by Melissa Stoller
When #BookBlastoff asked what I know now that I didn’t know before I was a published author, one of my responses was, “Critique groups are incredibly valuable in a writer’s life.”
Critique partners can help transform a manuscript and they provide endless guidance, support, and friendship. I’ve written two posts relating to this topic: “It’s All About Critique Groups - Part 1,” where I wrote about organizing and conducting a critique group, providing critiques, and accepting critiques https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/blogfish/its-all-about-critique-groups-part-1; and “Part 2,” where I discussed sustaining a critique group and moving on from a group if necessary https://www.melissastoller.com/single-post/2019/08/06/Its-All-About-Critique-Groups---Part-2.
In this blog, I’ll discuss how critiques have positively impacted my upcoming picture books, RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg) (both releasing from Clear Fork Publishing/Spork in 2020, edited and art directed by Mira Reisberg).
In order to get the most from critiques on your stories, note the following suggestions:
1) Be open to comments about your stories. Really listen. Sometimes it’s helpful to put away the critique for a few days and then bring it back for further reflection. Usually, comments will help strengthen your story.
2) Revise using what resonates with your story vision. Usually, your critique pals will be spot on with their thoughts. However, if something is not in line with the vision for your story, take the time to understand the comment and then pass it by.
3) Be flexible and nimble with your story. Don’t be afraid to revise or to try a new vision if that’s necessary to strengthen the manuscript.
Here are a few examples of how I revised based on critiques --
Critiques from my writing pals:
First, I’m sending lots of KidLit love to my critique partners. They have become trusted friends and confidantes. They have helped me move my stories to the next level at every stage of the writing process. I’ve been open to hearing their ideas about big picture revisions, including plot and character arc, and small scale revisions such as language and word choices. For example, in RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, which is a sequel to SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, my critique groups had excellent thoughts about how to bring a new character into the already existing magical world, while keeping in mind the rules of that world.
Critiques from my Art Director/Editor and Publisher:
I’m so lucky to have Mira Reisberg and Callie Metler-Smith as part of my #DreamTeams. Mira is always concerned about showcasing heart in my manuscripts. For example, in SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES, Mira provided excellent guidance about the central stories surrounding the Shabbat rituals. I was able to make those more concise and really highlight the voice and heart in each story, all while maintaining the internal logic of the work. And my publisher, Callie, makes sure each story sings!
I’ll always be grateful to my critique partners, editors, and publisher for providing helpful insights that have pushed me to make my stories better.
Cheers to critiques!
RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke)
SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg)
Releasing 2020, Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
Melissa is the author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH; READY, SET, GORILLA!; and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND. Upcoming picture books include RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one magical puppy. She is a board member of Temple Shaaray Tefila and a past trustee at The Hewitt School. When not writing, Melissa enjoys travel, theater, museums, and collecting beach treasures.
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