The family who critique together stay together

Woman Hand Writing Family with black marker on visual screen. Isolated on bricks. Business concept. Stock Photo

It’s an interesting experience to be edited by your own kids. I’m submitting the first ten pages of my middle grade novel to an editor through the Kidlit festival. It’s due next week, and then I’ll meet with the editor in May at the festival. I’ve been working with a writing friend to polish it, and I’ve been critiquing her ten pages as well.

I asked my family to read it and offer their thoughts. Mr 7 read the first two pages, underlined a few words in green, and then gave up. “Do I have to read it, Mum?” Thanks for your support, kid – clearly you don’t remember that this writer also feeds you!

Miss 10 read it and made lots of comments in orange. She suggested I use a few different words – most of which were the better option. She also picked up a basketball anomaly – “Mum, you can’t shoot from exactly underneath the ring – the ball would never go in.” Wise advice from someone who plays basketball to someone who never has. She drew a heart where I had written the word heart – as you do when you’re ten!

Mr 13 read it and ticked the bits he liked with a purple pen and put a cross by a sentence with a long list of girl stuff, like jewellery.

Then my husband read it and helped with a few more basketball terms. Again, useful information from someone who has played basketball to someone who was a netballer, not a basketballer.

I have spent almost a month polishing these ten pages – only ten pages. I mentioned in a previous blog post all the things a beginning has to do – establish a bond between the reader and protagonist, briefly ground the reader in a setting, start in the middle of the action, set up the conflict, imply what it is that the protagonist wants and what is going to stop them. The beginning is so important, and definitely worthy of all that time and effort.

I also need to submit a 300 word author biography and a 50 word synopsis. I checked with the literary festival organisers – surely you’d rather hear more about my story than me? Can’t I devote 300 words to my story and 50 words to me? But apparently they think I am interesting enough to be worthy of 300 words! So I asked my Dad, an editor for an international science journal, to edit my synopsis. How to describe a 50,000 word novel in 50 words? He cut the last sentence – a difficult but necessary sacrifice. (Thanks, Dad!)

And despite Mr 7’s lack of reading interest, I still fed him dinner. All seven-year-olds love kale and egg salad, don’t they?

12 comments

  1. They certainly stay together. I remember getting your lovely husband and his Dad to read my assigments. They were nearly as enthusiastic as Mr 7!!!
    That green stuff and smelly eggs are certainly appealing! !!
    Good luck but you really don’t need it. All your hard work and imagination will make you successful.

  2. Karen, Well done on polishing your 10-pages. It’s sounding like a page-turner. I am intrigued about this story, and hope it features at Easter. Good luck!

  3. Hoping all this hard work will bring you the success you deserve, Karen.

    Do you earn a spot on the dedication page only by critiquing or does eating kale salad get you there?

  4. I think it’s wonderful for your kids to be involved in your writing – and for you to be able to receive the perspective of your target audience. I’ve loved reading about your writing process over your many posts. Good luck at the festival! (An aside – my girl has enrolled in creative writing at uni this year – already heard about crossing out adjectives and paring the writing back!)

    1. That’s fabulous news about your girl, Carolyn – I hope she enjoys the creative writing. Bet she’ll be told to delete her adverbs too – no more crossing the road ‘carefully’ or speaking ‘excitedly’ or walking ‘gracefully’!

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