An author contacted me to ask a favor: Would I read two of her novellas and post reviews for them? Sure, I responded. The books were in a favored genre and I had some time to kill.

Wow. Not in a good way. The cover art was the best part of both books. That proves one really cannot judge a book by its cover.

Anyway, I read the books; they were short stories, really, fewer than 50 pages each. So, what complaints did this cranky reader have? Let’s compile an abbreviated list:

  • Incorrect use of apostrophes.
  • Incorrect use of capitalization.
  • Failure to perform even minimal research. (One heroine lost “gallons” of blood. The average  adult human has about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 gallons of blood.)
  • Flip-flopping point of view from first to third person.
  • Mixed tenses.
  • Poor formatting.
  • Missing words.
  • Passive voice.

Those are just the “mechanical” problems. In both books, the big reveal that explained the “why” of each heroine’s tragic predicament was executed like the “surprise confession” of an accused criminal on trial in a cheesy crime drama. Here’s an example straight from the book: “Since you had great sex with your boyfriend earlier, it was a simple matter to drug you with a cloth full of chloroform. You went out like a light so easily and that should explain why you are suddenly naked and all tied up.”

Egad. Who speaks like that?

Not only is it cheesy, it’s so badly written it makes my teeth itch. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t write great or profound literature, but even my rough drafts are better than that. Do you think I’m kidding? Here’s the first paragraph of the book I read: 

“I can still remember that fateful day in the fields. The sun was bearing down on me and my back was already beginning to slightly ache from all the bending that planting entails. Still it was nothing for me. I was used to planting in the fields. It was the daily work and grind for someone in my country. It was the means for my seeds to grow and for my livelihood and family.”

Let’s compare. Here’s the first paragraph of Tiger in the Snow. This is the unedited rough draft.

Dmitry healed. Stuck alone on the fourth floor of a seedy hotel in Cairo, the lacerations and bruises healed quickly. Atlas Leonidus, who had hired him to track down and detain his mate, had beaten him to a pulp. Dmitry could not deny that he had deserved it.”

Yes, mine needs work, but even as a rough draft it’s more strongly written than what that author published.

Do you think that’s a fluke? That I chose the best of my best? Here’s the first paragraph of Russian Lullaby, again the unedited first draft.

“Six books hit the sidewalk with an untidy clatter as Giancarla’s arms were jerked behind her. Three seconds and it was over, a black bag over her head, her wrists bound behind her, and a slam dunk onto the smelly floor of a panel van. She struggled. Of course. She yelled. Of course. But a brutal kick to the abdomen cut off the yelling with a wheezing gasp.”

Yipperdoo, it needs work. I don’t deny that. But it’s still better than either of those two already published books.

I kept up my end of the bargain. I read the books and posted reviews. I’m sure that author will never again ask me to review her work again. That’s OK. I’d prefer she hire me to edit her work because she desperately needs an editor.

I’ve said it many times: It’s not enough to have a good idea, you have to execute it well.

If you want something written or edited, hire me. I can help.

Every word counts.