Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quarter Quotients

So anyone who stopped by yesterday afternoon and scanned comments knows the MAIN point... In the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest this year, I have passed to the stage of QUARTER FINALIST. You see that? This is the first level with a TITLE (other than her Tartly Majesty, anyway), so that's WAY cool. I love that piece. The SUPER big thing I love though, is all Quarter Finalists get a Publisher's Weekly review. We can use it in marketing, provided the book doesn't change much, but what I hope it does, is point to where the book SHOULD change so I can improve it.

And I got my first taste of that yesterday afternoon... (more on that, in a minute)


Quivering

I noticed the list was up first with an announcement on the Amazon chat threads... I went to look... opened Young Adult first... and scanned. My stomach knotted... there was my name.

Unlike last time though, I scanned for my friends names... so many made the pitch round... and on that young adult list, I didn't see ONE. Nobody else made it. Still making my eyes sting. How is that possible? I mean I GET that the lists had to each be narrowed from 1000 to 250 and that is a lot of people, but I just expected... company...

I know. That's silly. And there is crap-shoot to this—particularly for genre fiction writers, as most people have a couple genres they just won't read, and given 4 reviewers in two rounds, odds of hitting ONE that doesn't read what you write (especially for sci fi, romance, adult fantasy... I just think those are genres people like or don't). Last time I was a little sad because... you know... only half my friends made it through... this time, I had to go to the adult list before I recognized names.

My buddy Lisa is in. And I know she can really write because she was in a contest last Spring she got second place in, and part of that was reader voting, so I read some of that particular work. She writes even darker stuff than I do... horror mostly. And Marjorie (the other Marjorie—I have a close friend Marjorie some of you might know, too, but she wasn't in the contest.) Now I may have missed in my quick scans... so if I didn't say your name, don't think I DON'T think of you as friend... it just means your name doesn't fall near the names I remembered to look for and you weren't announcing yourself one way or the other before writing this...

I guess my point is, it feels a little desolate... like I'm headed off on a journey without benefit of a guide whose been there before... So that is weird.


Quality

I thought though, the main thing I wanted to share with you was the two vine reviews on my excerpt. You may or may not have seen these before... but being me, I can't leave well enough alone, so I am also going to address what they say section by section (in purple)

ABNA Expert Reviewer 1
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The opening as it gradually reveals Helen, who she is, how she died and what is going on around her is quite gripping. It will catch and hold the reader's attention, keeping them turning pages to find out just a bit more. Particularly with a young audience it is important to grab their attention early and hold long enough to draw them into the story. This opening does an excellent job of achieving those goals.

Thank you! I guess I don't know what else to say to that...


What aspect needs the most work?

This might be more effective if it were a bit shorter, not much maybe just 5% or so. At times things were included that didn't really need to be gone into in such detail such as Helen's attempts to contact the woman construction worker. It didn't add to the story to go into so much detail but did slow the narrative down.

This is totally valid. The excerpt has been cleaned twice, once on my own, once after feedback, but I know this is a weakness of mine, so surely my need to include too much isn't completely exorcised until about the 7th draft.


What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I really liked this excerpt even though when I first began reading I felt like I had wandered into 'Lovely Bones'. That feeling quickly faded as I continued to read. I particularly liked the scenes concerning setting up the juvenile detention facility. There is potential here for a good novel but it needs work.

Ha! Lovely Bones! There goes my own comparison almost biting me in the butt... glad it segued into fresh soon enough! And 'needs work' would be exactly my assessment... not overhaul, not rewrite, but certainly cleaning...



ABNA Expert Reviewer 2

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I applaud the idea of being introduced to a new rehabilitation center for troubled youth by a long dead teenage epileptic who killed herself when the building was an asylum for the retarded and insane. Helen's back story is well described and I love that she even has a living niece who takes an interest in her tale and I hope they make contact. I think the author knows something about troubled teens and the present and past treatment of them and can use it well to tell this story.


