Today's writers are emulating a old sales techniques used by Charles Dickens: the serial. While I have my personal preferences regarding serials, I have to say that I appreciate when the author notes in the book summary whether the book is part of a series or a serial. Don't know the difference? Here's a quick description:
Since I enjoy reading book reviews, I can tell that there are many readers who detest serials and will leave negative feedback and cliffhanger warnings. I don't particularly like serials and will thank a reviewer for leaving a cliffhanger warning if the author doesn't explicitly state in the book blurb that the book I'm considering purchasing is merely an installment in a serial. More often than not, I will decide not to purchase the book.
Back in the '80s and '90s, I bought series that, in all honesty, were serials: The Belgariad, the Mallorean, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, the Shannara series, etc. However, when I started them, I knew they were going to continue over multiple volumes. It was difficult--and can still be--to find a standalone fantasy novel. With the advent of indie publishing, there are more standalone novels than ever--and more serials.
So, what's better? It's purely a matter of preference. There's no right or wrong. To other writers, however, I ask you to please, please, please specify clearly if your book is part of a series or a serial. That courtesy annoys far fewer readers than not doing so.
Last week I had the privilege of serving as a beta reader for a young writer eager to publish in the genre of erotica. She informed me that the work was 80% complete in that she was just about ready to publish. I disabused her of that notion.
The 22,000-word manuscript she sent me wasn't a story. Regardless of genre, a story needs some sort of conflict, some tension, some suspense, something that the main character either strives toward or must resolve. You know: a plot. Contrary to what you might think, erotica is more than just a regular romance with lots of added kink. Unfortunately, this manuscript was little more than sex scenes linked together by a bit of narrative or dialog. There was no plot. Yes, folks, even erotica requires a plot.
The writer has an excellent command of the English language (she's a native of a European country that's neither Ireland or the UK), so I was pleasantly surprised on that point. Unfortunately, she peppered the content with $5 words that didn't mean what she thought they meant. Folks, regardless of what you write, if you use big words, be sure you're using them correctly. Know your vocabulary.
Another cardinal sin she committed was to wallow in heavy, florid description. Purple prose, anyone? A little description is good and necessary; a lot just bogs the story down and makes it drag. Repeated description of the same thing also becomes wearisome. At one point, I highlighted a passage and simply commented, "Enough already! We got the picture." She also indulged in long, descriptive phrases when a simple statement would have been more effective. Throughout the manuscript, I cut out unnecessary description.
Passive voice further marred the content. Quick review, folks: active voice is the subject acting upon the object; passive voice is the subject being acted upon by the object. Which do you think offers the stronger phrasing? Anyway, I noted that throughout, too, and suggested alternate phrasing to tighten and strengthen the writing.
On the plus side, she used her apostrophes correctly. I did not have to remind her that plural and possessive aren't the same thing. I marked those comma errors I found and corrected some arbitrary capitalization issues. There were few misspellings or typos.
I was honest, but not gentle. Once she puts her work out there, readers won't be gentle. Better to endure the sting of criticism now when it can be fixed before publication than later when scathing reviews that can't be removed will deter readers from making that purchase.
Don't call me cruel, call me candid. I truly was glad that this young author asked me to go over her manuscript, even though it needed substantial rewriting. I can only hope that she wasn't deterred, will learn from this exercise, and will continue to pursue writing.
For those supporting more stringent gun control measures without having first considered that murder is already illegal regardless of means, there are some interesting statistics in today's newspaper: "Brian Doherty notes that the gun homicide rate in 1993--when there were approximately 192 million guns in circulation--was 7 per 100,000 Americans. In 2013, the gun murder rate had declined to 3.8 per 100,000, by which time there were approximately 300 million guns in private hands. More guns do not seem to equal more gun murders."
In her concluding paragraph, columnist Mona Charen writes: "But the truth is that no one really knows why we've suffered mass shootings in such numbers in recent years. It may be party the copycat effect; or the lure of the publicity shooters invariably receive; the decline of character-building institutions like churches and families (the vast majority of mass shooters have been male raised in divorced or single-parent homes); or the failure of our mental-health system to provide treatment to those who need it most."
We might even go further to state that parenting which emphasizes high self-esteem results in the unrealistic, entitled expectations and narcissism. Narcissism, as we ought to know, leads to a disregard for the value of others. Read John Rosemond for more information on that.
It's a hot-button issue. No, I don't think that everyone and anyone who wants a gun should have one. But think about this: the new gun control measures presuppose guilt. In a country where legal tenets presume innocence before guilt, that is a direct conflict. I don't want to live where I'm assumed guilty because someone else did something bad. Do you?