A mixed review has me "dancing on one foot".

Posted on November 12, 2013
Dancing on one foot...sort of.
For those of you who are not familiar with Latin cultures, the phrase "dancing on one foot" means feeling happy and excited. So, though I received a mixed review by a judge from the Writer's Digest Self Publishing Competition on my novel, A Selfish Moment, I still feel excited. The reason for my reaction is the constructive feedback I got for the things the judge found were lacking and the complements on the things that worked well.

I wasn't exactly sure I even had a chance to win in the Romantic Fiction genre, but I entered anyway. As part of the competition, WD sends me the judge's scores and overall commentary on my novel. This made me nervous.  I just wanted a Yes/No answer to the question "Did I win?" Instead, I got, "No you didn't win, and here's why..."

The scoring scale is from 1-5 where 1=Needs Improvement and 5=Outstanding. Below I have deduced the rest of the scale:

1 = Needs Improvement
2 = Good Enough but still needs improvement
3 = Good
4 = Great / Impressive
5 = Outstanding

My overall score was as follows:
Structure and Organization: 4
Grammar: 3
Production Quality and Cover Design: 3
Plot (if applicable): 3
Character Development (if applicable): 3

Below are some bullets I took from the judges page long review of A Selfish Moment. To my surprise, the mixed review was actually pretty darn swell. As with any kind of review...I learn a lot about writing, readers, the industry, and about myself.

So let's start with the good stuff. Here are the compliments:

The author has created a clever structure to this romance novel. She recounts the romance of a man and a woman who wake up together as strangers the morning after. The narrative is told in two conflicting points of view, first person and present tense, and in alternating chapters. 
This gave me a childlike sense of thrill, like the one you get when you find $200 designer boots on sale for $50 bucks. You feel high for days, maybe even weeks! I mean, who knows how many books this judge has read, and he/she refers to my structure as "clever".

There is an abundance of dialog that reads realistically. 
Yay! Seriously, my daughter caught me several times talking to myself as I played out the dialog from each part. I love dialog.

For fans of romantic fiction, the author has created a story with a touch of everything: sex, profanity, humor, doubt, guilt, sensuality, secrets, and friendships. 
Check, check, DOUBLE CHECK! 

Okay, so there weren't too many compliment. But, seriously, it's not the quantity that counts but the quality. These were monumental ego boosters. Hey, maybe I am a writer after all! 

So now onto the criticisms. (tum tum tuuuuummmm) 

I try spin almost all the negative things in my life into the philosophical equivalent of a soft white blanket covered in rainbows and daisies. Only good can come from someone giving you constructive criticism. 

By heading each chapter with a day and time stamp, the author gives a terse transition. While this is efficient, it also eschews the traditional narrative transitions that sometimes aid a writing voice.
This is the first time I've heard anyone critique this part, and I LOVE that he/she did. I would never have thought it took away from the transition. If anything I thought it aided in the transition. Good point to take into consideration in future novels.

There is a bit of awkwardness when a speaker states something for the reader's background that would not normally be verbalized or thought in an interior monologue
This is a major problem with first person narratives, and I suffer from it. How do I get the back story out to the reader if not through monologue or the occasional dialog talking about a person's past? I have to find a way to make it smoother, seamless, and not so obvious.

There are some errors around comma usage and attribution punctuation, but these aren't enough to really slow down the read.
This is both good and bad. Good because this tells me the reader got so involved in the story, so sucked into the action, the scene, or the moment, that the grammar mistakes didn't get in the way. Bad because after going through several rounds of editing, and one final one with an independent editor, these got through. Grrrrrrr.

The cover is functional but doesn't really hint of the passion or subplots inside.
I had asked for feedback on my sample covers from friends and family (this was before I actively partook in the G+ community) and, although they have been great, I'm not sure they can be trusted. Not that they are trying to do me harm, I just don't think they can be brutally honest and give me negative feedback. I mean, seriously, not all my samples were good. Next time, I'm posting it up on G+ for comments and review.

So, considering that I paid $100 buck for the entry to the competition, getting this feedback was well worth the money. And hey, knowing I didn't get any 1s or 2s...well, that's another sigh of relief from this indie author.  


  1. How great that you got some feedback, both positive and constructive. As much as receiving criticisms hurt, it's the only way to grow. And it's great that so much of it was positive. Getting threes out of a possible five is quite respectable, in my opinion. Well done! :)

  2. Thanks Sara. Getting constructive feedback is always good. Bring it on world...I'm ready!

  3. As much as we love input from family and friends, it's too involved. Definitely can't be trusted!

    This was definitely great feedback! I love it when people take the opportunity to give really good feedback, especially when I'm working on the next piece. I think you got your money's worth.

    Validation for your writing is always awesome.

    1. When I give feedback, I roll up my sleeves and bury myself in it, thoroughly. So when I get this kind of feedback I feel like there was a real effort put into it.