It is nearly a year since I self-published my first novel — Out Of The Dark. I am half way through the sequel but knew in my subconscious mind that something was not right with my book. After feedback from a Readers Gazette reviewer, I returned with trepidation, to my first book...
I received some excellent feedback from a Reader's Gazette reviewer — someone who is neutral to my novel:
"I enjoyed Marshall Hughes’s Out of the Dark. It is an exciting thriller with an unexpected ending. The plot is unique and intriguing with no inconsistencies and is completely plausible. Well done, Mr. Hughes.
Although Out of the Dark is a strong story, I give it a three-star rating because the writing needs work. Aside from needing a thorough proofread, it suffers from slow pace and awkward flow. One way Mr. Hughes’s could quicken the pace is to write in the active voice.
The awkward flow partly results from the point of view. I assumed when I started reading Out of the Dark that Jayden Edward Scott was the narrator and was confused when Kristina Cooper and Inspector Canmore, for example, also took turns speaking in first person.
All the characters including Jayden would work better in third person.
Out Of The Dark has potential to become a super page-turner."
Point of view
One thing that is not going to change is the point of view. Written in the first person present/first person past, the main character (Jayden Edward Scott) is also the narrator inviting the reader into the life and mind fo a serial killer. Moreover, other narrators tell their own story and include the main character's storyline which interweaves throughout the book. This is a deliberate ploy to engage the reader to get to know other key characters in more depth. Third person is off limits. What I do take into consideration is the issue of editing, technological aids such as Grammarly, active and passive voice, and dangling modifiers.
A year after publishing my first novel, I knew deep down that it needed more work. However, it has taken all this time to even have the courage to go back and look at the goddam thing. Having no money for proofreading or copy editing services, I edited it on my own — with the help of work colleagues. This was such a gruelling process. Not such a good idea, but I do see this process as a journey. After much deliberation and advice from Books Go Social authors on Facebook, I decided to download Grammarly Premium to properly edit my first book before continuing with the next. Other writing aids include Auto Crit and Pro Writing Aid (so I hear). Whatever the package, I think it is necessary to pay for one of these services. If you know me, I do not promote any services, especially predatory marketers, but this is a good investment — just over $100 per year. It is such a relief knowing that I have something, anything to help with the editing process albeit a technological aid!! I also found three editors/reviewers on Books Go Social, who kindly offered to help out.
Oh my word!
As such, I downloaded Grammarly Premium and found over 1000 'critical' issues. The categories are split up into contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style. On closer inspection, much of this is related to American/British spelling 'style'. I also have a habit of stating the obvious — frozen ice (ice is frozen!), descend down (no need for down!), climb up (do you need the word "up") and so on. There are some grammar issues with unnecessary ellipsis, unclear antecedent (he, she, his, her, them) but most of these are obvious, commas (add more), repetition of words ("kind of", "now", "really", "actually", "so" and "sorry", dangling modifiers and active/passive voice.
This is the main concern although not as bad as what I thought. I flip between the first person present/first person past so need to change my narrator's mindset, accordingly. I have a habit of writing the passive voice in the present time (in places). Grammarly points out the passive voice and all you need to do is rewrite the sentence. I also keep in mind the rule of subject, verb, object rather than object, verb, subject. This is critical for my second novel, so I do not make the same mistakes.
I never envisaged myself as a dangling modifier but I have a bad habit of doing it (a lot!). The advice is that: "The dangling modifier does not appear to be modifying the subject. Rewrite the sentence to avoid a dangling modifier." Well, what can I say to that apart from change it! (infintive instead of gerund?? Apparently, I need to change the word "change" to "changing"). Anyway, back to the issue of danglers. Let me go and find an example:
"Forcing a smile (this is the dangler bit!), my mouth twitched."
"I forced a smile, my mouth twitching." (this is what I will change it to).
I suppose what is good about a technological aid is that it can pick up on issues that do not cross your mind. It is now my best friend and gives me confidence knowing that 'something' is checking my writing. Having said that, you do need to use your own judgement, where appropriate. I did feel embarrassed about my lack of knowledge related to proofreading and editing, but this is a learning curve and can only get better as one progresses! I'm only human, after all! (this is my favourite track at the moment!)
Rag 'n' Bone man (check that name out Grammarly).
Please feel free to read the edited version of the Prologue & Chapter 1 for Out Of The Dark on Scriggler (Ist Chapter Club).
Copyright: Marshall Hughes
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!