Empty Pages Writing Club: One Sentence At A Time

May 18, 2017

As you might recall back in March I talked about what it means to review writing and why it’s so important. As part of that, I shared that in April I would be the impartial judge in a writing competition for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Everyone submitted up to 30 pages of anonymous text to be read, critiqued, and ranked with their peers.

I read these stories and ranked them according to Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Each category was worth up to 5 points meaning a story could earn up to 30 points total. Stories have been read, reviewed, and ranked– and now it’s time to talk about the stories!

For my other Empty Pages short story reviews, check out:

Title: One Sentence At A Time          Length: 9 pages          Genre: Science Fiction

In all honesty, it’s not particularly surprising that One Sentence At A Time came in the last place. With a title like that and being only 9 pages long (this was the only incomplete story), it might have been a giveaway from the entry list. That said, One Sentence At A Time came in 4th place with 19/30 points! This author still did a great job.


Our story is about a man named Jonah who is working a 1500-day shift on an inclement planet to care for a beacon. This beacon is one of six which help a faster-than-light shuttle travel 2055 days in 24 human hours. Once this 1500-day shift is complete, Jonah and his peers will be permitted to full retirement and lifetime access to these faster-than-light flights. However, for each pulse which a beacon fails to omit, you will lose retirement time equal to that of the time lost by the up to 50,000 people on board. If your beacon misses two pulses, you lose all your benefits. This should be easy, after all, the beacons are self-containing and include a robot whose sole purpose is to maintain the beacon. Right? Easy?

Plot/Conflict: 3/5

I was hooked right away into the action of this story. The external conflict AND internal conflict for Jonah were spot on. Obviously, things immediately go awry and Jonah is left trying to figure out what is wrong with his beacon. We are introduced to an alien race and his peers at the other beacons during this time, and it’s obvious there is some tension there. However, since this story was incomplete we never saw where any of that was going. I also would have loved to learn more about Jonah’s motivations to be at the beacon, his relationship with others, etc. as well.

Setting: 3/5

A very solid science fiction world was quickly established. Again, with the shortness of the text, there was a lot I wanted to know which was missing. For example, I’d love to know more about the planet’s environment and related challenges as well as understand the technology they are using more. Time was also not clearly articulated, which is a shame since it’s so critical to the story. But there is a ton of potential here!

Character: 3/5

For nine pages of text, there are a ton of characters. That said, I felt they were all well-fleshed out for only nine pages! All the characters had distinct personalities and obvious motivations, even the unnamed aliens. That said, for 9 pages it was overwhelming. I didn’t know why they all had to be there. And, as mentioned before, I wanted to know more of Jonah’s motivations.

Point of View: 4/5

3rd person dramatic– a common PoV for science fiction. I really appreciated how Jonah was written. Jonah’s lack of confidence and insecurities were clear from the start. He had a lot of intriguing things to say which made him very human. Plus, the mystery lied in what was unknown to Jonah. Nailed it.

Symbolism/Theme: 2/5

I struggled the most with this category. It’s hard to look for symbols in an incomplete story. There are potentials, however! The survival theme is obvious, but also about the human condition of always wanting more than they have.

Writing Style: 4/5

I really enjoyed the writing style. I was constantly looking for the next thing and I was hooked immediately! I had to re-read some of the world building passages for clarity, but that’s it. The alignment between the complexity of the writing and reading ease was aligned well (Thanks, Flesch-Kincaid!), which I assume contributed to my overall enjoyment.

Overall Score: 19/30

This might be at the bottom of a pack of 4 stories, but this is still highly ranked at 19/30! As you can see, I would have loved to know more about this world, these characters, and there everything was going. Alas, that was not to be. I hope the author keeps this around as a potential to finish in the future.

What Do You Think?

  • Do you think I missed anything in the categories I used for the ranking?
  • Are you intrigued by this story?
  • How does it feel to read a review for a story you might never be able to read?


  • KrystiYAandWine May 18, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    It’s an intriguing story, and it sounds like you did a great job with this! It’s not my usual type of story, but it is unique and has some great elements of conflict. It sounds like it would be a great read.

    • Jackie B May 20, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks, Krysti! That means a lot to me. I hope the members of the Empty Pages Writing club feel the same. 😉 I think all these stories have some great elements– even this one, which fell to the bottom.

  • KrystiYAandWine May 18, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Also when you respond to my comments on your blog, I always try to reply, but they never go through. I get an error, and I don’t know why. It doesn’t happen on any other blogs for some reason.

