The case for not having your manuscript professionally edited

East Van Saturday Night - Rod Raglin

I want to thank Artsy Ally for pointing out a typo on page 15 in my new release East Van Saturday Night – Four Short Stories and a Novella (EVSN). It has since been corrected on all digital platforms and in paperback. Unfortunately, if you purchased the book in either form before September 28, 2018, you’ve got one with the error in it and maybe a few others that have yet to be discovered.


 Artsy Ally, a.k.a. Ally Robertson, is content producer and social media director of Access Television, a non-profit organization that airs “community stories from Vancouver, BC, with a focus on marginalized voices. Produced by volunteers and neighbours.”


 I reached out to her to see if she’d be interested in reviewing the above mentioned new release.


 The response was interesting.


 Robertson asked for a digital copy and said she would “hand it off to someone who may read and review it. If they decide to do a review, we will have you come into the studio for a short interview.”


That sounded encouraging, and I sent an e-pub version immediately. The following day I received her response.


She began by saying “Your stories have merit and I enjoyed the memories they stirred in me. I really enjoyed the chapters with Chris’s attempt at crossing Canada. … I found East Van Saturday Night to be more like a one story novella with chapters, as the stories are of the same character.”


Robertson then proceeded to tell me she too was a self-published author “at the moment,” and she would “highly recommend you have people proofread your work before you publish. I am trying not to be highly critical, but as a former book publisher who published over 60 authors, I have some experienced suggestions for you. I found there were some issues with the book I just couldn’t overlook.”


Robertson said the book contained “plenty of grammatical errors” as well as “simple spelling mistakes.” Other issues she “just couldn’t overlook” included “un-announced dialogue switching” and “proper scene changes” which the book “desperately needs.”

Her suggestion was to have “a good proofreader go over it and you re-edit.”


I have an incredibly thick skin. I look at constructive criticism as a way to improve my writing. Accordingly, I sent the following response to Artsy.


Dear Ally,


No offence taken, in fact, thank you for your suggestions.


Scene changes can also be indicated by adding an additional blank line space, which I prefer over asterisks. However, I realize this style works better in print than in digital as the formatting may diminish it or eliminate the space altogether. I plan to take your suggestion and revise the manuscript inserting asterisks to indicate scene changes.


When errors are pointed out, I fix them and upload the corrected manuscript to all my digital and print publishing platforms. New readers will find one less mistake, though unfortunately, that doesn’t help those who have purchased my book with the typo.


When I write, I have two computer programs (Grammarly and ProWritingAid) filter the work. After a minimum of three revisions, I send the manuscript to three beta readers. Despite this rather thorough process errors are still overlooked.


Excuses and expenses aside, I will endeavour to do better.




Robertson replied saying I might be able to “find a student willing to do it (proofread) for $1.00 per page.” She was lucky enough to have her novel, Epic Crazy Love “go through 3 editors and a proofreader long before I re-published it myself.”


So now that you’ve got context let’s draw some conclusions.


Apparently, Robertson doesn’t think three beta readers, two computer editing/grammar programs and the author have the editing prowess of a student paid a dollar a page. Maybe she’s right.


More importantly, though, I’m interested in how well her novel is doing considering it went “through 3 editors and a proofreader” before it was self-published.


Epic Crazy Love was published in April 2017. Here’s the blurb accompanying the book.


Can two reunited soul mates conquer deceit, begrudged malice, extortion, multiple mental and physical traumas and maintain an intense, lasting, abiding love?


To date, Epic Crazy Love has one, five-star review. Here are its rankings on Amazon.

  • #18011 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Westerns
  • #27965 in Books > Romance > Western
  • #159502 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary
  • #3,393,001 overall on Amazon’s Paid in Kindle Store

“I did love the story (East Van Saturday Night) itself,” Robertson writes, “but reading it, it was difficult to overlook all of the little things that threw me off as a reader. Paying someone to proofread will really kick it up a notch and make your work great.”


Or maybe not.


But here’s the kicker, Artsy Ally, didn’t pass along my book to the reviewer saying, “Due to the adult content I don’t think it’s a good match for us to review for you, I don’t think it would be something Susan would enjoy reading so I won’t pass it along.”


Add censor to Robertson’s list of accomplishments.


Some days…


Stay calm. Be brave. Watch for the signs.



Access Television

Ally Robertson


Epic Crazy Love


Author Amazon Page








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Comparing novels written five years apart shows author’s lack of improvement


Set It Off - Myanne Shelley

JJ Carlisle is the worst kind of spoiled; a grown adult with a sense of entitlement and a family that indulges it. Surprisingly, he’s done well or did well. Computer savvy, he hooked up with a tech startup and scored big only to lose it all in the economic crash.


Of course, the downturn in the economy is not his fault; neither is the fact that he never saved a penny of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made. Now he’s broke, angry and looking for someone to blame.


Participation in Occupy Oakland is the perfect outlet, and during a demonstration, he’s arrested for assault.


Set it Off by Myanne Shelley sounds like it could be an interesting story with contemporary issues, action and politics. It isn’t and here’s why.


Rather than start the story with an action-filled inciting incident – the demonstration and the arrest, Shelley chooses to begin with JJ being bailed out by his sister, Jackie, and step-sister, Karen.


