Robert Pearce

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I came to writing novels at a mature age. It has enhanced my life beyond description. 

I don't have trouble devising plots and believe my characters are good. My most difficult problem is the art of good writing. Sentence structure and other things are huge problems for me, but not as much as six months ago. It's just a matter of hanging in there and learning.

Now retired, all my energies go into twelve hours a day of learning and writing. 

Robert Pearce Discussions
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Hello, folks.Still fiddling. I think I've reach my limit. Time to send off to the graphics girl. She…
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  •  · Rob, I think the biggest differences between these and yours are (a) the images are completely diffe…
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These things are buggers like query letters and synopsies (not sure how to spell that). Anyone got t…
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  •  · Robert,woops sorry. I got so into it I had to detach so I could womble on some more. Then forogt to …
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Hi Folks.A few weeks back the subject of genres (historical fiction) was discussed, current trends e…
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  •  · I used to fly helicopters with a guy who told me made his first million by writing erotica almost ex…
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This subject caused me some issues a while back so I spent time investigating the issue. As Jon ment…
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  •  · Yes, Libby, thanks. I had read that article and learned from it. The key is to make it perfectly cle…
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Hi, folks. My novel is written in American English. Do British readers object to this as standard? W…
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  •  · No one should object to a well written book. Using STANDARD English (Naturally that is the American …
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Hi good folks, and the ones not so good who probably have more fun. The subject of adverb use perple…
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  •  · Yep, what Jon says. I always ask myself: 'does it earn it's keep?' or 'does it really add anything?'

Hi, folks.

As Fiverr has been mentioned several times I thought I'd give an example of the best beta read reports I've received from there. It has been shortened dramatically to ease reading. It wasn't expensive and helped me clean up my MS.

This report is the second from the beta reader for this novel. The first, two months earlier, was not so complimentary. 

Her most important advice to me was about the ending. I knew it, stupid I was. The ending was actually great before I decided to buggerize around with the last scene and epilogue = now fixed.

After I made the appropriate edits, I sent about 8 chapters (all I could afford) to a Reedsy editor (not beta reader).

P.S. I tried to upload the MS Word file, but no good. So here's the report cut and pasted.

Title Voices at Culloden

 Introduction to Beta Report

 My beta report is designed to give you ideas about how you can make enhancements that will transition your book to an even higher level of quality.

 Please keep in mind that this report reflects my professional opinion and is based on many decades of providing editing and critiquing to writers and students.   Opinions, however, are not necessarily "right".  Consider my ideas carefully and modify only the parts of your book that you see fit.   Discard whatever recommendations I make that you do not agree with.

 Dialog and Character Development

 Writing dialog is extremely challenging.  The author must record not only the words that each character speaks, but each character's speech must also reflect that person's unique voice and personality.

 In general, your dialog is tight, clear, and character specific.  There are a few minor exchanges in which there are more than two people in the conversation where I was momentarily confused as to who was speaking, but this was usually cleared up quickly by the context.

 Angus emerges in strength as the story progresses.  Watching his metamorphosis from the early pages to the ending is deeply satisfying.  He is initially seen as somewhat fragile, with others considering if he has a mental disorder (and he himself doubting).  The course of the story pushes him to evolve into a leader of strength and insight.   He struggles with challenges both natural as well as supernatural, and the struggling defines the backbone of your book.  You have woven his personality and his angst in your narrative with skill.

 Angus’ loss of Aaron is particularly poignant and, from my perspective, this loss propels him forward.  Their final exchange is touching at a level rarely achieved in print.

 Your incorporation of gods into your story is genius.  I am a great admirer of the gods, and it was a particular joy for me to watch your vision of their relationships with one another and others.

 I wonder if you over-use cussing.  There is nothing inherently wrong with a character cussing, but I sometimes get the sense that your characters are not natural cussers.

This was very perceptive of the beta reader. Only one of my characters is a natural cusser and I have reduced the cussing markedly.

 Use of Exclamation Mark When Expressing Excitement in Dialog

 A character's excitement in their dialog must be consistent with the punctuation. 

Examples of instances of these dialog tags/said bookisms in which you do not consistently use exclamation marks include the following:




 Here are a few webpages you might find useful:

 Plot Development

 The importance of the opening scene of a novel cannot be overemphasized.  It sets the tone for the story and gives your reader a preview of your style.  You reader will usually decide in the first few pages whether to continue reading or abandon the book.  One of the most critical talents of a writer is the ability to immediately fabricate a foothold for the reader to grasp onto, an invitation for the reader to join you in the world which you have created.  This is no easy task.

