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.