Sad news: my novel is not moving on in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
Happy news: the reviewers liked my book overall, but had the same concerns that my beta readers had (and which have been my main focus during this current major revision). I need more description, to hook people into the book faster–since it moves quickly but starts off slowly–and to be more detailed instead of always focusing on dialogue and action.
“[Main hook] is an appealing and memorable quest for a fantasy novel. The author definitely has writing talent and skill at word smithing. A good balance of dialogue and narration is employed. The author obviously has a good creative imagination and is familiar with the traditions of fantasy writing.”
“I think the author does a nice job of creating an inherent divide between Copper and the mages.”
“Too much ‘newness’ is introduced to the reader quickly at the beginning of the book. The reader needs to connect to something familiar in the story if they are to continue to read until they are hooked on the fantasy world created by the author. Possibly work on presenting Copper’s world more slowly and begin with aspects of Varankai that are more like earth before bringing in all the unique things about it.”
“I’d like to see more description of everything. For example, give us intimate details of … why Copper feels so attached to the sea. I liked what we got about her diving equipment, but I’d like more details. What does it feel like to go underneath the water? What does she see? Why does she like it? What do the oysters feel like? etc., for everything.”
“Overall Thoughts” included:
“Make sure all expository information is incorporated into the story in a way that feels more natural.”
“It seems like a fresh take on the genre. I like that this character has an interesting job, and I like that she fights between wanting to be alone, but not quite alone. The world is interesting… but I’d like to see more details about it so I feel more firmly grounded in everything.”
Overall, I’m pleased. Other people on the Amazon boards have posted some of their feedback, and there were quite a few vicious reviews out there. I feel like the issues that I have are fixable ones, not the dreaded “your writing sucks and your story sucked and you should never quit your day job.” I knew my world, character, and concept were strong, so being affirmed in that belief by real editors is exciting. I need to add length to the story anyway, so being urged to flesh out all the descriptions only helps that out.
I definitely need to finish the major revision I’m in now (curse you, time-consuming lesson plans) AND strengthen the first few pages, that “hook” to bring the readers in… then I can think about sending it out to agents soon. My husband says I need to set myself a deadline to send my first query out, but that feels so difficult to predict now that I’ve started a brand-new job. Spring break is in April; I’ll see what life looks like then and then consider setting a deadline.
Lots of work to do, you guys. But I’m making progress!!! PROGRESS TOWARDS BEING A REAL WRITER WITH REAL BOOKS THAT REAL PEOPLE READ AND LIKE! Catch those dreeeeeeams