    • AvalinahsBooks May 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      That happens to me too if I try to respond through the WordPress window in my dashboard. But if I visit the blog and reply here, it’s all fine.

      • Jackie B May 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm

        ! This is great feedback! Thank you, Evelina! I will look into this specifically. <3

      • Jackie B May 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        We have hope that we might have fixed it for real this time! < knock on wood >

    • Jackie B May 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks for the heads up. This happens sometimes, and my Admin and I can’t figure it out. Is this a consistent problem, or only sporadic? If it’s sporadic, do you know if this is unique to a computer browser vs phone browser vs. app? Any feedback like that can help us pin down the problem.

  • AvalinahsBooks May 19, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Man, so many points of rating! I bet it was hard work. I would feel so strange to have the power for my opinion weighing so much, you know? Although it’s not like I don’t review books sorcery day xD but somehow it’s different here, when you’re sort of like a judge?

    • Jackie B May 20, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Hahaha. Thanks– it was a long process, but it was a ton of fun. I wanted to make certain that I was thoughtful about it. I’ll have a post next week about my process and what I learned, but basically, I read each story three times before I got to the end result. So yes, hard work! Because I knew these people (indirectly, but still), I wanted to make certain I was fair, confident, and not flippant in my review. Sometimes when I’m overly emotional I can get flippant.

      And it does feel strange to have this sort of power… I’m just glad the Empty Pages Writing Club appreciated it. I received the best compliment ever from them: “You were critical without being soul crushing.” It warmed my heart. 🙂 Being a judge isn’t the same as reviewing a book when you don’t think the author will ever see your review. I know everyone in the club will read these and will read my reviews for each other’s stories too. It was a lot of pressure. But I loved it.

      • AvalinahsBooks May 23, 2017 at 10:13 am

        Oh wow, that’s some serious dedication 🙂 where did you find the time? Anyway, I’ll be very curious about your post then.
        And tell me about emotional! I’m, like, THE emotional reviewer 😀
        Yeah, that IS a good compliment 🙂 but you know.. somehow I always worry that the author will see my review, and they often do xD especially THAT ONE TIME when you write a review that’s less flattering. Like that one time I wrote that review about Martha Lost (last week, I think you’ve probably read that), tweeted, DID NOT tag the author, and yet. The author was THE ONLY person who liked that tweet, and it said “It’s too bad when you hate the MC” basically. I was like NOOOOOO D:

        • Jackie B May 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm

          Hmm, where did I find the time? Honestly, I gave up reading quite a bit to get this done. O_o I also gave up some sleep because, why not? XD

          Yes, you are! You and Cait, honestly, come to mind as the most emotional. I love the extremes you both share in your reviews. They make me so happy. Our emotions are such a key part of our experiences, we can’t ignore them! I just wanted to make certain that knee-jerk reactions weren’t my only focus, you know what I mean?

          Your Twitter/Review story could have been MUCH worse. It’s important for you to have your opinions; reviewers should be honest in their thoughts, reflections, and feelings. I’ve heard so many stories lately of authors attacking their readership for poor reviews. Miley Cyrus could tell you: Even bad publicity is still publicity. One of the things I appreciate most about your reviews is they are honest reflections! Never stop. It’s okay if they aren’t 100% fluffy bunnies.

          • AvalinahsBooks May 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm

            Well, I will never say no to being put on the same shelf with Cait 😀 awesome compliment, and thanks 😀 yeah, emotions are an important part of the process of reading, in the end, we don’t look for ideas or stories, we look for the emotion it gives us. So that’s why I like reviewing like that 🙂

            Give up reading, huh. That IS some dedication there! Amazing.

            Yeah, I’ve also heard stories about how bad authors bully reviewers. It scares me a little bit, but I’m happy that I’ve only ever met writers who will be nice to me even if I give them a mediocre or not such a good review. It makes me respect them so much, especially cause of all those stories.

            And thank you! I know I can trust your compliments, cause they’re always so honest and kind 🙂 not just superficial, you actually give legit reasons 😀 you’re good at complimenting someone, you know that? 😀 good skill too!

            Going to try on a new theme for the blog now, waiting for my friend.. Keep fingers crossed… A little freaked out here 😀

  • KrystiYAandWine May 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    It’s a consistent thing. I tried responding directly to your comment, and it failed again. It happens on both computer and app. Hopefully that is helpful!

    • Jackie B May 22, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Krysti! That definitely helps. At least we know where to start looking.

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: