Wednesday 9 May 2012

Increasing the chances of your picture book story being published. A quick-ish guide to getting and interpreting feedback by Juliet Clare Bell

(Or: You think you’ve finished your manuscript? Now let the wild rumpus start –in memory of legendary wild thing, Maurice Sendak, who died yesterday.)

There’s this funny thing with writing. You’ve got to be pretty bonkers to think that you can write a book that will be picked up by a publisher. Just look at these made-up stats:

And even once you’re published, the odds are against any single picture book manuscript of yours being picked up –other picture book authors I’ve asked often say approximately 20% of their manuscripts end up being published.

So how does anyone ever get from that huge pool of green to that titchy pool of blue? Unfortunately, the very thing that gets you all the way from that green pool to that red pool –deciding you can do it and actually finishing a story- is the same thing that can easily stop you from working your finished (draft of a) story up to a point where it’s going to get published...

You’ve written your story with passion and conviction. Your confidence, tenacity, steely determination, sheer bloody mindedness has kept you going from first thinking you might be able to do this to having actually written a story that you feel is worthy of being read countless times by a parent and child together. You needed bloody mindedness to get to this point (see Malachy’s post on Persistence).

But now you’ve got to keep it in check. You may feel like you’ve done it on your own till now and you don’t need anyone’s help. But you probably aren’t the best judge of how good your story is at this point...

And this is where feedback comes in...

Feedback –what’s it for?
This post already assumes that you’ve read trillions of picture books, practised and practised and practised, joined organisations like SCBWI and are really, really serious about getting your latest manuscript published.

Here are three possible reasons for wanting to get feedback (prior to sending your work to an editor or agent) on your picture book story:

[1] You want someone to tell you how much they love your story.
This is understandable, especially if you’re not published and you feel like you’re fighting for ‘permission’ to be doing what you’re doing. And if it feels good to show your story to family and friends, primed to like what you’ve done because you’ve done it, then that’s fine. It might give you confidence to carry on down a path that’s really tricky. But it’s not feedback. Not really (and if you send it to an editor, never mention the reaction of friends or family to your work. Ever);

[2] To slow yourself down before sending it to the person that really matters.
It’s so easy to send stuff out these days, if you can do it by email and this makes it even more tempting to send things out too early. Ever emailed a manuscript to a publisher slightly sooner than you’d have sent it if you’d had to print it out and take it to the post office first? (Me too...) Sending your manuscript to someone else first really helps satisfy the feeling of ‘getting something out there’ without it actually mattering too much. It’s really good cooling off time –and you actually get feedback from it;

[3] Because you want it to be the very best story it can be.
Accepting that other people might be more objective about your recently finished manuscript than you and that they might see ways of improving it, is bound to improve your chances of writing the best picture book you possibly can and having it picked up by an editor.

If you’re serious about your story, after all that hard work put into your manuscript don’t have an editor’s feedback as your first feedback. It’ll almost certainly be a form rejection or worse still, the feedback of silence...


Prepare yourself for feedback. Grow an extra skin and stop thinking of your story as your ‘baby’...

Writing your story can be an intense experience. Some people refer to their manuscript as their baby. For all sorts of reasons, I think this is an unhelpful thing to do and reduces your likelihood of benefiting from feedback.

In my previous life working in research at a university, I felt so sick at the thought of people reading drafts of papers I was writing that it often stopped me finishing them. I was so nervous of other people’s feedback and I could never stop feeling personal about what I’d written. It was a real waste –for the study I was working on and for me. I realised when I started out trying to write children’s books that I couldn’t do that again. Either I was going to learn to accept and make use of constructive criticism or I wasn’t going to get published, in which case, I wasn’t going to start writing.

