I wouldn’t be surprised if various individuals imagined I had died, due to dropping off the face of the earth. Such is the nature of holidays. I’ve taken my time to have fun, rest it out, do a lot of reflection and eventually a lot of writing, and it’s time to get back into the swing of things. Quite recently two more reviews for my first book The Sorrow landed, and I was quite pleased with the results, as they were more or less in line with what I expected.

It’s almost a solid year after the publication of my first novel, which happened on February 9, 2014. It’s been an invaluable journey since then as I’ve used hindsight to reflect on past mistakes and enthusiasm and determination to guide me towards future achievement. Nevertheless, regardless of any narrative regrets or missed opportunities, my first book will always be a starting point for me, and more than that a firm marker of where I am (or was), and the bar I need to raise above if I am to progress.

Few things do better than actual feedback to help you along the way, and no matter how amazing you think your work is, always value the opinions of others who have good intentions. I submitted my book to The Review Board quite some time ago in order to get honest feedback, and my patience has been rewarded with a rather in-depth review in which two writers gave an assessment of the book. Well worth the wait!

The Review Board gave The Sorrow 3 out of 5 stars, or 6 out of 10, and once again I’m very pleased with that result. Book reviews can be quite strict, and I’ve learned that if you’re a newbie author then a 3/5 star rating is pretty encouraging in the sense that it tells you that your book was read from start to finish and despite its detracting flaws it also had numerous merits that demonstrate potential for the author. At 21 (19 and 20 when I actually wrote and published The Sorrow) I’m extremely satisfied to have my first work received that way, and I value the praise and criticism equally.

The Review Board praised The Sorrow for the well-made cover of the book, the complex protagonist, the attention to detail and intense psychological aspect, the twist on the kidnapping plot (the risks taken in this regard), the way you can relate to the main character’s struggle and the potential. What was criticised were the elements of vagueness regarding the city (which I purposefully opted not to name), the lackluster supporting characters, the time stamps sometimes making it hard to follow, excessive info dumping, some dry dialogue and repetition and typos and minor errors.

You can read the full reviews over at The Review Board or Goodreads, but here is a small quote to go with it:

The best way to describe the reading experience of The Sorrow is a roller coaster ride. Even after finishing the read, there is a bit of residual that taunts the mind.

Despite all of the things I liked about the story, the underlying impact of the deterrents kept this from getting higher stars. The author definitely has potential when describing psychological sequences and gory crime scenarios but has to make sure not to bog down the reader with too much unnecessary jargon.

If you’re serious about your art, no matter what it is, you’ll have to learn to be critical and honest with yourself. The reason I walk away from reading these reviews a happy person – and even got in touch personally with the reviewers to thank them for their time and efforts – is because I’ve had a year to reflect and make use of hindsight to critique my own work, and assess what I felt were my strengths and weaknesses and what I needed to correct going forward. Both of these reviews, as well as others, have been more or less in line with what I’ve felt about my first book, and for that I’m pleased.

It’s easy to get disheartened by what looks like a lowish score numerically, but as a reviewer myself (on the South African gaming website EGMR) I know exactly what it means to look beyond a number and see the sincerity of the words of the reviewer and the equal value of the criticism and praise. Always remember that no matter what you do you will be praised and you will be criticised, but what’s important is to always use these as tools to improve yourself and to take seriously the words of those with good intentions: who criticise you to improve you, not bring you down.

I’ve spent a long time trying to improve on my weaknesses from my first book, and I’m determined to better it. That is perhaps one of the best forms of inspiration I’ve found. I’ll definitely be keen to post more reviews on my blog, regardless of the result, as I welcome all sincere and constructive feedback.