Two Book Reviews Express a Common Criticism

September 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Two books I finished recently come in for the same criticism. Both writers have talent and strong story ideas, but both short-changed themselves by failing to recognize the import of working with a professional editor. I’m not being in the least self-serving here as I am not putting myself forward as an editor. I’m a writer–not an editor. Writers need to know the difference.

Stone Relics by Katy Walters

Stone Relics is––in Katy Walters’ words––a “high octane” sci-fi thriller. It features a cyborg hero, beautiful victims, murderous villains and engaging characters, some of whom are robots and others pets. Yet, I had to force myself past the opening chapters.

The problems are three-fold. First the book should have been better edited. There are too many typos and grammatical mistakes, it should have been shortened and the story development is choppy. Plus, Americans don’t use the word ‘whilst’ in everyday conversation!

The 2012 edition is not the book’s first release. It was originally published as Phobic Dawn in February 2011. Walters informs me that she terminated the contract with the original publisher and re-edited the book for this release.

I like Walters’ imagination and daring. The story concept is original, linking 2065 cloning with prehistoric mythology. Yet the characters are overly-romanticized for my tastes. Their emotions are always large and barely under control. The hero’s assistant Misty is probably the most engaging character in the book. The hero, however, is too large for the stage and his love interest––Dr. Roberts––too vacuous. The section telling of her unhappy past felt like something Walters threw in, like an extra tablespoon of sugar, for good measure.

I wished Walters had paid an editor to help her bring the book under control and shorten it by 40 or 50 pages. She appears to be dedicated to a writing career, but is selling herself short if she doesn’t recognize that having one’s work edited professionally is not optional.

Dark Legacy: Book I – Trinity by Domenico Italo Composto-Hart

What I read originally was a sample, rather than the entire book, not realizing the author’s download offer was not the whole enchilada. Composto-Hart provided me the rest of the book, which I have tried to finish, but could not, as I found it lacking from the want of a good editor.

It’s not that the writing is bad or there are a lot of typos. Neither is true, but the lack of editing is reflected in the pace of the story and the plotting.

The begining of the actual story is compelling, but it quickly bogs down to the extent that at one point I began to doubt which character was the protagonist–Kieko, the young man, or Shinsei, his mentor.

The author confesses to having worked on this novel for 14 years and says many of his (young) readers find it fascinating.

I don’t doubt either statement, but working on one book for so long without “adult supervision” has resulted in a book which moves at a glacial pace. It also suffers from emotional overload to the extent that each scene requires an emotional component. The result is an overwrought young man learning from an overwrought teacher. There are also unrealistic portrayals of physical capacity. For example, the hero is beaten up badly by four other young men, but minutes later is able to participate in a contest of physical strength and skill.

In terms of young people identifying with the hero and the path he must take to achieving status as a Ki warrior, that’s wonderful, and there’s a chance this book could become a cult favorite among a certain group of male teens, but if Composto-Hart seeks a broader audience, he needs to transition from a writer who cares more about putting every ounce of his heart and soul into his books and begin to care more about his readers few of whom will stick around long enough to find out who his protagonist is and what he’s fighting for.


Wanted: A Village of Editors

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

It won’t take a whole village of editors — probably only a handful, but I’m inviting anyone who would like to participate in an experiment in community editing to try it and to let me know if my idea makes sense. Here’s the scoop:

I’ve just finished my second novel, Making the Grade — a police procedural that takes place in Albany, NY where I lived for 40 years.

The manuscript was read twice by a professional editor, at least twice by my critique partner and once in various stages by two other readers. Yet when I did my own read through prior to submitting it to Smashwords to be converted into various digital formats, I discovered a handful of typos — a missing period here, a person’s name spelled two different ways there, and other mistakes. Yikes!

As a result, I’m reluctant to take the next step of submitting the book to CreateSpace to be prepped for a paperback edition. I just hate the thought that readers will come across mistakes that should have and could have been removed.

The Experiment

Making the Grade will be available at Smashwords for $0.99 for the next 14 days. After that the price will go up to $3.99.

Anyone who lets me know about one or multiple mistakes — grammatical, spelling, whatever — will receive by mail signed print copy if they are the first to report the problem and if they let me know by April 30. May 1 is the day I’m submitting the book to CreateSpace.

The Book

Making the Grade is a novel. It is the story of Shannon Lynch, a native of Albany, who has risen to become the first woman detective on the Albany New York Police Department.

Lynch is immediately assigned to work on a major case — the murder of a prominent business woman. Not only does she have to overcome the prejudices of her males counterparts, but the case gets personal in ways she never could have foreseen.

The book is just over 50,000 words in length and is available in all the standard formats including .mobi (Kindle), EPub (IPad, Nook, et al), etc..

Although I’m primarily asking people to report any errors they find in the current version, I’m happy to accept comments and criticism of the story, my writing, etc. I would also encourage people to write reviews of the book for all of the places where reviews are welcome.

The cost of postage being what it is, this offer — although I’m not sure that’s the right word for it — is only good for people living in the United States and Canada.

Here’s the link to the book:

The Future

I would encourage other writers to try the same concept. Offer your book initially in digital formats for no more than $0.99 for a short period of time and encourage people to proof read it for you in return for providing those who contribute a print copy at the end of the process. (Those who only publish in ebook formats might come up with a different reward, such as promoting those who help on your website or sending them a Starbucks gift card. Your call.)

Feedback on the concept is also welcome.

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