It’s not easy to feel dispassionate about your work. But it certainly helps when getting feedback. Although we might like to think that everything we write is brilliant and already ready to go to an editor immediately, we are probably wrong. This makes it particularly hard to get feedback when you’re just starting out. Because what many new writers want is to be praised for what they’ve done –and they have achieved something important: finishing a story. If you’re not ready for real feedback, then put the manuscript away for a while until you can view it less personally. Then get it out again. Can you treat it as if it has been written by someone else? Do you want it to be the best it possibly can be and can you see that others might see things in it (or missing from it) that you may have overlooked? Will you manage not to be crushed by any suggestion of how it might be improved?

If you’re still too nervous to show anyone your work, don’t feel tempted to send it to an editor (at least, don’t act on that temptation).

Picture book feedback

Before deciding who to get feedback from, do consider the following:

[1] Ask any picture book editor: most picture book manuscripts that land on an editor’s desk are too long. Make sure the person you show your manuscript to is familiar with picture book length and knows that with a picture book manuscript every word has to earn its place. Picture book readers but not writers will probably not realise how few words there are in a well-crafted picture book. I still remember being shocked when I started out writing and typed up Julia Donaldson stories that seemed to have plenty of plot but were only 450 words... and then promptly started reducing my 1800 word-story down by three quarters...

[2] Many writers (as opposed to writer-illustrators) trying to write picture books don’t allow the pictures to do enough of the work in telling the story. Many readers of well-written picture books won’t realise that they’re reading half the story from the pictures. So a picture book critiquer needs to appreciate the importance of leaving enough room for the illustrations to do some of the work, and also the role of illustration notes –when to use them and when to leave them out.

The nature of picture books means that when you’re asking for feedback, you’re asking your critique to do two things: critique your story whilst at the same time imagining pictures that you’ve not provided for them.

So who should you get feedback from?

Family, friends and children?
Think carefully why you’re asking them. Their response is not likely to reflect how publishable your story is and they are very, very biased. They may want to please you, they may feel awkward about being critical or...

...they may just want a biscuit.

And unlike older fiction, they can’t read it as if it were published, as the pictures aren’t there yet. If you’re showing it to (your) children, remember, the ones for whom it’s actually written (pre-readers) won’t be able to read it for themselves, and older children who can read it might be more attracted to the stories that are actually too old for the intended age group. From my experience, they also prefer ones that don’t require any illustration notes...
Probably not ideal.

Critique groups with other writers?
This is where many children’s writers get feedback from. The SCBWI is great for providing feedback opportunities from other writers –both in face-to-face groups/events and online. I am a huge fan of the SCBWI (without which I very much doubt I’d be published) and I’d heartily recommend it to any children’s writer. There are other online picture book critique groups or opportunities to get feedback from another writer (for example 12 by 12 in ’12). Joining a critique group or meeting can be very nerve-wracking at first but it does get easier. (For information on setting up and running a critique group, click here.)

I know that everything I’ve written (both before I was published and since) has been improved –and sometimes transformed- by feedback from my fantastic critique partners.

Things worth considering: do you want to exchange manuscripts with children’s writers in general or just other picture book writers? It’s important that non-picture book writers know the constraints of the picture book but it can be good getting feedback from (and giving feedback to) other children’s writers, too. What’s important is what feedback they give and how well they give it. My experience of critique groups (I’m currently in three) has mostly been extremely positive, although occasionally I’ve had poor feedback (see my Banana Peelin’ story). And with practise I’ve become much better at receiving feedback (as well as giving it).

With practise, you will become tough and able to embrace feedback.

Possible disadvantages:
It can be very time-consuming (I probably critique over ten manuscripts per month –but then I get a lot of people critiquing mine back in return);
It can take a while to find the right critique group for you and for your own group to settle into something really mutually beneficial;
The quality of critiquing can be variable (so you need to learn how to make the most of different kinds of feedback from different people; but over time you change things until you’re happy with the group/s you’re in)
If you’re all unpublished, it’s possible that you’re all perpetuating the same errors in each other’s work that’s preventing you all from getting published;
People may have their own agendas:

However, in my experience (and I've experienced different critique groups), this is rarely the case.

