the halfway-through-the-book report

(ALERT:  Mercenary Proofreader is not pleased with the novel he has been reading.  However, do not fear that his opinion of so-called finished writing is the same as what he would think of a work-in-progress that contains the same kinds of problems.  Mercenary Proofreader, despite being a truly badass wielder of the Red Pen of Doom, has a longstanding policy of being kind to writers who are making honest attempts to improve their writing.)

I have now read half (53%, more precisely) of the e-book I acquired a day or two ago.  These are my general impressions:

OMFG, the bad punctuation!  The run-on sentences, the capitalization where it doesn’t belong and lack of punctuation where it does belong, the weird and inconsistent use of quotation marks — single and double — in places that make no sense whatsoever… The author clearly doesn’t know how to handle dialog tags, either, nor that a question mark for dialog goes at the end of the dialog, not at the end of the tag following that.  (“Is that so hard to figure out,” he asked?  Looks pretty damn stupid, doesn’t it?  Yeah.  So don’t write that way.  A more typical sentence structure from this novel would be like this, though: “Is that so hard to figure out,” asked the involuntarily retired former military badass, looking around like a chimp in a jungle full of dangerous tigers and knowing that there were snakes in the trees too?)

Then there’s the awkward and clumsy sentence structure, some of it much worse than the invented example above.  The author does not use excessive adverbs; I’ll give him that.  (And he knows how to spell aught — meaning zero — correctly.  Kudos.  Most people these days spell it ought, probably because they don’t know the difference.  They should learn.)  Instead, he uses excessive — and boring — similes that add nothing to the narrative and tend to give an undesirable slowness to scenes that are obviously meant to be nonstop, violence-and-explosions action.  The plot holes, I will reserve judgment on, because I have read only 53% of the novel, and there is a small but real possibility that the apparent inconsistencies there will clear up before the end.

And finally, the fact checking issues…

There are rules about what names are given to secret government projects, determined by, among other things, what agency is running said project.  They don’t just pick whatever words that they think sound cool, especially if said words are too obviously related to what the project is about.  And they do not write the names of such projects with a colon between Project and the next word (as in, Project: Clueless).  Really.  If my clone can find such information with a goddamn Google search, so can anyone else who wants to write about such things in a work of fiction.

The hardness of a material is not the same as the strength of that material.  If an author does not know what kind of damage a specific kind of firearm does, it is better to not name said firearm and just allow the reader to make assumptions based on the description of the damage dealt, rather than make errors that will be caught by some readers.  Metabolic processes, even ones controlled by computers, require constant input of energy.  Usually this means food, but whatever makes your rubber ducky squeak.  Also, metabolic processes generate heat; the faster the metabolism, the more heat generated in a given time.  Human flesh, even human flesh welded to machinery, does have a limit as to how much heat it can tolerate.  The brain, especially, is vulnerable to heat damage — even if part of it is a computer.  Computers generate heat, too, for that matter.

Right now, what I really want to do is proofread and line edit the whole novel, and then email its bloody carcass to the author with a note demanding an apology from him to all the self-published authors who did bother to clean up their writing before sending it out into the world.

[Edit:  Mercenary Proofreader tends to be extremely skeptical of Amazon/Goodreads or Smashwords reviews that say a book is full of grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors or that it is full of ‘bad science’ without providing any examples from the text.  Therefor, Mercenary Proofreader intends soon to provide a few examples of the problems with this book.]

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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4 Responses to the halfway-through-the-book report

  1. Terry says:

    I don’t think I would finish the book. There is so much out there to read and so little time. Understanding that no manuscript/novel will be perfect…but from your description it’d be too distracting to actually have any chance of enjoying the story.

    Like

  2. RS McCoy says:

    I have to agree that works such as the one you describe give the rest of the self-published authors a bad reputation. Hopefully as self-publishing becomes more mainstream, we’ll see that stigma change. Until then, works such as those are still doing us damage. I enjoyed reading this!

    Like

  3. Obviously, that author needed to hire a competent editor. Never esterundimate a good editor!

    Like

  4. Pingback: review: Elements of Sorcery, by Christopher Kellen | North of Andover

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