Grading System Touch-ups!

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I made this as mostly a reference for myself going forward, but I’m publishing it in case authors who’ve sent me their books are interested in how I’m going rate things going forward.

I really enjoy my grading system in some respects, but I’ve also been really frustrated with it on occasion – I’m hoping this will be my final tweak. I don’t have time to go back and re-grade old reviews, I’ll also be keeping the old system for the remaining SPFBO reviews to keep things uniform. However, new reviews from here on out will be using the new system. My new score will be out of 100!!! I’ve worked hard to make it like that, I like round numbers and /60 was bugging me to no end.


1 – 5 Points will go to “Editing” 

  • 5/5 for a completely clean edition
  • 4/5 for a book with 5 errors or less
  • 3/5 for a book with 6 – 12 errors
  • 2/5 for a book with 13 – 20 errors
  • 1/5 for a book with 21 – 30 errors

1 – 5 Points will go to “Prose” 

  • 5/5 for a book that made me say “wow”, I’m highlighting passages, and I’m marvelling at the emotion the writing evokes from me
  • 4/5 for an excellent book with writing that flowed and sounded professional
  • 3/5 for a book with ‘standard’ prose, nothing stood out as problematic, but I wasn’t actively loving the writing style either. I usually call this Utilitarian Prose, like Sanderson.
  • 2/5 for a book that I had to go back and re-read to understand what’s going on
  • 1/5 for jarring passages, incomplete sentences, or awkward phrasing.

1 – 5 Points will go to “Dialogue” 

This one is hard to break down into points, but essentially, a 5/5 will have a flowing natural rhythm to the dialogue with characters that have distinct voices. A 5/5 will have elements that made me laugh, or made me think, or just felt so ‘real’ I was in love with the back and forth conversations of the characters.

A 3/5 may be something where I didn’t love everything, but I didn’t have any major complaints, while a 1/5 would have very stiff and wooden dialogue, jokes that don’t land, or over the top weird dialogue that ripped me out of the moment because “no one speaks like that.”


1 – 5 Points will go to “Natural” feeling – this is a weird concept but bear with me

  • 5/5 will be a book that used no dues ex machina, or contrived plot points that didn’t feel natural. Everything felt like a flowing part of the plot that could happen ‘in real life’.
  • 4/5 would be a book that used minor contrived plot points, small things that didn’t detract from the plot too much
  • 3/5 will be a few more moderate things, like let’s say two people don’t communicate about something, and it leads to a series of events central to the plot. Miscommunications happen, of course, but this will be almost eye-rolling “they could have just talked to each other” kind of thing
  • 2/5 will have big plot points that don’t feel natural, things that leave me questioning why they didn’t try other avenues to solve a problem
  • 1/5 will be eye rolling “of course that happened” things, saved at the last moment by a friend, a villain waxing poetic about their evil plots only to be foiled because they took too long to kill the hero.

1 -5 Points will go to Engagement

  • 5/5 will be an excellent book that I was enraptured in plots A, B C….Z. I was in love with everything that was going on.
  • 4/5 will be a good book that I was mostly on board with, maybe a few things here and there I wasn’t that taken by.
  • 3/5 will be a book that mostly appealed to me, but had points where I was “slogging” through.
  • 2/5 will be a book where mostly I didn’t connect, there were some aspects of the book I enjoyed, but many where I didn’t.
  • 1/5 will be a book that had almost nothing that interested me, I found most of the plot boring, or rushed, or just not fitting together.

1 – 5 points will go to Consistency 

This is another one that’s hard to break down. Essentially though, this will be for plot holes and inconsistency/jarring bits of plot. 5/5 will have no plot holes, everything is very well thought out. 3/5 will have some minor issues, but nothing major. And 1/5 will be for plots that have glaring plot holes that make no sense and really detract from the story in a big way.


1 – 5 Points will go to Setting 

  • 5/5 will be for a book with a very immersive setting, I feel like the world was completely thought out and real to me. Small details here and there that really bring the setting to life
  • 4/5 will be for a good setting, but not quite immersive on every level, but it didn’t leave me wanting either.
  • 3/5 for a decent setting where I knew what was going on with the world, but it wasn’t stand out stellar either.
  • 2/5 for a confusing setting or just bland and leaving me wanting
  • 1/5 for a setting that almost was irrelevant to the story, and mostly absent

1 – 5 Points will go to Magic Use/System

  • 5/5 will be for very engaging or unique magic – I’m reading a book called Torn right now that uses sewing as a magic system. I’ve never seen that before and would rank 5/5. 5/5 books will also have a magic system that’s immersive and natural in the world, something that engages in the setting, characters and plot.
  • 4/5 will be a really good use of magic, but maybe doesn’t totally blow me away
  • 3/5 will be for decent magic, it engaged me, but it felt like something I’ve seen before or wasn’t completely embedded in the world in a believable way
  • 2/5 will be for magic that makes almost no sense, is inconsistent, or used in a weird way to solve many or most of the plot points in a dues ex machina type way.
  • 1/5 for magic solving all problems, having little rhyme or reason, or was very boring and something I’ve seen 1000 times before.