Paid for critiques?
Given how the book world has changed, many people who formerly worked in publishing houses or agencies now work as literary consultants, critiquing manuscripts (and some published authors and freelance writers do, too). If you’ve polished and polished your manuscript as much as you can -and had good feedback from fellow writers- and it’s still being rejected by publishers, then it may well be worthwhile paying for a critique.

Make sure you check out the freelancer first –do they know about picture books in particular? Do you like what they’ve written? Have they worked in a publishing house you know of? Do you know anyone else who’s used them and been happy with the service?

Possible disadvantages: it can be expensive;
Some freelancers will be better than others and it’s not always easy to know who to go with.
If you're in a good critique group, you may get a very similar critique free of charge.
But again, some freelance critiquers are excellent.

How to make the most of the feedback you’re given

[1] Try not to be defensive, and listen really, really carefully. For face-to-face critique groups, the Ursula LeGuin method means you can concentrate on listening to what others are saying rather than trying to defend yourself or your writing. It’s the same with a face-to-face editor meeting at a conference -don’t waste precious time defending your work when you’re there to hear how it might be improved.

The Ursula LeGuin method of running critique sessions (where the writer does not speak, but listens to everyone's feedback in turn) sounds scarier than it is. Honest.

[2] Ask. If you’re unsure about written feedback you’ve received, a fellow writer whose opinion you trust may be more objective in interpreting it (especially in the case of a personalised rejection from an editor). It’s often easier to see the negative side of feedback and overlook the positive. Recently, for example, I received some feedback from an editor. She said she really liked the title but then listed a number (quite a number) of things that didn’t work for her. I assumed that it was a straight rejection. Then she put a ‘however’... and proceeded to say how she really liked the character and that she’d be keen to see it again when I’d sorted out the things she didn’t think worked. It still felt negative but after showing it to a few people, I cut and pasted it and put all the positive things she said at the top and the negative things at the bottom and suddenly it seemed like much more positive feedback and something I could work through to provide her with a manuscript that she might really like.

[3] Is there consistency in your feedback from different people? You might want to dismiss parts of what people say but if a number of people are highlighting the same issues with your manuscript (or if different people pick up the same things on different manuscripts of yours), those issues probably need to be addressed.

[4] Learn to spot what’s important from the feedback
Some people will make suggestions as to how you can change your story. It may feel that they’re trying to rewrite it for you. This might be helpful to you or it might not, but it’s certainly very helpful to think about why they’re suggesting the change. Recently, an editor tentatively suggested I relocate my story to another part of the world. At first I thought I would and then realised why she was suggesting it –there was a problem with the story’s logic. Changing location would have sorted out that problem, but it would have changed other things in a way I wasn’t sure about. Now I’ve realised her thinking behind it, I can work out another way to sort out the story’s logic that fits with how I see my character.

[5] Take away different things from different people –after being in critique groups for years now, I know who’s really good at cutting my word count, or over-cutting, so I can compromise and take out half the words he’s suggesting (a word-slasher who isn’t personally attached to your favourite phrases that you’ve agonised over is invaluable to a picture book writer). I know who is good at spotting problems with structure; who is good at rhythm or tiny word changes (which can make such a difference in a picture book). You don’t have to act on all your feedback. Cherry pick the best and try and make the suggestions feel like your own.

[6] Don’t immediately start revising on the basis of feedback. Your initial reaction may be negative for a number of reasons –your pride might be slightly hurt; you might not like the way the feedback was presented; you might still be feeling quite defensive about your manuscript. Conversely, you might, like I often do, feel impatient to get going on a revision and initially agree with the suggestions made, especially if they come from someone you’re eager to please (like an editor or an agent). But unless you’ve given them a chance to settle, these changes may never feel like your own. Once you’ve read/had the feedback, sit on it for a while –days at least, possibly weeks, before making changes. If those suggested changes still don’t feel like your own, think carefully about whether that’s going to work. And never delete anything –you may change your mind.

