Judges’ Commentary: The Iranian Scorpion

I submitted The Iranian Scorpion to the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.  It did not win an award; there were 2,800 books submitted.  But, I did receive the judges rating which is as follows:

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “needs improvement” to 5 “outstanding”:

Structure & Organisation: 3

Grammar: 3

Product Quality & Cover Design: 3

Plot: 3

Character Development: 3

The judges commentary is:

While this is an interesting package overall, there is room for improvement.  The cover image itself is striking.  The typography is strong and the contrast is good.  The layout works well as does the color palette.  The title on the spine would be easier to read, as would the author’s name, if the map were screened back more (this is also true of the cover).  The back cover copy is well-written and intriguing, as jacket copy should be.  The author bio on the back cover is well-written, as well.  Paper quality is good, especially on the interior.  The interior design is practical and appealing, and the text is very easy to read.

The Story:

This novel has a lot to recommend it.  The writing is good; the voice is strong.  The Middle Eastern setting is fascinating, as is the drug trade milieu in which the story takes place.  Most important, the author has a great story to tell and he tells it in a way that gives the story the ring of authenticity.  The hero is likable, as is the heroine.  The supporting cast is colorful and well-drawn.  The plot is fast-moving.  That said, the author slips in an out of point of view.  He also tend to write in elemental chunks: Here’s a chunk that’s mostly all description, followed by a chunk that’s all narrative/backstory; then a chunk that’s all dialogue/action, etc.  When the author masters the art of writing fully imagined scenes that balance character, dialogue, action, narrative, inner monologue and setting – all the elements woven together seamlessly – he’ll be a writer to watch.  A final note: Using different font to indicate a foreign language does not work and it is very distracting to the reader.

My response:

I would have appreciated some differentiation in the numerical scores.  Everything as a three doesn’t tell me where the strengths and weaknesses are.  I take the point about writing in chunks.  I acknowledge that I have done that in the past, and the point about weaving all the elements together is a good one.  I’m working on it!  I’m not so clear about what is meant by ‘slips in an out of point of view’.  There is the narrator’s point of view (which, in the case of this novel, I’ve tried to keep neutral and factual) and a character’s point of view (which may be biased and subjective.)  Does it mean that there is ambiguity about the point of view?  In which case, I’ve got to watch out not to let that happen, because it would be confusing to the reader.  I think I may present differing points of view of two (or more characters) in a single passage.  I do this to better define the characters, and the issues between them.  I see nothing wrong with this as long as it is clear who owns a particular point of view.  I still have a bias in favour of using a different font for different languages – particularly where the language expresses a very different culture.  I don’t think I would use a different font for French or German, but somehow it seems right to distinguish a Middle Eastern language (like Pashto of Farsi with all its cultural baggage) from English.  I have to admit, though that more readers prefer a uniform font.

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