 Your story begins exactly where it should.  Your description of the battleground is so well told that your reader can almost smell the mud and mire.

 Your opening sequence does an excellent job of introducing several of your key players as well as establishing Angus’ enormous quest.  It is an excellent hook.

 The core is the stage on which the central themes of a story are woven.  It houses the shoulders of the story and carries the plot through twists and turns, ups and downs.  The core must be, above all things, interesting and entertaining.   This is the longest part of a story and requires the ability to keep the reader intrigued and invested.

 Your transitions are relatively smooth.  There are no plot holes.  Your dialog has a natural tone to it.

 Where you really shine, though, is in your management of conflict.  Your main character emerges larger than life and tackles supernatural forces with strength of personality, will, insight, and integrity that reaches well into the past and foreshadows things to come in the future.  Through his conflict with Hades and the hordes, Angus dominates, and his domination is superb.

 It has been said that a story, like a joke, is only as good as its ending.  I believe this is so.  No matter how well a story is told, if its conclusion is fragmented, confusing, or otherwise unsatisfying, your reader will take this frustration with them; the best qualities of a book are diluted if the ending is poorly written.

 Your ending is abrupt.  There is little cooling down.  Your final sentence (Angus searched below) is open and does not provide appropriate closure to your story.  One gets the sense that the story continues beyond the end.

Ha ha. The beta reader was never told that there is a book two which follows on. The ending left certain subjects open on purpose. I have already altered this to revert to my original ending; making it less obvious for the reader.

 You asked near the end if I thought the section was dragged out.  Yes, I do.  I recommend you purge any sentence or word that does not appreciably advance your story.

It’s strange. I knew the scene (about half a chapter) was overwritten. But I could not figure out how to fix it. I hoped the beta reader would give suggestions, but she just told me to purge stuff. Boo!


Lack of Clarity

 You have a few minor places where your story lacks clarity; these loops, if not corrected, may temporarily derail your story because your reader will be confused.

 Here are a few examples of this:

 Though relieved their brief war ended, Angus sensed tension. Euphoria soon evaporated as worries emerged. Ross’s condition, lack of support, and others encroached on their tired minds.

            Note: Your reader will not know what “others” is referencing.

 “You keep casting me dark looks, Kamal,” said Jess.

“You are. I ordered you to stay in the line, and you broke it to kill two. You jeopardized our defense.”

            NOTE: You are what?

 Flow/Readability and Format

 As part of my beta reading service, I conducted a Flesch Kincaid analysis on your book.  Per F-K formulas, your book has a Flesch Reading Ease of 70.82. 

 The sizes of your chapters, paragraphs, and sentences are generally ideal for easy reading. Your choice of font type and size is excellent.

 Your book is spaced at 1.15; its readability would be enhanced if it were spaced at 1.5.


Much of the following was boring stuff. I cut most of it as the report was lengthy and included many reference web links.


 You tend to overuse m-dashes.

Examples removed by me.


 You tend to overuse ellipses. Examples removed by me.


Typos and Grammatical Errors

 Comma Splices

 You sometimes write comma splices. Examples removed by me.


Content Concerns

 There are some content issues in your book that, if corrected, can propel your book to a considerably enhanced quality.  These are not merely technical issues; they represent much of the soul of your writing voice.  The more you modify them, the more your voice and style will be improved.

The good news is that these are relatively easy to resolve.  However, they are rather tedious to correct.  Nonetheless, investing the time to make these changes will substantially improve your book's tone and increase the likelihood of a satisfying reading experience for your audience.


Excessive Adverbs

Examples removed by me.

 Tentative/Vague Writing

Examples removed by me.

 Initial Coordinating Conjunctions

Examples removed by me.


            Examples removed by me.

 Overused and Superfluous Words and Phrases


Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the words that you overuse in your novel:

            Examples removed by me.

 Dramatic Action versus Passive Action

 While you do not have excessive passive phrases, they do chip into your action.


Here are a few phrases from your story that dilute your drama:

            began (16 times) 

            decided (9 times)

            started (13 times)


Areas of Excellence

 As described earlier in this report, your book includes some issues that are typical of many, if not most, writers.  However, there are some areas that many writers struggle with that you do not. In addition to other strengths cited in this report, the quality of your story is significantly superior in several ways:

 Sentence Length

Many stories suffer from rambling sentences that erode their pace. Your sentences are generally focused and succinct.

 Action Beats

Many writers confuse action beats with said bookisms and dialog tags.  Your novel clearly distinguishes between these, which substantially enhances the readability of your story.