It never did quite work for me, changing my little sister into a hamster (as I was asked to do by an editor). But I tried... (and didn't delete the original).

As with writing, with practise you will get better at receiving feedback. Probably better to practise with people who aren't editors or agents so when you're in a situation with an editor or agent (at a conference one-to-one, or when they're responding to your work) you can make the very best of it. You'll almost certainly have a better manuscript to discuss with them, too.

The End.

(Hmmn, “The ending was particularly satisfactory...” –a genuine quote from my first ever picture book rejection. Now what exactly did she mean by that...?)

Juliet Clare Bell writes children’s books (Don’t Panic, Annika! illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris, Piccadilly Press, UK –other publishers overseas; Pirate Picnic, an early reader with Franklin Watts, August, 2012; The Kite Princess, illustrated by Laura-Kate Chapman, Barefoot Books, September, 2012) and amongst other things, runs critique events and groups for the British Isles SCBWI Chapter.


Beth Stilborn said...

This is such an excellent look at the need for critique. When I began writing, I definitely was looking for people to pat me on the head, and give me a sweet biscuit of praise. Eventually I realized that might feel good, but it wasn't doing my manuscript any good, nor was it helping me hone my skills.

Before I felt able to join a critique group and experience that kind of feedback from people I didn't know very well, I found it enormously helpful to go through a couple of manuscript evaluations from a freelance editor whom I knew (online) and trusted, who has an unfailingly positive, encouraging outlook, who made me feel as though she was eager to help me make my manuscript the best it could be even while pointing out the places it needed work. For me, that was a necessary first step.

I will be sharing the link to this post with the Children's Book Hub Facebook Group -- I know they'll appreciate it as much as I do.

Thanks, Juliet!

Unknown said...

This was so helpful Juliet, thank you for all the advice.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Really good article. You should think about submitting it to a writing magazine or newsletter. :)

Julie Hedlund said...

This is a GREAT post and very thorough. Going to tweet and FB! :-)

Christie Wright Wild said...

Nice! I just wrote a shiny new ms last week. I have showed it to all my family and friends (yeah, yeah... That's where I get my pats on the back). I have subbed it to my critique group. Some of the folks who have read it say, "I'm sure they'll come back saying it's wonderful." My reply? "I'm waiting for them to tell me how terrible it is." I still feel like it's great, but I know they'll do a great job pointing out all its weaknesses and problems. I sure wish they'd hurry!

Tina Cho said...

Great advice and tips, Claire! I, too, have learned not to change every little thing my critique group suggested.

Rebecca C said...

All excellent advice, Clare! (And the content of the accompanying illos had me ROFL! :))

Candy Gourlay said...

Brilliant, brilliant! And I loved the illustrations down to the scan showing the other side of the paper! Critique is good - quality of critiquer important - but just to say sometimes the less experienced critiquer can also throw up something totally unexpected and mind blowing. Good stuff! (This advice doesn't just apply to picture book writers btw)

Jean Healey said...

Great post Clare and excellent advice. It can be hard to take criticism at first, I know I did. But I am now learning to have a thick skin. Now back to my "baby". Ooops sorry I mean WIP. :-)

Unknown said...

Very wise Clare. I can identify with every point you make!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Beth. Interesting that you went with a freelancer first, but I can see why you chose someone you know first! Glad that you're able to get good feedback from your own critique group first. I don't know what I'd do without mine.
All the best, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Jennifer. Good luck with your feedback!
All the best,

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Sharon. Interesting idea of submitting it -I'd have to get more feedback on it first! I'm guilty of not following my own picture book advice at the moment and letting it be too long! Thank you again,