Helen's niece does, indeed, have an ongoing role, and... does HAVING a teen qualify me? *shifty* though honestly, I think my degrees in psych (BA and MS) indeed give me a fair amount of insight to mental disorders, as does my job, and I do have a lot of teen experience (did I mention a lifetime as a nut magnet? I mean nut in the most loving way, but seriously... I might as well collect crackers), so hopefully I nailed this. Mostly though, this comment makes me hope I come across as worthy when the whole book is out there.


What aspect needs the most work?

The newly introduced character Serena is not very clear and I hope the author does not leave her so ambiguous. I feel like a poorly developed Serena could ruin the story. This sounds picky but I wish the author had picked something that is easy to pronounce than Kahlotus for the name of the town, center and title.

I can promise this. Serena doesn't get short shrift. She is probably my most compelling character--I recognize this... more compelling than a ghost, I swear, but the book is more about Helen responding to and trying to help her, so I was wary of putting her too front heavy (the excerpt only had maybe 3 pages of her (out of I think 24--it was 4,000 words, but in 4 chapters). In reality, she is about a quarter of the PoV and probably HALF of the topic). 

As for Kahlotus... it's a real place, which was why I fell in love with it (the hospital on the other hand, is all fiction), but the sign that reads 'Kahlotus Disposal Site' that signals drivers outside Pasco where to turn to head to the middle of nowhere (read: Spokane shortcut) has that written on it. It inspired me as to where to set this book that was only an idea in broad terms (ghost in a reform school). I'm attached to Kahlotus...

ku* LOH*tus --(that help?)

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I liked the excerpt a lot and feel it would also be very appealing to the targeted teen audience if the quality continues through the rest of the book.

Again, the... if it continues... if only... I have predicted from the start my next round is my drop--I felt the idea of it could carry the excerpt, even if it wasn't quite polished... I'm not confident it can carry the whole book. (though I confess when I saw who got cut today, I was wiping my brow--some great pieces didn't make it)--but the concept is HIGH... the whole book needs a bit of polishing ...


So there we go... first ever 'official' feedback... I feel okay about it. I feel it was fair and helps... at this point, pointing out what I know, but that's okay too. It helps me trust myself a bit.  I saw a few responses that didn't seem so balanced. Understandably, with 2000 entries, not all reviewers will be of the same standard (where the luck bit comes in), but i feel I was treated absolutely fair, and am perfectly content.

32 comments:

erica and christy said...

Okay, Hart, please understand I've been cruising the ABNA forums for the past 2 hours and it's 2:10 a.m. and I have to be to work in 5 hours and...

Congrats!!!!! (that is all. you already know I'm happy for you!)
erica

Melissa said...

Wow. that's some pretty great feedback.

Congratulations on making it through. i wish you all the best!

M.J. Nicholls said...

Excellent feedback. It's no surprise you are in the quarter finals, you are a hustling queen and pathologically devoted to your manuscripts. Good luck!

Jan Morrison said...

Oh Tartlette, I am so frabjous day calloo callay about this! And it is dear as anything that you wished more of your pals came along AND please just enjoy this ride for you!! I wish I could have a good ole ginger martini with ya only it is 7:55 in the morning.
later lovey!

Lee Libro said...

Congratulations Hart! You must be thrilled even though it gets a little lonelier at the top. The feedback and review alone are priceless!

Trisha said...

Major congrats to you!! This is awesome news :D I can understand your feeling a bit dejected that your buddies didn't make it through, but you are holding the torch for them too! :)

Hart Johnson said...

Erica-what on earth were you up at 2 for? Aren't you a teacher? I would think that is a profession you need some sleep for! (and thank you!)

Melissa-thank you to you, too!

Mark-pathologically devoted, eh? This you could write that on a note for me to turn in at work so they will commit me and I can just write? *snort*

Jan *giggles* I just love how you put things... sometimes when I write *giggles* I'm not really giggling, but this time I was... out loud.

Lee-Thank you! I am pretty pleased with them!

Trish-Aha! That is a good way to look at it! Thank you!

Old Kitty said...

NAKED TIME!!!! NAKED TIME!!!!

Right, time to down your tools of oppression and celebrate some NAKEDNESS!!

