’t Tell”)
~ Revising stilted dialogue so it sounds more natural and authentic: Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue.

~ Writing tighter. If your novel is more than 95,000 words long, you should be looking for ways to tighten it up and shorten it. See my book, Fire up Your Fiction (Style that Sizzles and Pacing for Power) for lots of tips for eliminating flab and writing tighter.
“My first draft is not even recognizable by the time I get to the last draft. I change everything. I consider myself at Square Zero when I finish the first draft. It’s almost like I use that draft to think through my plot. My hard copy of each draft will be dripping with ink by the time I finish, and I’ll do that several times.” ~ Terri Blackstock
But you don’t have to take my word for it – there are all kinds of great books on writing and revising fiction out there, not to mention articles in magazines like Writer’s Digest, blog posts by writers, agents, and editors, creative writing classes, and writers’ conferences and workshops. See the Resources page of my website for a list of excellent books on writing fiction and other resources that I recommend to my clients.
Keep on writing! And remember, writing is rewriting! Or as my mom (and probably yours too) used to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
© Jodie Renner, November 2012
Also, see my articles, "How to Save a Bundle on Editing Costs" and "It's All About the Writing," both on Crime Fiction Collective, and Revising and Polishing Your Novel on this

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










Friday, November 9, 2012

Some Great Resources for E-Book Publishing and Marketing

My Facebook friend and fellow writer, Linda Bonney Olin, has created some excellent resources for indie authors on her website at .

I’m particularly impressed with Linda’s Excel spreadsheet for promoting your KDP Select e-book on “free” days, which comes with lots of great links to websites and Facebook pages that will help promote your free book, as well as tips on how to go about promoting your e-book on KDP's free days, and instructions on how to use the spreadsheet.

Linda has given me permission to share her awesome resources, so here are the links. Thanks so much for sharing your work and skills, Linda!

E-Book Formatting, Publishing, and Marketing 

E-Publishing – PDF (Linda’s handout for Montrose Christian Writers Conference focus group)  

Creating Bookmarks and Hyperlinks – PDF (Linda’s handout for Montrose Christian Writers Conference focus group)

LBO Template to Promote KDP Free Days - Linda’s Excel spreadsheet (or “cheat sheet”) can help you streamline and record your Kindle book promotion efforts. Be sure to download the 5-page guide to using the spreadsheet, below.

How to Use ”LBO Template to Promote KDP Free Days” – PDF Linda’s guide to using the template shown above to maximize the impact of your KDP free promotion days.

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013).
Both titles are available in e-book and paperback. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Writing Tense Action Scenes

I'm over at Stacy Green's blog today, talking about writing powerful action scenes. Here's the beginning, with a link below to the rest of the article.

by Jodie Renner, freelance fiction editor, @JodieRennerEd
Stacy recently asked me how editing thrillers is different from editing other genres. That’s a huge topic, too much for one blog post, and would include differences in plot, characterization, pacing, word choice, and writing style, among many other considerations. For today, I thought I’d just talk about writing effective action scenes, which can also appear in romantic suspense, mysteries, action adventures, fantasies, and any other genre.
When your characters are running for their lives, write tight and leave out a lot of description, especially little insignificant details about their surroundings. Of course, if the details would somehow help them, then definitely include them.
Characters on the run don’t have time to sightsee or have great long discussions. Their adrenaline is pumping and all they’re thinking of is survival.
A few quick tips for writing strong action scenes: 
~ Show, don’t tell (of course!). See my blog post on this topic.
~ Stay in the scene with the characters – don’t intrude as the author to explain anything.
~ Avoid lengthy discussions among characters or long, involved thought processes.
~ Cut out any little unneeded words that are cluttering up sentences and slowing down the pace.
~ Use short sentences and paragraphs.
~ Use the most powerful verbs you can find.
~ Show your viewpoint character’s sensory impressions to suck readers in more.
~ Show your POV character’s emotional and physical reactions, starting with visceral responses.
~ Show other characters’ reactions through their words, tone of voice, actions, body language, and facial expressions.
 Click HERE for the examples and the rest of the article.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Excellent Resources for Kindle Authors

I recently posted an excellent resource list for Kindle authors to promote their e-books, over at our group blog, Crime Fiction Collective.

Some Great Resources for Kindle Authors & Readers

by Jodie Renner, freelance editor, @JodieRennerEd
As an editor and a new Kindle author, I'm always on the lookout for resources for me and my clients. I just discovered a great new website for e-book authors and readers. This site looks like a gold mine for both Kindle readers and writers who publish on Kindle.

Scroll down for links to other great sites for Kindle authors.
For the rest of the article and some great links, click HERE.

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013).
Both titles are available in e-book and paperback. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Critique of First Few Pages

Greater Fort Worth Writers recently contacted me about critiquing the opening pages of a fiction manuscript and posting it on their blog, As We Were Saying.

