ABNA – The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards – My Reviews are Up

Each year for the past … not sure how many… Amazon and CreateSpace have teamed up to create a novel writing competition. They give you several categories you can enter in, and every person can enter one entry. The first 10,000 entries (or fewer at Amazon’s discretion) are considered entries in the competition.

In 2012 I entered “The Black Blade: A Gull Village Story“, a Young Adult fantasy novel I originally wrote decades ago now, but I managed to make it into a saleable novel in 2011 and entered it in the ABNA. That novel made the Quarter Finals.

In 2013 I entered “Loose Change: The Case Files of a Homeless Investigator“, a gritty murder mystery told over 8 short case files, telling a larger story about a homeless man who gets caught up investigating injustices done to others. This one didn’t make it into the Quarter Finals mostly due to a review written by a bitter person who, rather than review my book or my work, took offense at some of my main character’s opinions on the Iraq war. This scuttled any chances I had of moving on.

In 2014 I re-entered “Loose Change” because I felt I was badly done-by in the previous year, and, hey, it’s allowed. I figured it deserved a fairer shot.

A few weeks back, I found out I made the cut for the first round, with 499 others. I was in like Flynn. This cut is based on a 300 word pitch document.

So on April 14, just after getting back from Joe Convention in Dallas, the Quarter Finalist list was released, and sure enough, I was on the list. 100 entries in each category advanced. My category was Mystery/Thriller.

This cut was based on an up-to the first 5,000 words of your actual entry. You can’t pick and choose excerpts. It must be the first 5,000 or less. I was not able to complete the first chapter, but I got close, to a logical stopping point which is kind of a cliff-hanger.

Anyway, anyone who gets into the Quarter Finals (100 in each category) gets an “ABNA Expert” review. Like I did the past two years.

Three out of the past four reviews (2012, 2013) were quite positive. One was more of a rant than a review of my work.

However, here are the reviews I got today:

Review 1:

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The author has given us a mystery to solve and it’s done nicely by slowly building us up into the story. The characters are described well and we know where and how these people live. I enjoyed reading this excerpt and am interested in reading more.

What aspect needs the most work?

I believe that this excerpt is done quite well, the dialogue and the characters work well and we anticipate what will happen next. I don’t see that this excerpt needs much improvement.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I was interested in the story from the beginning, it’s a nice comfortable murder mystery with the victim already dead. We look to her parents for answers and the street people to give us hints as to what may have happened. The dialogue is well done and the writing pulls us in. It’s a good story and one that I’d like to read more of…. A good author with the knack of telling stories…

Review 2:

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

FINALLY! 30 entries in, you gave me a story that I haven’t read or seen a million times. It is technically clean. There are no major weaknesses that would detract from the originality. I got to just read a great story. Now I am a little annoyed because I didn’t get to finish.

I am so thrilled that a fresh voice and viewpoint were the basis of such a well crafted story.

What aspect needs the most work?

Your dialogue is fantastic. There is a little clumsiness when transitioning out of dialogue. For example:
“I told them my name, then reverted to
deferential silence, prompting her to
continue her story. ”
This feels over done and intrudes on the fabulous dialogue. Don’t be afraid to go simple and say, “I said my name.”

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I love this piece a crazy amount. We get a fresh literal “man on the street” view. You make some effortlessly profound observations about things without being twee or overwritten.

“I knew two things. He would learn; and I
would not be the one to teach him.”

This is simple, clean perfection. I have read overwrought pieces that sound like a thesaurus spill. None of them have shown me as much about a character as these two lines. That is the hallmark of a truly gifted writer.

However this competition goes (and I hope it goes great for you) keep writing. Write and write and write. You are very good at it. Your work stands out. Your voice is valuable.


So yeah. That happened. And now I must go. I have a cloud to go float on.

Now to wait for June 13, when each category gets whittled down to the top 5, based on the entire novel, apparently as well as any reviews written by customers on Amazon who download the excerpts.


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