Self Published Tripe or (Very) Rough Diamond

Aikura

Became a Faceless Man
#2
Congratulations on a milestone, I'm sure pressing the 'publish' button is very wrenching. :nailbiting:

I'd be happy to take a look when I get some time.
 

Obscenic

Told lies with Locke
#3
Disregarding the content of the book, I would change the formatting in the following way:

Get rid of the spaces in between the paragraphs. For fiction you want a first-line indent and no spaces between paragraphs.

Also, fiction usually doesn't have a Table of Contents. Some do, most don't. It's a matter of nobody needing to reference any specific locations in a fiction book, since it's meant to be read from beginning to end, and there are usually no instances like "See Chapter 7 for further detail."
 

João Ribeiro

Journeyed there and back again
#4
Congratulations @Prometheus I also have a go at the sample to see if it rings me in enough and I'll give you feedback.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#6
Also, fiction usually doesn't have a Table of Contents. Some do, most don't.
I have a different experience, most do, few don't. And I read almost exclusively fantasy with rare sci-fi for good measure :)

Also, congrats Prometheus.
 

Aikura

Became a Faceless Man
#7
Okay, I got as far as Chapter 1. What level of honesty would you like?
 

Prometheus

Killed in the battle against the Mad King
#11
Disregarding the content of the book, I would change the formatting in the following way:

Get rid of the spaces in between the paragraphs. For fiction you want a first-line indent and no spaces between paragraphs.

Also, fiction usually doesn't have a Table of Contents. Some do, most don't. It's a matter of nobody needing to reference any specific locations in a fiction book, since it's meant to be read from beginning to end, and there are usually no instances like "See Chapter 7 for further detail."
Re table of contents,

What like the Hobbit? Which is at the bottom of your post?

Thanks though.
 

Obscenic

Told lies with Locke
#12
Re table of contents,

What like the Hobbit? Which is at the bottom of your post?

Thanks though.
Well, I just picked up 5 different fantasy books from my shelf, and 2 out of 5 do have a table of contents. I guess I never noticed because I've never used them for fiction. So, yeah, sorry about that! A ToC won't do you any harm. The main complaint I can find about them is that they take up too much of the free sample that could otherwise be used to hook in potential buyers—nothing damning.

I would get rid of the spaces in between the paragraphs, though. If you aren't sure how, or formatting isn't a strong suit of yours, I could do it for you.
 

Prometheus

Killed in the battle against the Mad King
#13
Well, I just picked up 5 different fantasy books from my shelf, and 2 out of 5 do have a table of contents. I guess I never noticed because I've never used them for fiction. So, yeah, sorry about that! A ToC won't do you any harm. The main complaint I can find about them is that they take up too much of the free sample that could otherwise be used to hook in potential buyers—nothing damning.

I would get rid of the spaces in between the paragraphs, though. If you aren't sure how, or formatting isn't a strong suit of yours, I could do it for you.
Thanks. That's a good point.

Your probably right about the spaces. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
 

Aikura

Became a Faceless Man
#14
Whatever you like. It's obviously bad news if you've not got any further! LOL
Okay. :)

Disclaimer #1: I’m not an author or a critic, but my day job requires a very high standard of technical writing ability, and I expect a similar standard in published works that I read for fun. I do not (yet) share the automatic aversion of some people here to self-published work but, to me, a book is a book and I’ll hold it to a professional standard no matter the source.

Disclaimer #2: Like everyone else here, I’m a big fantasy fan. However, I loathe the ‘biblical fantasy’ angels-and-demons type sub-genre, and I firmly believe it has a special place in literary hell right next to ‘paranormal romance’ and ‘Terry Goodkind’. So I would typically avoid your book on that basis alone. I have nevertheless tried to ignore this and read it on its own merits, but this bias may still colour my analysis.

Disclaimer #3: Like all criticism, mine will have an element of subjectivity to it, so a bucket of salt is recommended.

“It was written, proof read, edited, re-edited…by me and me only.”

This is by far your biggest problem. The writing is just not very readable. It is littered with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors that are very difficult to overlook and immerse oneself in the story. Most of it is just basic things missing: missing speech marks, missing spaces, missing capitalisation, missing commas. Other errors are weird: for example, it looks like you’ve done a search and replace so that ‘city’ is always capitalised. Not only does that mean that ‘city’ is always capitalised when, most of the time, it shouldn’t be, it’s also resulted in weird instances of ‘electriCity’ and ‘feroCity’ and similar Frankenwords.

If I force the red pen away, the writing is still too poor to hook me. The primary culprit here is the use of long, run-on sentences. This one is fairly typical of the prologue:

“Appearing before him like an oasis in a desert he had miraculously found its doors unlocked despite the lateness of the hour and had ducked inside just as an impenetrable darkness has descended across the alleyway that he had been fleeing along.”

Try reading that out loud in a single breath! Often what begins as a valiant attempt at creative description rapidly descends into runaway nonsense. The comma is your friend here; learn to use it, and use it frequently. This problem is compounded by overuse of adverbs, repetition of the same adjectives over and over (sometimes even using the same adjective twice in one sentence), and constant use of the pronoun ‘he’ rather than your protagonist’s name. These are all generally considered to be Writing 101 no-nos.

Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be much structure to how the setting is described, with elements being introduced at total convenience (such as a glass table for Nathaniel to smash through). This makes it read like you are making it up as you are going along and you don’t have a clear visualisation. I’m not totally clear what perspective you are writing from either. I initially thought it was third-person limited, but then there are weird point-of-view switches in the apartment scene between Nathaniel and daemon. This conveniently allows Nathaniel to escape with no explanation.

Which is the next point: you’ve only introduced a few elements from your fictional universe so far, but they are already running up against each other. So what do we know? We know that Nathaniel was an archangel who has, only an hour before, renounced his divinity. This has left him mortal andfurther weakened and disoriented from the transition. To really sour his day, he then has the mortal shit kicked out of him, to the absolute edge of death, at the hands of a powerful daemon (who, from the exposition about chasing Nathaniel all over the world, we assume was more than a match for the archangel). Then, we are expected to believe that he is able to use a one-second window of opportunity when the daemon looks away to spring into action, escape, evade the daemon all across the city, and seek refuge in a church? This feels like you have already managed to write yourself into a corner, in the prologue no less, and use a deus ex machina point-of-view switch to manufacture an escape. It doesn’t set a great precedent.

Having read so little I can’t say much for the characters, except that they already come across weak. The daemon is pure disembodied evil, and incredibly stupid for letting a mortal (half-dead) man slip through its fingers. Nathaniel has been mortal for about an hour, but he already comes across as a typical Joe Everyman. I feel like, when he speaks, the weight of ages, of timeless divinity wrenched from him only moments before, should speak through him. Instead he just kind of seems like a chump.

The invocation of biblical and mythological elements doesn’t feel right either. This is an area where, if you’re going to do it, you need to know a hell of a lot about the subject-matter. Relevant degrees or doing a lot of real research in the area might enable someone to pull it off, combine the elements or twist the source material in a clever way, and be taken seriously. Though really, as soon as Jesus starts talking to someone like in the church scene, it’s normally time for me to close the book.

That’s probably more than enough for you to digest. As it stands, I don’t think it is in any shape to be shared. It needs a complete re-read and re-edit by you, carefully, line by line. Then an edit by a second person, and a third and a fourth. That should prompt five or six re-drafts on your part to turn it into something more readable by rabidly critical internet strangers like myself. ;)

Prometheus said:
Contrary to most of the advice I have had on this forum…
I’m new here and I haven’t read through the whole forum, but there does seem to be a lot of other advice on these boards beyond the professed prejudice against self-published work. I’ve seen good writing advice, and links to good writing blogs, and the internet is littered with such excellent resources. Exploit them to the fullest. Keep practising, and writing and re-writing and analysing what you write. When you read, analyse how the professionals do it and hold yourself to the same standard.

You’ll get better, and then you can start putting other things to the anvil, like characters, setting and plot. ;)
 

Prometheus

Killed in the battle against the Mad King
#15
This is good stuff. As a result I have removed the book from Amazon and will take your points on board.

Although your comments about character development appear relevant, there is plot and setting later in the book. Not sure if you got past the prologue, which to be fair does not set the tone for the rest of the book. It is not biblical at all really. Might have to completely rethink the first few chapters.

I don't think that I was being retrospective enough about the whole thing.

However, I still think I have a good story and will put some more time into fixing these issues and others raised here.

Many thanks for your time.
 

Aikura

Became a Faceless Man
#16
You're very welcome. And, I would say, that's probably the best course. Good writing usually only becomes good by being purified by fire, again and again.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#17
Okay. :)

Disclaimer #1: I’m not an author or a critic, but my day job requires a very high standard of technical writing ability, and I expect a similar standard in published works that I read for fun. I do not (yet) share the automatic aversion of some people here to self-published work but, to me, a book is a book and I’ll hold it to a professional standard no matter the source.

Disclaimer #2: Like everyone else here, I’m a big fantasy fan. However, I loathe the ‘biblical fantasy’ angels-and-demons type sub-genre, and I firmly believe it has a special place in literary hell right next to ‘paranormal romance’ and ‘Terry Goodkind’. So I would typically avoid your book on that basis alone. I have nevertheless tried to ignore this and read it on its own merits, but this bias may still colour my analysis.

Disclaimer #3: Like all criticism, mine will have an element of subjectivity to it, so a bucket of salt is recommended.

“It was written, proof read, edited, re-edited…by me and me only.”

This is by far your biggest problem. The writing is just not very readable. It is littered with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors that are very difficult to overlook and immerse oneself in the story. Most of it is just basic things missing: missing speech marks, missing spaces, missing capitalisation, missing commas. Other errors are weird: for example, it looks like you’ve done a search and replace so that ‘city’ is always capitalised. Not only does that mean that ‘city’ is always capitalised when, most of the time, it shouldn’t be, it’s also resulted in weird instances of ‘electriCity’ and ‘feroCity’ and similar Frankenwords.