I use Track Changes for my editing, but I thought that might be confusing for the readers, so I used comments in brackets within the document for this.

Here's the beginning, and a link to the rest:

Jodie Renner Critiques First Five Pages

Editor Jodie Renner returns to critique another first five pages of a GFW Writer member's work-in-progress. Jodie is a freelance editor specializing in thrillers, mysteries, romantic suspense and other crime fiction, as well as YA and historical fiction. The author of the piece below has graciously allowed us to post the critique, but will remain anonymous.

“Who the hell does he think he is?!!” Charlotte Bellagio brooded as she considered the hurt that filled her heart. [A bit of a confusing beginning. Who is she mad at, and why? Also, can leave out “as she considered the hurt that filled her heart” and leave it at “brooded.”]
She willed a smile to her face as she nodded at her table companions [who is she sitting with?] where they who had all gathered for this much anticipated event. Most of her breakfast went untouched;, but if her tablemates noticed her mood they didn’t acknowledge it. She kept her heart hidden and the other guests didn’t pay much attention to her anyway. [Why not?]
Charlotte’s fellow convention guests were not aware of [We’re in Charlotte’s point of view here and she doesn’t really know if the others are aware of her feelings or not. Don’t jump into other people’s heads – that’s called head-hopping] the tumult inside her as they waited for the TV show host to make his appearance. Even so she made an effort to relax her shoulders and took a deep breath. [Too many “as” phrases above and below (highlighted). Best to vary sentence structure.]
“That’s good,” she thought as her muscles began to relax. [What’s good? And why are her muscles relaxing now? Best not to have her relax now as nothing has really happened to make her relax, and it’s good to maintain tension. Tension and conflict are what drive fiction forward and keep readers turning the pages.]
To read the rest of this critique, click HERE.

Jodie Renner is a freelance editor specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries, and other crime fiction. Please check out Jodie’s website and blog, as well as her group blog, Crime Fiction Collective.
Jodie’s craft of fiction articles appear regularly on various blogs, and she has published two popular craft-of-fiction e-books in the series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Style that Sizzles and Pacing for Power.

Both are on sale at Amazon, and you don’t need to own a Kindle to buy and read Kindle e-books – you can download them to your PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone. Style that Sizzles will be out in paperback soon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part III – Lay vs. Lie; I vs. me

by Jodie Renner, editor & author 

Here are a few more examples of common confusions in English, and a few tricks to help you remember which is which.

Lay vs. lie:

This one stumps a lot of people, even a bestselling author I know, who has emailed me a few times for a reminder of when to use “lie” and when to use “lay.” It’s very common to mix up these two, especially with their weird past tenses, which just complicate the issue.

Basically, you lay something down, but you lie down. So “lay” takes an object – a thing after it that you’re putting down. Not counting ourselves, so a person just lies down. And even if it’s a thing, if it’s already there and nobody’s in the act of putting it there, it’s lying there, not laying there.

Correct usages:

Present tense:

Lie: I like to lie in the hammock. Mom often lies down for a nap in the afternoon. Ricky is lying down on the grass.

Lay: She lays the baby in the bassinette every night. She is laying the baby down right now.

So far so good. But here’s where it gets weird: The past tense of “lay” is “laid,” as in “I laid the book on the table.” But the past tense of “lie” is “lay” as “She lay down on the couch for a nap yesterday.” Huh?! Just another of the many ways that English is weird and often illogical.

So to reiterate:

Lay requires a direct object: You lay something down. 

Lie does not require a direct object: You lie down.

The verb tenses of lay: 

Present: lay, is laying.  Lay the report on my desk.

Past: laid, has laid, was laying.  She laid the ring on the table and walked out; she had laid it there before.

The verb tenses of lie: 

Present: lie, is lying: Why don’t you lie down for a while? The book is lying on the table.

Past: lay, has lain, was lying. The little boy lay in the shade, fast asleep. He has lain there many times, in fact yesterday he was lying in that exact spot.

So: He laid (past tense of lay) the wreath on the grave, where it lay (past tense of lie) for a month.

If you think you'll forget all this stuff, especially the past tenses, just copy and paste this somewhere to help you remember. That’s what I did before I finally got it into my head! 

I or me or what?

Is it “my brother and me” or “my brother and I”? That depends. 

Is it “Give the books to Jane and I,” or “Give the books to Jane and me.”?

Is it “Carol and me went with them,” or “Carol and I went with them.”?

Is it “She and Brad are coming, too,” or “Her and Brad are coming, too.”?

Here's a simple little trick to know whether to use “I” or “me”; “he” or“him”; “she” or “her” etc.:

Just take out the “and” and the other person’s name or pronoun. What are you left with? Does it make sense?

For example, which is it? “Him and his buddy are going fishing,” or “He and his buddy are going fishing.”

