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Novella needs an editor's touch


Indie publishing is both a blessing and a curse. By removing the thorny gatekeepers of traditional publishing houses, there is an inordinate amount of decent fiction--from old-fashioned genre to avant-garde experimental literature--that would never make it to the shelves of a Barnes and Noble. But with the sheer breadth of work available, swelled by the unnerving ease of self-publishing--especially digital (upload document, set price, click publish, done)--the wheat-to-chaff ratio has become bloated.

Hastily written first drafts that are often unreadable drown out polished, gripping prose, creating an ever-growing argument suggesting the diamonds hidden in the rough may not be worth the effort it takes to mine them.

While Boise writer Kenneth Scherer's Honor doesn't quite belong at the forefront of that argument, it is still present as backup evidence--a novella that comes across as unfinished and unpolished, in dire need of an editor's touch and heavy revision before it can stand out from the crowd.

The book introduces war vet Brent Edwards, who struggles to cope with coming home with crippling injuries sustained in an ambush. A chance meeting with a beautiful girl forces him to evaluate what it means to be a hero, a soldier and a wounded man reliant on the care of a woman.

This promising setup is sadly let down by the prose within. Hyper-inflated with unnecessary adjectives and redundancies, it expends so much effort trying to paint a picturesque scene the focus gets lost, giving entire paragraphs over to situations that could be better explored in single short sentence. On the first page, we find the protagonist struggling with moving a pebble from under his butt in order to get comfortable on a bench--half the page devoted to this effort. A conversation that is little more than introductory small talk and setup lasts seven full pages, coming between bouts of scene-setting and further exposition. Sadly, not as much detail has been paid to the raw text, with errors in spelling, punctuation, continuity and grammar on most of the 232 pages.

There is a good foundation for a story here. The raw plot is reasonably compelling and well thought out, and has the potential to be something deep and meaningful. But the storyteller lacks confidence in himself, spending most of the time either explaining things that don't require explanation or engaging in sheer repetition. Barely a page goes by without mentioning the protagonist's feelings of guilt and anxiety, the pain of his wounds or his girlfriend's beauty, depowering what emphasis they could have had. Almost every conversation, no matter how trivial, ends up bookended by explanation and exposition. The two mantras of an accomplished writer--"show, don't tell" and "less is more"--end up virtually reversed.

Scherer has a solid core to work on and with editing, it could be a good read, but it is far from ready as merely a readable book, let alone one to stand out from the thousands of other self-published novels clamoring for attention.