If I force the red pen away, the writing is still too poor to hook me. The primary culprit here is the use of long, run-on sentences. This one is fairly typical of the prologue:

“Appearing before him like an oasis in a desert he had miraculously found its doors unlocked despite the lateness of the hour and had ducked inside just as an impenetrable darkness has descended across the alleyway that he had been fleeing along.”

Try reading that out loud in a single breath! Often what begins as a valiant attempt at creative description rapidly descends into runaway nonsense. The comma is your friend here; learn to use it, and use it frequently. This problem is compounded by overuse of adverbs, repetition of the same adjectives over and over (sometimes even using the same adjective twice in one sentence), and constant use of the pronoun ‘he’ rather than your protagonist’s name. These are all generally considered to be Writing 101 no-nos.

Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be much structure to how the setting is described, with elements being introduced at total convenience (such as a glass table for Nathaniel to smash through). This makes it read like you are making it up as you are going along and you don’t have a clear visualisation. I’m not totally clear what perspective you are writing from either. I initially thought it was third-person limited, but then there are weird point-of-view switches in the apartment scene between Nathaniel and daemon. This conveniently allows Nathaniel to escape with no explanation.

Which is the next point: you’ve only introduced a few elements from your fictional universe so far, but they are already running up against each other. So what do we know? We know that Nathaniel was an archangel who has, only an hour before, renounced his divinity. This has left him mortal andfurther weakened and disoriented from the transition. To really sour his day, he then has the mortal shit kicked out of him, to the absolute edge of death, at the hands of a powerful daemon (who, from the exposition about chasing Nathaniel all over the world, we assume was more than a match for the archangel). Then, we are expected to believe that he is able to use a one-second window of opportunity when the daemon looks away to spring into action, escape, evade the daemon all across the city, and seek refuge in a church? This feels like you have already managed to write yourself into a corner, in the prologue no less, and use a deus ex machina point-of-view switch to manufacture an escape. It doesn’t set a great precedent.

Having read so little I can’t say much for the characters, except that they already come across weak. The daemon is pure disembodied evil, and incredibly stupid for letting a mortal (half-dead) man slip through its fingers. Nathaniel has been mortal for about an hour, but he already comes across as a typical Joe Everyman. I feel like, when he speaks, the weight of ages, of timeless divinity wrenched from him only moments before, should speak through him. Instead he just kind of seems like a chump.

The invocation of biblical and mythological elements doesn’t feel right either. This is an area where, if you’re going to do it, you need to know a hell of a lot about the subject-matter. Relevant degrees or doing a lot of real research in the area might enable someone to pull it off, combine the elements or twist the source material in a clever way, and be taken seriously. Though really, as soon as Jesus starts talking to someone like in the church scene, it’s normally time for me to close the book.

That’s probably more than enough for you to digest. As it stands, I don’t think it is in any shape to be shared. It needs a complete re-read and re-edit by you, carefully, line by line. Then an edit by a second person, and a third and a fourth. That should prompt five or six re-drafts on your part to turn it into something more readable by rabidly critical internet strangers like myself. ;)



I’m new here and I haven’t read through the whole forum, but there does seem to be a lot of other advice on these boards beyond the professed prejudice against self-published work. I’ve seen good writing advice, and links to good writing blogs, and the internet is littered with such excellent resources. Exploit them to the fullest. Keep practising, and writing and re-writing and analysing what you write. When you read, analyse how the professionals do it and hold yourself to the same standard.

You’ll get better, and then you can start putting other things to the anvil, like characters, setting and plot. ;)

Maybe it's just me, but I'm really glad that I don't think so much about things. Maybe I'm a bit simple, but hopefully it results in me enjoying far more things (books) than I otherwise would. Not having a go, you have valid points, but just saying, you probably enjoy books a lot less than me because of your opinions. I mean, the points you raised could be applied to a lot of the books I've read recently (and I only read mainstream stuff really); I'm guessing this means you get less enjoyment from the same books than I do. The world needs people like you though; they're called editors.
 

Aikura

Became a Faceless Man
#18
I mean, the points you raised could be applied to a lot of the books I've read recently (and I only read mainstream stuff really);
I doubt this very much, unless you were to be a bit pedantic. 'Mainstream' stuff goes through big publishing houses and, while the occassional error may still crop up, it's rarely so bad that you can't overlook it and keep reading. It's certainly not an error in almost every sentence as the sample text was in this case. A lot of work goes into those books so that you "don't have to think about things much"! ;)

I'm guessing this means you get less enjoyment from the same books than I do.
I'm not sure how you can guess that on the basis that I provided feedback to someone who asked for it. I could enjoy them a lot more than you do, for the same reasons as you, or completely different ones! :) But a book does have to first be readable for me (or anyone, really) to derive enjoyment from it. When I'm reading a good book, I find that I don't think about the writing at all; that's partly how I know it's a good book.
 
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TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#19
I'm sorry @Aikura, that probably came across a lot harsher than I'd intended it to. I was being a bit over-dramatic .. must be that time of the month.
 
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#20
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