Monday, August 3, 2015

Links to Jodie Renner’s Top Craft of Writing Posts

at The Kill Zone blog and also links to some of Jodie's most popular articles on this blog. (below)

*Stay tuned - I will arrange these and more of my blog posts on writing compelling fiction by topic, one of these days!

by Jodie Renner, editor and author
I started guest blogging at The Kill Zone blog ("Insider perspectives from top mystery and thriller writers") in November 2012, then officially joined the team in early October 2013. That was the year The Kill Zone blog first received the Writer's Digest Award for "101 Best Websites for Writers." I like to think my popular craft of writing posts helped us attain that award, which we've also received for 2014 and 2015.
Due to changes in my own life, including a move across the country and shifting my personal focus, I reluctantly decided to step down from The Kill Zone, and my last post as part of the team at TKZ was on June 1, 2015. It was a lot of fun and a real honor to be part of the talented team at TKZ during those few years, and I was told my contributions, including setting up the TKZ Library, helped expand the readership of the blog. 
I was also pleased to have brought in to TKZ as guest bloggers several friends who are bestselling authors, including Robert Dugoni, Steven James, Allison Brennan, LJ Sellers, and Allan Leverone, as well as award-winning blogger and humorous fiction writer, Anne R. Allen.


~ 15 Questions for Your Beta Readers – And to Focus Your Own Revisions
…To avoid generic (and generally useless) responses like “I liked it,” “It was good,” or “It was okay,” it’s best to guide your volunteer readers with specific questions.

~ 12 Essential Steps from Story Idea to Publish-Ready Novel
… If you want your novel, novella, or short story to intrigue readers and garner great reviews, use these 12 steps to guide you along at each phase of the process: ...

~ Don’t Stop the Story to Introduce Each Character
Imagine you’ve just met someone for the first time, and after saying hello, they corral you and go into a long monologue about their childhood, upbringing, education, careers, relationships, plans, etc. You keep nodding as you glance around furtively, trying to figure out how to extricate yourself from this self-centered boor. You don’t even know this person, so why would you care about all these details at this point?

~ Writing Tense Action Scenes
When your characters are running for their lives, it’s time to write tight and leave out a lot of description, especially little insignificant details about their surroundings. Characters on the run don’t have time to admire the scenery or décor, start musing about a moment in the past, or have great long thoughts or discussions. Their adrenaline is pumping and all they’re thinking of is survival – theirs and/or someone else’s.

~ Impart Info with Attitude – Strategies for Turning Impersonal Info Dumps into Compelling Copy
As a freelance fiction editor, I find that military personnel, professionals, academics, police officers, and others who are used to imparting factual information in objective, detached, bias-free ways often need a lot of coaching in loosening up their language and adding attitude and emotions to create a captivating story world. Really need those facts in there? Rewrite with attitude!

~ Checklist for Adding Suspense and Intrigue to Your Story
Here’s a handy checklist for ratcheting up the tension and suspense of your novel or short story. Use as many of these elements and devices as possible to increase the “wow” factor of your fiction.

~ Phrasing for Immediacy and Power
Have you ever been engrossed in a novel, reading along, when you hit a blip that made you go “huh?” or “why?” for a nanosecond? Then you had to reread the sentence to figure out what’s going on? Often, it’s because actions are written in a jumbled-up or reversed order, rather than the order they occurred. Do this too often, and your readers will start getting annoyed.

~ Immerse Your Readers with Sensory Details
In order for your story and characters to come to life on the page, your readers need to be able see what the main character is seeing, hear what he’s hearing, and smell, taste and feel along with him.

~ 10 Ways to Add Depth to Your Scenes
… Besides advancing the storyline, scenes should: reveal and deepen characters and their relationships; show setting details; provide any necessary background info (in a natural way, organic to the story); add tension and conflict; hint at dangers and intrigue to come; and generally enhance the overall tone and mood of your story.

~ Using Thought-Reactions to Add Attitude & Immediacy
… Showing your character’s immediate thought-reactions is a great way to let the readers in on what your character is really thinking about what’s going on, how they’re reacting inside, often in contrast to how they’re acting outwardly.

~ Nail it with Just the Right Word
To set the mood of a scene in your story, bring the characters to life, and engage readers in their world and their plight, it’s critical to choose just the right nuance of meaning to fit the character, action, and situation.

~ Looking for an editor? Check them out very carefully!
An incident happened to me recently that got me thinking about all the pitfalls that aspiring authors face today when seeking professional assistance to get their books polished and ready to self-publish or send to agents.

~ Tips for Loosening up Your Writing
As a freelance editor, I’ve received fiction manuscripts from lots of professionals, and for many of these clients, whose report-writing skills are well-researched, accurate and precise, my editing often focuses on helping them relax their overly correct writing style.