The next few chapters flash back to the three character’s childhoods. It’s backstory and not very interesting at that, though there’s a bit of character development and the reader gets a sense of the relationship between the three.


Then we’re back to the present, and everyone is gathering for their father’s eightieth birthday. There’s lots of reflection but no drama; not even a family feud.


Occasionally, JJ meets up with his pals from the Occupy Oakland movement, but they’re hardly radical and more philosophical than violent.


I kept anticipating something would happen, but nothing does. The story just peters out.


Shelley writes well. Her dialogue is authentic, and her characters are well-drawn, the problem is they’re unsympathetic. Besides being boringly normal, they’re timid and whiney.


But what makes Set if Off so lacklustre a read is the fundamentals of storytelling are missing: Goal, Motivation and Conflict.


The goals of the three main characters are so vague as to be non-existent. Without goals there’s no conflict. How can there be conflict when everyone is more or less satisfied with their situation, or at least too unmotivated to do anything about it?


Add to that Shelley’s passive writing style – the author prefers to have the characters explain what happens than have them actively engage in the events.


These deficiencies represent lack of craft – beginner’s mistakes. They would have been easily identified by peer writing groups or instructors in writing courses. Reading books on how to write fiction can also be helpful though nothing takes the place of an honest, constructive critique by a writing professional.


To date, Shelley has published six books (all free except one at Set if Off was one of her earlier works published in 2013.

I’ve certainly improved as a writer since I published my first novel, Saving Spirit Bear. I wondered if Shelley had? I decided to find out.



Already Gone is Shelley’s most recent work published in November 2017.


Glen and Rachel Voight, a married couple in their fifties, are on a brief vacation to New York City. After a day of sightseeing, Rachel has returned to the hotel to gather her energy while her husband continues to sightsee.


She’s waiting for him to return when she learns of a terrorist attack at a nearby nightclub. A man entered the club, sprayed the room with bullets, doused it with gasoline and then ignited it by blowing himself up.


When Glen doesn’t return to the hotel, Rachel’s anxiety mounts. When survivors identify her husband as being present at the time of the attack, and a surveillance camera backs it up, Rachel fears her worst nightmare is a reality. His jacket, found at the scene, confirms it. Because many of the bodies are burned beyond recognition her husband’s death is assumed, though never actually confirmed*.


Weeks after the attack, Nick, Glen’s brother, finds evidence Glen’s laptop has been used after it was assumed destroyed along with Glen in the fire. Was it stolen from the crime scene before the attack? When further anomalies are discovered including links to secret accounts, Rachel is left to wonder if Glen is dead or has just used the opportunity to disappear?


Author Myanne Shelley realistically portrays the emotions of someone thrust into these tragic circumstances while at the same time gradually sowing seeds of suspicion. But her unfolding of the plot takes too long, and in the end, nothing is resolved.


As in the previous novel I reviewed, Shelley does not include any dramatic action scenes; she seems to avoid them, preferring to spend the majority of time in her protagonist’s head replaying the events. Though this may be what traumatized individuals actually do, it doesn’t make for exciting reading.


Shelley writes well with good dialogue, characterization and realistic relationships between her characters, but her story lacks intensity. The other problem that becomes more glaring as the narrative unfolds with the absence of any startling revelations is the lack of motivation.


Why would Glen choose to disappear in such a dramatic way? Why would he inflict such pain on his family and sever ties forever with those he loved? There is no crushing debt, no illegal manipulations of client accounts; no harridan of a wife, nothing that is inescapable.


Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier in every way just to walk away from the relationship? People do it all the time.


After reading both these novels I’d say in the span of five years, Shelley’s writing has not improved.


Not too long ago I read and reviewed Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maas (you can still find the review in its entirety on this site).


Maas had a few good ideas, but the basic premise was “go big or go home.” Write big stories about larger than life characters in life-altering situations.


Face it, most of us lead mundane lives, at least I do, and when we read a book we want to escape from it and be entertained by charismatic heroes challenged by and intriguing plots. As an author, if you’re not prepared to offer that you’ll have no commercial success, likely no success whatsoever. I’d recommend Shelley read Maas’s book.


But even if she isn’t motivated by sales, she should endeavour to learn the fundamentals of storytelling.


Whether she writes to validate her interpretation of the world, seeks the fulfillment of connecting with readers, or simply to appreciate the satisfaction of producing a well-written story, she needs to hone her craft to achieve these goals.



Myanne Shelley has the potential to be a better author and writer; it would be a shame to see it squandered by lack of commitment. Remember what Nietzsche said, “Art is the proper task of life.”


I’d give both Shelley’s books three stars with credit for their evocative covers as well as being professionally produced and edited – error-free.


* Evidently, charred bodies can be confirmed through DNA if there is some idea of who the victim might be so a comparison can be made.






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Win a e-book edition of East Van Saturday Night on BookLikes

What people are saying about East Van Saturday Night:


“… your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van…” and “…chronicles the past so authentically…”

– Al Forrie of Thistledown Press, an independent Canadian publisher since 1975



“Your stories have merit and I enjoyed the memories they stirred in me. I really enjoyed the chapters with Chris’s attempt at crossing Canada. … I found East Van Saturday Night to be more like a one story novella with chapters, as the stories are of the same character.”

– Ally Robertson, Content Producer and Social Media director of Access Television


Enter to win one of fifty e-book editions at



Author Amazon Page

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