Monday, September 12, 2011

The Value of Critiques

This past June, I attended Editor’s Day in Lexington, Kentucky.  Registrants could submit an entire picture book for a critique by Abrams Books Editor Maggie Lehrman.  Since Maggie and the First Grade Blues had won several awards, I submitted In Search of Awe. 

On the positive side, Ms. Lehrman liked the language and the descriptions.  She mentioned that I had a real knack for details that infuse a landscape with character.  However, she thought that the story was too quiet and nostalgic and that the plot was too subtle and interior for young readers.  She wanted to know more about my main character so that readers will invest in the story.

Overall, she thought that the story could serve as a scene in a lyrical middle grade novel.  She challenged me to edit the piece for an older audience.  I have great respect for Ms. Lehrman's  opinion.   Looks like I have lots to think about in terms of developing plot and character should I follow through on her advice.       

Here’s my thought on critiques:  If you have the chance to go to a writer’s conference and submit a manuscript for a critique, do so.  Usually, only a limited number of manuscripts can be accepted, so be mindful of the critique deadline.  It usually costs less than fifty dollars, but it is well worth the fee. 

You will most likely receive positive comments on your work as well as criticism on the elements that require improvement.  In addition, you may be offered suggestions on character development, plot, language, voice, and marketability. Most of all, you’ll gain insight into what an editor looks for in a manuscript.  If you take the advice and follow the “inside tips,” you just may create a manuscript worthy of an editor’s attention.    

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