~ How to save a bundle on editing costs – without sacrificing quality
below you’ll find lots of advice for significantly reducing your editing costs, with additional links at the end to concrete tips for approaching the revision process and for reducing your word count without losing any of the good stuff. 

~ Pick up the Pace for a Real Page-Turner
… Today’s readers have shorter attention spans and so many more books to choose from. Most of them/us don’t have the time or patience for the lengthy descriptive passages, long, convoluted “literary” sentences, detailed technical explanations, author asides, soap-boxing, or the leisurely pacing of fiction of 100 years ago.

~ 12 Tips for Writing Blog Posts That Get Noticed
Blogging is a great way to build a community feeling, connect with readers and writers, and get your books noticed. …But if you’re just getting started in the world of blogging and want to build a following, it’s all about offering the readers value in an open, accessible style and format.

~ 25 Tips for Writing a Winning Short Story
Writing short stories is a great way to test the waters of fiction without making a huge commitment, or to experiment with different genres, characters, settings, and voices. And due to the rise in e-books and e-magazines, length is no longer an issue for publication, so there’s a growing market for short fiction.

~ Fire up Your Fiction with Foreshadowing
… Foreshadowing is about sprinkling in subtle little hints and clues as you go along about possible revelations, complications, and trouble to come. It incites curiosity, anticipation, and worry in the readers, which is exactly what you want.

~ POV 101: Get into Your Protagonist’s Head and Stay There

~ POV 102 – How to Avoid Head-Hopping 

~ POV 103 – Engage Your Readers with Deep Point of View

~ Just the Right Word is Only a Click Away
How are your word usage and spelling skills? Try this quiz to find out.  …

~ Tricks and Tips for Catching All Those Little Typos in Your Own Work
Tips for fooling your brain into thinking your story is something new, something you need to read critically and revise ruthlessly before it reaches the demanding eyes of a literary agent, acquiring editor, contest judge, or picky reviewer.

~ Don’t Muddle Your Message
… Wordiness muddles your message, slows down the momentum, and drags an anchor through the forward movement of your story. It also reduces tension, anticipation, and intrigue, all essential for keeping readers glued to your book.

~ How to Reach More Readers with Your Writing
15 tips for clear, concise, powerful writing

~ Make Sure Your Characters Act in Character
Do your characters’ decisions and actions seem realistic and authentic?

~ Create a Fascinating, Believable Antagonist
For a riveting story, be sure to challenge your hero – or heroine – to the max.

~ How are short stories evaluated for publication or awards?
What are some of the common criteria used by publications and contests when evaluating short story submissions?

~ Critical Scenes Need Nail-Biting Details
… for significant scenes where your character is trying to escape confinement or otherwise fight for his life, be sure you don’t skip over the details. If it’s a life-or-death moment, show every tiny movement, thought, and action.


Here are links to a few of the most popular blog posts from this blog, Resources for Writers. Click on the title to go to the article.


~ REVISE FOR SUCCESS: A Stress-Free, Concrete Plan of Action for Revising, Editing, and Polishing Your Novel.

~ 12 Dos and Don'ts for a Riveting Opening

~ Basic Formatting of Your Manuscript (Formatting 101)
How to format your manuscript before sending it to an editor or publishing.

~ How to Create Workable Scene Outlines for Your Novel 
Use the outlines below to help you organize your scenes and decide if any of them need to be moved, revised, amped up, or cut.

~ A Checklist for Submitting Your Short Story to Anthologies and Contests

~ Bring Your Characters to Life by Showing Their Reactions

~ How and When to Use Hyphens, Dashes, & Ellipses

~ Writers' Conferences and Book Festivals in North America
Links to more than 150 conferences and book festivals, ordered by date. (over 38,000 page views since January 2015)

~ Pros, Cons, and Steps for Publishing Your Own Book on Amazon

~ Dialogue Nuts and Bolts
The basics of writing dialogue in fiction: paragraphing, punctuation, capitalization, etc.

~ Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue

~ Every Scene Needs Tension and a Change

~ How to Slash Your Word Cut by 20-40% - Without losing any of the good stuff!

~ 21 Tips for Creating a Compelling Short Story

~ 33 Tips for Creating a Short Story Worthy of Contests, Magazines, and Anthologies

~ Style Blunders in Fiction - an oldie but goodie

~ Creating Compelling Characters - another oldie but goodie (This one is from my pre-writing days, so collected advice from writing "gurus", not me.)

~ Tips for Creating Sentences That Flow

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

Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part II - past perfect; misplaced modifiers

Some Common Grammar Gaffes, Part III - lay vs lie; I vs me

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.

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


  1. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do!! :) And writing! Thanks for all the tips and resources!

  2. Hope you find these tips useful, Eileen! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Keep on writing! :-)