Take out “and his buddy.” Would you say “Him is going fishing” or “He is going fishing.”? 

Since you’d use “he” when it’s alone in the sentence, then you’d say, “He and his buddy are going fishing.”

Or is it “Leave your sister and I alone for a few minutes,” or “Leave your sister and me alone for a few minutes”?

To figure this out, take out "your sister and" and think of whether you’d say, “Leave I alone” or “Leave me alone.”

Since you’d say “Leave me alone,” then it has to be “Leave your sister and me alone.”

Apply this little trick to the first two examples above, and you’ll know it has to be “Give the books to Jane and me,” and “Carol and I went with them.”

And by the way, "between you and me" is correct.

I could get into a lengthy explanation about subject (nominative) pronouns and object (objective) pronouns, but if you just use that little gimmick, it works every time.

Do you have any other grammar points that you'd like explained? Or any great little tricks for
remembering them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

See also Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part I (that vs. which, who vs that, caps) and Common Grammar Gaffes, Part II (past perfect, misplaced modifiers)

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: 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 two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers Website:; Facebook. Amazon Author Page.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part II - Past Perfect & Misplaced Modifiers

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker 

In Part I, I discussed the differences between that and who, and which and that, as well as some common capitalization quandaries, all per Chicago Manual of Style. Here are some more grammar tips, mostly pertaining to fiction writing.

Use past perfect tense for mentioning prior events and introducing flashbacks:
Most novels are written in the past tense They were, She said, he went, they walked, I talked, we saw, the dog ate, the kids ran, etc. She picked up the phone. He drove around the block, and so on. So if you’re suddenly referring to something that happened before what’s going on “now”, it’s best to use the past perfect or “past past” tense: she had said, he had gone (or he’d gone), they had walked, we had seen (or we’d seen), etc. This avoids confusion for the reader, who otherwise may wonder whether we’re still in the same time frame we were or we’ve jumped back in time to an earlier incident.
In these examples, we start in the normal past tense, then, to indicate events that either just occurred or are going back in time, we switch to the past perfect, using “had” or just “he’d” “she’d” plus the past participle of the verb: “By the time we arrived at the station, all the passengers had gotten off the train.”  “She remembered that day. She had just picked up the phone when the doorbell rang.” Or “That morning, he had driven around the block several times before finding a parking spot.” Or “He recalled the night they’d discovered the body.” Not using the past perfect to indicate a shift further into the past can cause confusion with the readers as to when something actually happened or whether it’s occurring right now.
Examples from novels:  “She was still wearing her party dress. It was wrinkled. He figured she’d slept in it. He wondered where.” (Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown)

"If I had known he was going to walk, I would have just put a bullet in him and been done with it." (Murder One, by Robert Dugoni)
But if you’re switching to a fairly lengthy flashback or other backstory, it flows better if you just mark the transition further into the past by using the past perfect (had or ’d plus verb) for the first sentence or two, then switch to normal past for the rest of the flashback, except for the last sentence or two, where you again use past perfect to signal to the reader that we were in a kind of “past past” and are now going back to the normal “real time” past. If the flashback is only a few sentences or a paragraph long, stay in the past perfect, or “past past” the whole time.”
“Her thoughts drifted back to the night that had changed her life forever. She’d just been drifting off to sleep that summer night when she heard a motorcycle approaching. It stopped outside her window and went silent….” [Several more sentences in normal past tense.] … [Then, coming back to the “present” we use a sentence or two of past perfect, then switch to normal past.]
“That had been one of the most terrifying nights of her life. Now she shook off the frightening memories and forced herself back to the present.” 

Watch for those dangling participles:
Participles are verb forms that end in –ing or –ed, like “buzzing” or “roaring”, or “satisfied” or “soaked.” A participial phrase modifies a noun, like “Climbing the mountain, the hikers soon grew tired.” The phrase is talking about the activity of the person or thing closest to it, in this case, the hikers. Here’s an example of a dangling participle: “Climbing the mountain, the birds chirped merrily.” It’s not the birds that are climbing the mountain, so it needs to be changed to something like “Climbing the mountain, the hikers heard birds chirping around them.”
Here are some other examples:
“Gazing out the window, the willow tree swayed in the breeze.” This sentence implies it’s the willow tree that is gazing out the window. It would need to be changed to something like “Gazing out the window, she saw the willow tree swaying in the breeze.”
Or: “Slathered in chocolate icing and filled with cream, the customers bought boxes of the sweet, decadent donuts.”
It’s not the customers who are slathered in icing and filled with cream! This should be changed to something like, “The customers bought boxes of the sweet, decadent donuts slathered in chocolate icing and filled with cream.”
And misplaced modifiers are a mistake:
Watch where you put your descriptive phrases in sentences, as they modify the words closest to them. For example, “Tall and handsome, the teenage girl gazed at the basketball star in admiration.” As it is phrased here, the “tall and handsome” refers to the teenage girl, when it’s supposed to be describing the basketball star. It should be rephrased to something like “The teenage girl gazed at the tall, handsome basketball star in admiration.”
Similarly with: “Tired and dirty, the lady of the house watched the farm workers trudge past at the end of the long day.” As it’s written here, it’s the lady of the house who’s tired and dirty, not the farm workers. It could be rephrased to “The lady of the house watched the farm workers trudge past, tired and dirty, at the end of the long day." Similarly, you wouldn't want to write, “Exhausted from the grueling race, we cheered on the triathlon competitors as they jogged past.” (Unless watching them is exhausting for you!)
In Common Grammar Gaffes, Part III, I discuss lie vs. lay, and is it "and me" or "and I"?
See also my blog posts, “Style Blunders in Fiction” and “Hyphens, Dashes, Ellipses.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part I - who, that, which, and caps

