The Review: As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone. Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance? Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.
*quickly pulls out soapbox*
And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist. If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.
*slides soapbox back under the desk*
The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews. In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front. A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers. It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.
More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle. Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements. (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?
On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory. Should I reduce the palace intrigue? Should I reduce the military/training aspects? Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?
The answer is no, no, and no.
Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing. The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements. The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.
As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories. I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker. I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives. So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.
Last Call: The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22. It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects. If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.