1 – 5 Points will go to Environment/Culture

  • 5/5 will go to a book with lots of cultures with distinct rituals, belief systems, environments, societal norms and taboos. A distinct and embedded religious system or social structure, for instance. Something that really sets the book apart. A 5/5 would have a rich history that goes along with the world, cultures that are unique and refreshing, and touches on some other big real-world aspects like commerce and economics.
  • 4/5 will have many, but maybe not all of those aspects
  • 3/5 will have moderate amounts of those things
  • 2/5 will be a mostly absent sense of culture and environment
  • 1/5 will be a complete lack of formed society, no history, no lore, no commerce, basically nothing.


0 – 5 Points will go to Immersion

  • 5/5 for an entire cast of characters that I enjoyed thoroughly, the side characters felt like real people, and I was totally engaged with the main characters. Thoroughly fleshed out with clear motivations and emotions.
  • 4/5 for a good book that didn’t quite reach the wow factor, maybe the side characters felt a little flat or stiff, but main characters were great
  • 3/5 for main characters I only sort of got behind, maybe I didn’t totally understand their motivations, or maybe they felt a bit cliche at points.
  • 2/5 For characters that felt very flat, very stereotypical, and I wasn’t very engaged with
  • 1/5 for 0 engagement from me, I don’t care if they all died at the end

0 – 5 Points will go to Character Interactions

  • 5/5 for great dialogue, great back and forth between characters, and intense and meaningful relationships that I was fully behind. Romance usually irks me the most when it comes to relationships between characters. If there’s insta-love I’m going to be very annoyed, 5/5 for slow burn and realistic romances, or great and complex relationships between family members, teachers/students, leaders/soldiers.
  • 4/5 for a good book that didn’t quite hit the wow factor
  • 3/5 for moderate engagement, I wasn’t totally invested in a romance, or the relationships between characters could be shallow at points – but nothing that made me roll my eyes
  • 2/5 for insta love, weird and contrived romance, or relationships that just weren’t fleshed out. Why are these two friends? Why does this person hate their teacher for no reason? I really get irked with bullies in schools that are just there as a plot device for the main character – they have no life of their own other than the flat “this guy is a jerk” kind of thing.
  • 1/5 for characters who made no sense interacting with each other, I couldn’t figure out how or why certain things happened between people. This will also include scenarios where someone is kidnapped, and the same day they fall in love with their assailant – things like that. I see far too much of that.

0 – 5 Points will go into Arc/Development 

  • 5/5 for a character who grows a tremendous amount, changes over time, and it’s all done in a believable way. This can be descending into madness, a person getting over grief, a person who’s changing themselves for the better like a redemption story. I’m rooting for them, or I’m just fascinated by their development
  • 4/5 for a good arc that didn’t quite wow me
  • 3/5 for a character that grew a bit, changed a bit, but more or less stayed the same
  • 2/5 for a character that had very little development, I don’t understand their motivations, it’s unclear why they react to things the way they do, we have very little backstory on them etc.
  • 1/5 for a character that was flat and undeveloped through the entire book


I will be giving 1 – 5 points on originality for World Building, Plot, and Characters, for a total of 15 for a completely original book I’ve never seen done before.


0 – 5 Points for the beginning pacing

0 – 5 Points for the middle pacing

0 – 5 Points for the ending pacing

I’m looking for smooth even pacing or a quick read. I won’t knock slow burns as long as I keep turning the pages. If I put it down because it’s going so slowly, I had a lot of trouble getting into it at the beginning, or I feel like the ending was rushed – points will be taken off.

Personal Enjoyment

I was hesitant to put this in there, but much of my reviews so far have very little to do with how I actually enjoyed the book – and more along the lines of “is there an audience, did this book accomplish what it set out to do, and was it clearly written?”.

For my personal enjoyment category, I will rank 1 – 5 for Writing, Pacing, World Building, Plot and Characters. I’ve omitted Originality because I feel like my rating there speaks for itself – the more unique a book is, the more I enjoy it, typically. And, it allows me to round out to an even 100 score by omitting it.

This will also allow me to put some more personal thoughts of mine on the book, while also trying to be fairly objective. I know I don’t like romance, it’s totally outside of my wheelhouse, but I don’t think it’s fair to rate a book a 1 star just because I personally didn’t like it – if the characters, world building, and setting are all there, and I see a clear audience who would enjoy it, I will still give it a good rating even if I hated it. It’s happened a few times with SPFBO.

Conversely, this will also allow me to express how much I loved something that may be niche and not for everyone. I love fun, light comedies that may not be everyone’s 5/5, but was a 5/5 for me. I want to be able to gush somewhere if I really loved something, and Personal Enjoyment will allow me to do that.

If you’ve gotten to the end of this post, lol congrats and thanks, it’s a long one that’s rather dry. But, I felt like if I just started this new rating system without an explanation, I’d get a fair amount of questions.






  1. If only I had this ratings system in summer camp, when trying to decide who to take to the canteen for a root beer float…

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