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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards

Yesterday I received an email from the Writer's Digest Self-Published e-book Award contest which I entered last summer. Too Much Left Unsaid was not chosen as a winner, but I was very encouraged by the commentary and ratings I received.  I am quoting the full report here and will comment on parts of it in future blogs and on Facebook. 
"Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. “0” indicates not applicable. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking. 
Structure and Organization: 5
Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5
Judges Commentary*:
The cover is lovely. Great details, and the colors are soft and feminine, pretty shades. Nicely-designed.
Mattie opens with a warm and comforting voice, personable, good use of addressing the reader directly with kindly expressions. We like her instantly. Excellent characterization right from the start. Well done.
The author has a great talent with voices, from the young children’s dropping off of consonants to the gruff father. Perfect differentiations of characters’ voices that reveal their traits.
The contrast between the warm opening and the intensely cold scenes of Kathy’s younger years is jarring, but in a good way. We feel the iciness, the emptiness, the pain. In this section, though, we get a little too much telling, not showing which leaves out some sensory details that would have enlivened this part more. And the dialogue is not just harsh, but seems a bit too formal at times, a bit unnatural.
Would have liked more detail on Mattie’s simple wedding and Ruth’s more traditional wedding as a way to color up the novel’s wonderful experience, as sensory contrast and more insight into Ruth particularly.
Interesting to see that in the war era, love developed so intensely and so quickly between couples, which we know from stories of that era’s generations. The author does an excellent job of conveying this very real pace of connection that happened then, very authentic, very engaging. Well done. The letter proposal was done extremely well. That’s how the men of that era expressed themselves, with such unabashed romance. Loved that.
Kathy is so unlikeable, which creates a complex character we follow from initially disliking terribly to understanding later. When she doesn't bring the baby to see her husband, denying him the chance to see his child after so many years away, that’s just soul-crunching. A slight improvement here would have been for Josh to have far more disappointment at the baby not being there, not just glide into “oh, well, I get romance now.” At this point, reader has a hard time caring about her, and then:
When she co-creates the inappropriate relationship with Ron, we dislike her even more, almost the point of no going back. We dislike Ron almost as much, via his saying that his relationship with Kathy is innocent and not hurting Mattie. How he wants to comfort both women. His self-delusion is palpable. We also see him as very real, a testament to the author’s talent at showing us the dark side of human selfishness, and then guiding the reader to forgiveness and empathy for Ron. Well done.
Great scene with the boys accepting the football team’s forfeit when the other team won’t let Dar play, nor suit up. The author painted that scene extremely well, especially when the one boy says he feels a case of rage coming on. That was wonderful.
The characters’ goals are good, and we follow along eagerly in this sprawling family tale that weaves so many realistic characters together. Other novels could have gotten bogged down in the historic goings-on and politics, but the author does a great job of using the political tension in society as creating a world for the characters to inhabit. Well done.
Satisfying ending, and reader is left happy that Mattie finds her sister. At first, reader may want a scene with the sisters reconnecting, but the author wisely leaves that open. Excellent read. 

*When quoting the judges commentary, please quote as: “Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

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