by Jodie Renner, editor and author   

I don’t want to come off as some kind of “grammar gestapo” here, as the English language is in a constant state of flux, and that’s a good thing. Our language is always evolving and changing along with technological changes, changes in attitude, the influence of other cultures, street language, slang expressions, etc. That means the English language is vibrant, not stagnant, just as is our society. Language needs to keep up with changes to facilitate communication.
But it’s probably a good thing to try to have some degree of consistency and standards, so we don’t all sink to the lowest common denominator of texting-style, “fast-food” language. Plus there are still lots of literate readers out there, so it’s best to err on the side of correct accepted language, to keep the respect of the readers.
So here are a few common grammar blunders I see in both my editing and general reading, and some areas where even good writers sometimes goof. (All rules are per Chicago Manual of Style.)
“that” for “who”
 –  “that” is for things; “who” is for people. I’m probably not the only one who winced a bit the first 100 times I heard Katy Perry’s great song, “The One That Got Away.” I even heard the radio announcer saying, “It should be ‘The One WHO Got Away,’ of course!”

Examples of correct usage:
The children who were playing ran in when it started to rain. The bikes and toys that were left outside got wet.
The boats that were in the harbor got tossed around in the storm.
The ladies who organized the church tea were surprised at the attendance.

“that” versus “which” 
(This one’s directed at North Americans, as Brits use “which” where we use “that,” so they have their own rules.)
A quick way to remember whether to use “which” or “that” is that “which” always follows a comma, while “that” almost never follows a comma.
Or think of it this way: If the sentence doesn’t need the clause/phrase that comes after the word to make sense, use “which.” If what comes after the word is essential to the sentence, use “that.” 
Here are a few examples to illustrate: 
The library, which is on Main Street, has about 30,000 books.
The library that is on Main Street has about 30,000 books.
In the first sentence, the one with “which,” we don’t need the extra information that it’s on Main Street for the sentence to make sense, as there’s only one library, and it’s on Main Street.
In the second sentence, we need the “that” part, as that tells us we’re talking about the library on Main Street, not some other library in town. So what follows “that” is essential to the sentence. 
Let’s look at another example:
The car, which was a Toyota, was badly crumpled in the accident.
The car that was a Toyota was badly crumpled in the accident. 
The first sentence implies that there was only one car in the accident, and by the way, it was a Toyota. That’s nonessential information, so it’s enclosed in commas and introduced by “which.”
The second sentence tells us there was more than one car involved in the accident, and that the Toyota, unlike the others, was badly crumpled. The “that” clause gives us essential information.
So another way to look at it is “which” introduces nonessential info, and “that” introduces essential info. 


Use caps for proper nouns but not for generic nouns: 
the doctor, but Doctor Wilson; the president, but President Obama; the general, but General Eisenhower; the judge, but Judge Judy; the sergeant, but Sergeant Wilson; the prince, but Prince Charles; the police department, but the Chicago Police Department; the library, but New York Public Library, the hospital, but Toronto General Hospital.  
But when you’re addressing the president, it’s “Mr. President,” and when you’re addressing anyone else with a title, you still use the capital, even if you don’t use their name, as in “Yes, Sergeant, I’ll do that right away.” Also, “Yes, Your Majesty.” And “No, Your Honor.” 
But sir, ma’am, my lord, my lady, milady, etc. are not capitalized.  

-          Don’t capitalize terms of endearment or pet names, like dear, honey, sweetie, son, buddy, etc.: “Yes, dear.” 

-          Family names: Capitalize family names like father, mother, etc. only when using them as a name, as in “Dad, can I borrow the car keys?” or “Where’s Mom?” or “Thanks, Grandma,” but no caps when just referring to family members, as in “my dad” or “your mother,” or “his grandmother.”

See also, Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part II and Part III.

See also my blog posts, “Style Blunders in Fiction” and “Hyphens, Dashes,Ellipses.”