|Revisions are under way again via my scribbles.|
The editor's critique was part of a picture book retreat I attended in July through the SCBWI's Rocky Mountain Chapter. The picture book tract was under the direction of rhyme master Linda Ashman. For a newbie like me, the weekend workshop offered instruction, direction and inspiration.
I opted for a distance critique after the retreat, so I could polish up the story using the information I learned in the sessions. I tinkered with my 409-word manuscript. I shared the process here.
I received a four-plus page "critique notes and talking points" and thought I would share some of them here. Since I don't know the etiquette on using the editor's name, I'll fall back on my journalism motto: "When in doubt, leave it out."
- Unusual imagery and character choice — a tumbleweed
- Desert/western settings are always popular
- Rhythm and rhyme scheme need polishing
- Clarify setting
- More tension in the story
- Character development
She points out specific areas to improve the story such as:
- Weaving the dog into the story more.
- "Assigning a few very carefully chosen, telling actions or words to each character can go a long way toward conveying depth of character and a multifaceted personality."
- Discussing the use of a tumbleweed as a character and that these fantastical elements "must still behave according to an internal logic within the story that's firmly and clearly established in order to be believable."
- On the rhyme point — "we usually recommend that writers avoid trying to write in rhyme unless they are professional poets."
- She suggested I write in straight prose in simple sentences and focus on plot, setting and characterization.
- On marketability, she mentioned stories with a western theme do well, but "in today's difficult market, this manuscript faces some challenges."
The editor's reality check on publishing mingled in with the other notes:
Generally, when presented a choice between two very similar books, one by a new, unknown author and one by a "big name" author with a proven sales record, book buyers will go with the known quantity, regardless of the quality of the writing of the newcomer. This is especially true in today's weak economy, unfortunately.I'm calling this my "It's the story Stacy (I'll use my name instead of saying stupid)" moment. What do I do next? I'm revisiting my original story notes and looking at ones I made last week. I will refocus and revised my manuscript for the local SCWBI picture book critique group in October.
The editor said everything in the nicest possible way, but I understood the message: Without a better conflict, my story won't cut it.
Have you received a critique on a recent writing project — Did it make you change your writing or evaluate your work differently?