Oh wowwowowwoowowwowowow!!!!!

I'm just so chuffed for you!! Yay!! Take care
x

DCAllen said...

Congratulations!!!! :) That's fantastic.

Deb and Barbara said...

Hart, I was out and about all day yesterday and while I did see that I had NOT made it through, I didn't see who HAD. I am THRILLED for you!! Congrats. And let me just say that I love love Kahlotus.

I didn't realize there were reviews posted already until I read yours. Turns out mine are good enough that it feels I could have gone through, but probably got ousted in the points system. This happened last year too. Oh well. NOw I can focus my karmic energy on you!! xo B

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats!

Colene Murphy said...

Wow! Amazing!! Congratulations!

LTM said...

omg! omg! omg!!! T.H., I almost can't stand it, I'm so excited! :D

And what fantastic feedback. I haven't read this one, so I don't know about Serena, et al, but wow. They're loving it, yes?

***squee***

Hart Johnson said...

Jenny-I'm just calling for a whole naked week... (thank you!)

Thank you, Chris!

Barbara-I was so sad you weren't there! And I WISH they gave us the numbers!!! (I'm a number nerd for starters, but I'd love to have a broad idea of what needs the most improvement) I can definitely use your karma, so thank you!

Thank you Cherie and Colene!

Leigh-Thanks so much, hon! No, you haven't read this one--I have it with two readers at the mo, but they will be my first two--I DID have Michael and Leanne read the excerpt, but it hasn't had a full peer review.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The feedback alone is worth it, Hart! And congratulations oncde more.

Cold As Heaven said...

That's great. Congratulations.

And now you only need to get Serena behave properly, and then it's all set. Good luck >:)

Cold As Heaven

Mary Vaughn said...

Hart, this is great. Congratulations and best of luck.

hsoister said...

What positive feedback you got (and deserve). And how generous of you to be so concerned about your friends in this contest. You got class, lady.

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

Congratulations!

Simon C. Larter said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

And official feedback, too! Good on you, darlin'. This calls for extra drinks tonight! :D

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats again, HART.

Elena Solodow also got in. So you are not alone in y/a

Surprising my reviews were good. I was surprised since I didn't get selected. But the sexual content scared them off. That was the major issue. It wasn't my writing, so I feel better about it.

OF course, you know I wish you the best. I feel close to you on this since we were crit partners.

Good luck, Your ROYAL TARTNESS!

Nas Dean said...

Congratulations on getting through! And all the best.

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-it IS, isn't it!?

CaH-thanks so much! And Serena behaves, but that poor girl has CRAP for luck...

Mary-THANK YOU!

hsoister-you may be the first person ever to accuse me of class! teehee

Sylvia-THANK YOU!

Twin Man-Tart-Simon, you and I need to drink together in real time one of these days...

Michael-yeah, some reviewers can get spooked with some YA content (even though it makes BOOKS all the time) My next round will run up against that--it is awful, what I subject them to--too adult for kids... except it really happens--and I feel that same affinity! I was sad you didn't make it!

Thank you, Nas!

Arlee Bird said...

This sounds very promising. Great job!

Lee
Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

jbchicoine said...

Congratulations! That's a lot of great feedback. Best wishes with the competition, and I look forward to reading your excerpt!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That is amazing, Hart! You must be on cloud nine over placing and on pins and needles for the next round. Hoping you get more good news soon! Congratulations. =)
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Kari Marie said...

I am squeeing for you in Minnesota! Congratulations- sounds like you got some great feedback as well.

Ella said...

Congrats Hart, this is really exciting. I will have to go check it out. I'm been living under a rock; cold, allergies and swollen glands, oh, my~ I like the story line and the town's name; it is intriguing!

Julie Hedlund said...

Many congratulations! That's awesome.

Holly Ruggiero said...

DANG! Congrats. Woohoo.

Elena Solodow said...

Hey, ABNA buddy. Both reviews seem really great to me - and your book sounds awesome! Right up my alley. Now if they'd only post those excerpts...

Ciara said...

Congratulations!! That is awesome. Those are some great reviews. :)