I decided to enter Elf Mastery into this context last year. Figured if I didn't win, I'd at least get some feedback. Let's take a look at the results:
Entry Title: Elf Mastery
Author: Bryant Reil
Pen Name (if provided):
Entry Category: Middle-Grade/Young Adult books
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 3
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 3
Production Quality and Cover Design: 3
Plot and Story Appeal: 3
Character Appeal and Development: 3
Voice and Writing Style: 3
Judge’s Commentary*: ELF MASTERY by Bryant Reil is a charming fantasy novel for young middle grade readers. I really enjoyed the character of Kyla Nim. She was immediately likable and fun. Her characteristics spoke loudly on the page and I felt the author did a wonderful job of creating a character for young readers to immediately connect to. Reading more deeply into the story, I liked the world the author created. I liked how the fairies and the elves were the ones behind the scenes making sure everything in the word was running. However, I'd wish for even more depth into this world. Even more description and details to really create bigger scenes. In fantasy novels, it is so important to perfect the surroundings, I always want the world to feel like we are right there at that very moment. So I felt this could have been more developed throughout the novel. As we follow Kyla, I like her journey but it did feel a little slow at times. Her friends brought in a new level of interest, however, the conflict between the evil character comes in too late and I felt this was something that could have been more developed from the very beginning of the story line.
-Judge, 4th Annual Self-Published e-Book Awards.
Well, solid 3's. Not terrible. Not great. I'd feel better if there were more variation among the category scores, but whatcha gonna do?
More importantly is the commentary. The judge liked Kyla as a character, so I was happy about that. Again, people seem to love her or hate her, which I kind of did expect during character creation. Also liked the other characters. The complaint here, that the pacing in the beginning is a bit slow, is one I find valid and have heard more than once. I struggled when writing this book because I would have been happy writing a book just about Kyla in a standard year of school with no real adventure. I was having fun with the world-building and characters. But, when you publish a book, you have to consider what the audience wants to read, not just what you want to write. I had thought of trimming the beginning down a few chapters but couldn't decide what to cut. Oh well. What's done is done.
The comments on describing the world in better detail is one I know I need to work on. I feel like I'm good at coming up with settings, characters, and story lines but I struggle with breathing life into it. I would most welcome a co-author who is good at taking my material and making it more vibrant and captivating. But who would want to put that much effort into someone else's story? As it is, I am trying my best to work on these skills for books 2 and 3. (As an update, book 2 is nearing completion but I am writing the end in conjunction with the beginning of Book 3, to keep elements from conflicting with each other. Also Book 3 is more fun to write, which tells me I need to spice up the ending for Book 2.
I've been doing some online tutorials about framing and lighting so will be reworking a lot of the pictures over time. Here is a contrast between an original and a redo.
First the original:
And the redo with new lighting:
More depth and shadows. It comes off as slightly more realistic, though I did like the cartoony color wash in the original. Instead of replacing the current slideshow, I think I'll make a new slideshow with the newer images so people can see the changes. Good reference for anyone interested in this sort of thing.
Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.