So the professional appraisal came back.
I read it then sent it to one of my alpha readers to take a look at and tell me as a neutral party what it was really saying. Because I was readying myself for this. I was ready to be told how terrible I was so I could go away, beat myself up and become a better writer. After all it was a professional appraisal and however much they buttered the language I’d be able to read between the lines and see how truly bad I was.
I can be very negative like this, but this is the thing that drives me – the fear that I’m terrible and need to do better. At least with a professional appraisal I’d get to know what was genuine weakness and what was just me beating myself up over nothing.
Except the appraisal wasn’t negative. It wasn’t even “I’m putting this fairly but very nicely” negative.
As my alpha reader told me… it was a really good appraisal. Not only fair, but good in the sense that they liked it.

“But as a whole, I think this is a very entertaining, fun read. I think the pace of the narrative is good – quite fast – and there were a couple of places towards the end where I did not hear questions addressed to me, because I was too busy reading. This is obviously a good sign!”

Of course there were some issues and concerns, but much less than I feared. There are a couple of secondary characters that need some work to raise them to the standard of the rest of the cast. It also looks like that in trying to cut out all the infodumping I may have gone too far in places and need to reintroduce some of the worldbuilding I’d edited out. There was a slight issue with the end of one of the character arcs (to which there is a really easy fix). There’s also some grammatical failings and typos (despite me going over the manuscript carefully).
So all in all, there’s shockingly little I need to do.
This is scary. Very scary. Cos I don’t wear praise well.
Of course, I’m over the moon about this. Professional validation means a lot. Even if I am unable to place the novel, I know I am capable of writing one. I’d say there’s still a lot of work to do, except there isn’t and the thought that in a few weeks I could be looking for agents makes things frighteningly real.