 Font Enhancements

Well over 75% of the books I edit and beta read rely on the excessive use of font enhancements (usually in the form of italics, bold, all caps).  This practice is a literary shortcut to emphasizing certain words and in excess it can be extremely grating.  Your story does not do this.


 I encourage you to have your novel line edited prior to publication. The more corrections you make to your novel as per the recommendations in this report, the more intact your voice will be after editing.

 I recommend you apply as many of the modifications I have suggested.  Of special importance:

 Modify as many flow/readability and formatting issues as you can.

  • Remove as many initial coordinating conjunctions as possible.
  • Correct as many grammatical errors as possible before having your book line edited.
  • Reframe passive phrases into dramatic or active language.
  • Remove absolutes and overgeneralizations.
  • Be as decisive as possible by removing as many tentative words/phrases as you can.
  • Remove as many overused/superfluous words/phrases as you see fit.
  • Significantly reduce your use of adverbs.

  Thank you for allowing me to read your book.  I wish you great success as you continue to develop it!



Cathy, Reedsy is definately, people. One of my favourite authors is an editor there, Joseph Nassise. He's checked out the beginning of my book which was very helpful from a guy who knows what he's doing. Don't think they are so much cheaper than JW, but they have genuine, successful authors as editors.

Ha ha ha. Sooo funny Rick. I'm eating my breakfast over here and that got my day off to a good start (the joke I mean).😁 

I'm not sure if folks here understand that respectable services are available online that remove a lot of the need to self-promote. But, from the comments so far, conservative thinking takes the field. 

And those good books, full of love and passion, and beautifully written that never got out of the slush pile, what of them? Do they wither under conservative pain, or could a little light shine on their story - online? Services are available, one mentioned on this blog several times. Sure, some author effort is still required, but those companies do the heavy lifting. Check them out, open the door to other options, give your book a chance if trad rejects you. 😎

Good thinking, Alison. As the readers are the ultimate judge, does it matter if they buy self-pub or trad. I'm not sure about the 'exteral' validity. Many authors of note restrict themselves mostly to online sales, Does Stephen King allow his books to be published online because he doesn't have enough 'validity' from trad. Not likely. Buyers there can find authors they like and couldn't care less about publishers, agents, and stuff. The internet has given authors independence. No longer are we tied to the opinions of intermediaries. But resistance by some conservatives is easy to understand. They've been raised in bookshops and love the smell and feel of the paper in their hands. Many don't realise that the smell and feel of paper is available online also. Perhaps it's just people afraid to change. Unfortunately for them, times are a changing and that's obvious to all. So many times I've read, including on here, that many or most ebooks are junk. I don't know, nor do I dispute. The reality is though, it is the buyers choice. They can search for the best books on Amazon and other places, find new authors they like and follow them. So the 'junk' talk is illogical when the click of a button can take you to another author. Keep an open mind and if trad rejects you, be your own ruler. 

It ain't easy, though. The book must be promoted which is difficult for older farts like me, but is the time spent on facebook and others so much more than the endless submission process with all its query letter stress and stuff, especially when we're told that quite often the agents doen't even get past the query, don't even read our book extracts. I'm currently editing my second in series and send out a few queries on my completed book when I feel like it. No stress, no expectation, and the growing power of the book sales future, Amazon, waiting for when I'm ready to self-pub.

Added a comment to Cover impact 

Penny, thanks for that web link. Loved the read and red maybe a bigger go for me. Great.

Added a comment to Cover impact 

He's a good hubby. Tell him thanks.

Added a comment to Cover impact 

Hi, Iren.I based my series title size on one authors series who is being helped by Mark Dawson - the below are from Dawsons website. The series title is large, but so is the sub-title. I note you comments and will fiddle around with some stuff. Since people here earlier talked about my 'cods' 😈 I decided to improve it a little.


Added a comment to Cover impact 

Well, bugger.😖  The titles on my JW post are as clear as crystal. But I'm not so concerned about that for now as the graphic designer will fix any such issues. My need is to know if they stand out visually, which covers must do.

Added a forum 

Hello, folks.

Still fiddling. I think I've reach my limit. Time to send off to the graphics girl. She does a great job, but always wants me to give a guide.

With book one finished, book two a month off editing finish, and book 3 well on the way, covers are the number one priority. Would anybody like to offer comments about initial impact. That being, do they hit you in the gob at first look?😁  The attached, bar one, are my fiddlings, yet to go to a graphic artist for refinement. Love to hear from you. I have modified the previous samples.


WOW! Who's the clever chicken. Congrats, Caron. Give em heaps.😎 

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