Judge Number 12

Back last spring I entered The Bone Road into several writing contests. I didn’t win any of them, alas, although the book was one of 50 semi-finalists in Fantasy for the Kindle Review Awards. That was, realistically, the one I thought I had the best chance in, so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t win the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Award, which was the final contest to report.

I had forgotten Writer’s Digest promised a critique of each book entered. To my surprise they delivered. It had also slipped my mind I had entered Matcher Rules as well, the rules of this contest not prohibiting previously published works. So below are the two ratings and critiques from anonymous Judge Number 12 at Writer’s Digest. 

Entry Title: The Bone Road
Author: Mary Holland
Judge Number: 12
Entry Category: Genre Fiction
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
Structure and Organization: 4
Grammar: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 3
Judges Commentary*:
In this book we’re introduced not only to a world, but a fully realized one with its own set of powers & problems.
The narrative is tightly woven and compelling, moving at a fast pace while still allowing the reader to experience a true depth of characterization as they develop a full appreciation of the events as they take place.
The characters here are fully realized, vivid and alive, and often do surprising things or do / say things that are very human, which can be rare.  I especially like the way Jak develops as a counter point in certain scenes, how he also can serve to stand in as the reader in many cases.
The chapters are nicely paced, with enough meat to make them satisfying but not so ponderous as to make it difficult to keep track of the narrative as it develops.
Throughout, apart from structural concerns, there are passages of solid descriptive writing, moments of great clarity and insight.  For example, Rhona’s progress (p 153) is full of the gravity & weight accrued up to this point as we start to understand some of the underpinning ideology of what this novel (& novelist) is trying to say.

Entry Title: Matcher Rules
Author: Mary Holland
Judge Number: 12
Entry Category: Genre Fiction
Structure and Organization: 3
Grammar: 3
Production Quality and Cover Design: 3
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 4
Judges Commentary*:
In this tight sci-fi story, the writer expert weaves together some clashing ideologies, some characters with schemes, and does it all while showing the reader their own real present day world in a new light.
The narrative blends these concerns well, never dwelling too long on one or the other angle of its trajectory.  This gives the reader a great reading experience, one that is fast-paced but still developed enough for it to be meaningful.
The main characters here are fully realized, but some of the other characters are somewhat less so.  In any work there’s the need for foils and one-dimensional characters but a clever writer can disguise this when it happens.
The chapters are parsed out in a way that makes sense, that pushes the reader forward while still spending time lingering on important points or moments.
Jerzy is a particularly exciting character to read.  You’ve nailed his thoughts & actions well – a passage on 116 illustrates where you blend the narration with his point of view seamlessly & well.
 *Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

I’m proud of these critiques. I sent two self-published books to be judged by a reputable and well-established old-style writer’s organization, and while they didn’t win they came out rather well. The Bone Road did better than Matcher Rules, but I’m happy about that because there’s four years of writing between the two books. At least, by these criteria, I’m getting better. So thank you, Judge Number 12, for your time and for the critiques.