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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This One Time an Idiot Editor Criticized My Book Review

Source: image purchased from Fotolia
A few months ago I put up a post called Have We Become Too Nice? I had finished a book by a fellow indie write. Well, by finished I mean gave up on. I'd spoken to the author several times about the problems in the book. He contacted and hired an editor to help fix the book and gave me another copy.

It was better but still completely unreadable. I then sent a private email to the author telling him my concerns. Here's what I sent (May 29th)

I read through the new edition. I did get further. However, there are still some very serious problems with this edit.

1) No chapter breaks.  You need to put in something every 10-20 pages showing "end scene". Right now you are using "***" for that. But it all seems like one, very long chapter. There are 117 pages and only 3 chapters.

2) Capitalization. When Wenzo speaks you do not capitalize the first letter of the sentence. It was jarring but I assumed it was just meant to show he had a small voice. However, you also do not capitalize the first letter of the sentence when the troll speaks. That's kind of when I gave up reading any further. 

3) Characters. You have too many characters introduced too quickly. I lost track of who was who. This is something editors and beta readers gave me heck for. Too many Points of View (POV). I would recommend focusing solely on one of two characters. If it was my choice, I'd focus only on Valus.

4) Pacing. Too much happens too quickly. Take your time. You know you took out some of the worldbuilding. Replace it with more character interaction (e.g. banter) and scene descriptions.

5) Grammar. There are far too many grammar errors. I know you hired an editor. Whoever you had go through this did you a grave disservice. If you paid them, they basically robbed you.  Just a few examples:

          pg 1 "The blow was deadly, and they both knew it" - there should be no comma.

          pg. 2 "Each of the three major races, men, elves, and dwarves, sent their best warriors, sorcerors, clerics, druids, and trackers to teach them for an undetermined length of time." - should be "Each of the three major races - men, elves, and dwarves - sent..." 

           pg. 4 "Master! Master!" came the frantic cry resounding loudly off the cold stonewalls of the corridor. - Should be "Master! Master!" The frantic cry resounded loudly off the cold stone walls.  Anything after a ! needs to be a new sentence.

           pg. 4 "You must come with me Master, something terrible hast happened last night," the words seemed as if they came from a frightened child, even though the dwarf was in his second year of training, his composure was solid. - Most of these commas should be periods.  "You must come with me Master. Something terrible happened last night." The words seemed as if they came from a frightened child.  Even though the dwarf was in his second year of training, his composure was solid.
(avoid hast. It's archaic unless you want do all dialogue in Shakespearean English...which I don't recommend)
Also this is contradictory: either he is a frightened child or his composure is solid. Not both.

           pg. 5 "To where? To where must I go young one?" - "Where should I go, young one." or if you want Shakespearean it would be "Whither must I go, young one." Again, I don't recommend old style English. It will alienate most readers.

          pg. 7 "Who was on guard last night?" the question was quizzical, but also filled with anger. - Should be "Who was on guard last night?" The question was quizzical but also filled with anger. The T needs to be capitalized and there should be no comma.

6) Telling instead of Showing. You can solve this a few ways.  Instead of long periods of exposition, have characters talking. Or have characters read information from a book. Or have teachers grill students as if in history class. For example:
pg. 5 "The great weaponsmiths (not this should be one word, not two) forged the Phoenix Blade sixty years earlier for use against Mashu and his armies." This is what they mean by "telling". It sounds like something out of a history book. Try:
"I knew the men that forged this," Valus said.  "They were the greatest weaponsmiths of their time. Do you remember why it was forged?"
"Of course Master," the student replied.  "It was used against Mashu and his armies in....(then you can add in as much world building as you want and most editors will find it acceptable.

Try to keep your sentences short. When I teach composition classes, I tell my students to try and keep sentences under 20 words long. Any longer and you risk the reading not comprehending the meaning of the sentence. Each sentence should have only one main idea. Using the example from above, a stronger composition would be "There were three major races - men, elves and dwarves. Each sent their finest to teach at the school. Sorcerers, clerics, druids and trackers arrived and remained for an indeterminate time.

A book that really helped me flush out characters and "showing" was The Emotion Thesaurus You state which emotion you want to show and it has dozens of suggestions for what your characters can do to show the emotion.

To give you an idea of how much time I spend editing, my novel Council of Peacocks is on currently out with the 3rd group of beta readers. That is after 7 rounds of edits. The last time I edited I averaged 1 hour per page, spending 5-10 hours a day editing for nearly 2 months.

I'm sorry I can't give a better review. I wish I had time to offer a full line edit but I'm completely swamped right now. I understand if you want to choose to ignore everything I've said. If you are happy with the amount of sales you're generating do nothing different. However, if you want to increase your sales you will need to spend significant time reworking this novel. 

I did not get a response. I waited several weeks and then, with no further communication, I posted my review on Amazon and Goodreads. My review was as kind as I could be.

And then today I received this incredibly unprofessional response from Kimberly Rieckmann who just so happens to be the editor of this piece.  Here's what she had to say:

I thought about just letting it go I think I've been kind enough. Here was my response.

To be clear, I'm not blaming the writer on this one. I think the fault lies very much with the editor. If you are going to call yourself an editor and charge for it you should at least understand basic grammar rules. That's not even editing; it's simply proofreading which Kimberly Rieckmann did not do either. To follow that up with criticizing an honest review is unprofessional and just ridiculous.

To conclude: Do not hire Kimberly Rieckmann for her editing. Her website is here (Kim's Editing Services) if you want to check her out. But I wouldn't. 

The editor has since removed her posts from Amazon, probably because I sent an email to the author suggesting he speak with her.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very interesting! My last editor was a great expert in his field. You can find good and professional editors and writers here http://expressessayhelp.


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