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Julie. I think that the 12 x 12 in '12 has been brilliant for a lot of picture book writers and I'll be so interested to hear about how the many critique groups that have formed from it work out over the long run. It's been a fantastic project and I love being part of it (I've written seven manuscripts in first draft so far this year -a personal record!)
All the best, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

and thanks for tweeting and facebooking it!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Christie, and good luck with your manuscript. It's so easy to be impatient once you've completed your first (second, fifth, tenth) draft and are wanting others to see it. I think it's one of the best things about critique groups in stopping that impatience from sending it straight to an editor or agent. Hope the feedback is useful -and completely fair enough showing it to people who'll give you that pat on the back. As long as you're also showing it to others, just as you are.
Good luck, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Tina. It's great to be able to cherry pick!
All the best, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Rebecca -for everything. You've critiqued almost every manuscript I've written over the last four (?) years and each one of them has been substantially improved as a result.
Glad you liked the highly professional illustrations! I keep googling 'How to draw ... [a nun, armour, a hamster] and copy the videos as I'm such a terrible drawer! It's really fun.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Candy. I agree -I've had some great feedback at critique meetings with writers who've never critiqued before (and, VERY occasionally, some badly given feedback from 'experts'). Now I've grown a hard enough skin to make the most of feedback even if it's given by someone who's clearly got an agenda (again, it doesn't happen very often any more!). And I'm glad you like my professionally illustrated/scanned pictures... I know that feedback is also critical for non-picture book writers. My original draft had stuff specifically for non-picture book writers too as there are different things to take into account -given the length and how much of your story you're putting forward for critique and at what point in your novel do you submit earlier chapters for feedback etc., but the post was ridiculously long.
Thanks, all the best, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Jean, you're right! Very hard to accept criticism about your own baby.
Good luck with your WIP,
All the best,

Julienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Mike. And I really appreciated your feedback at the SCBWI Winchester Conference mass critique night last year. That's the other thing -it's great to get feedback from an illustrator-writer when you're not an illustrator. Can't wait to get my hands on your new books -I have a four-year-old who looks like Hugo (as you know) and he's going to be over the moon when he see them!
Thanks, Clare.

Julienne said...

Great post - useful to Aspiring (sic) writers from those at the very beginning of the journey to those who are published. And many points work for non picture book writers too.

I like point six - don't immediately start revising. My own method is one day of fuming and stamping around the house convinced that I'm misunderstood, a few days playing the guitar, then a calm reassesment of the feedback realising why certain points weren't understood (your point four).

And I love your drawings ;)

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Julienne. I love your method! One of the things I didn't say but should have done is that in the current climate, many editors ask that you make changes to something BEFORE they consider taking you on, partly so they can see how well you can work with feedback. It's so valuable to be practised at that (including knowing to play the guitar for a few days) so that you don't miss out on that opportunity.

Thanks -and about the drawings. Ha ha. Didn't I tell you I'm illustrating my next picture book? (That's a joke for anyone suddenly feeling alarmed...)

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Hmmn, I appear to have replied to a post I haven't seen and that has been removed. See above for your reply, Julienne.

Lorrie Porter said...

This is a really helpful post. Writing inspirations come from so many different places, and other people's feedback is certainly one of them. It's amazing how a story can 'grow' after receiving some constructive criticism.

Addy Farmer said...

Excellent words of advice, Clare - brilliant overview.
The pics were especially hilarious.

malachy doyle said...

As someone who, with rare exceptions, only shows my work-in-progress to my wife, my agent and then (hopefully) my editor, I found this fascinating, Claire. Getting other people's views on one's work can be really useful, especially in the early stages of one's writing career, but it's the editor in one's head that one needs to cultivate - there's only one person the story needs to totally satisfy and that's you, the writer. I suppose I'd be wary of too much input taking the quirkiness out. I love stories and writers with a very distinctive voice, which has to both come naturally and be developed and cherished. Is there a danger that too much input can make things too samey / too safe?

Moira Butterfield said...

Thanks for a great post, Claire, which will be very very useful to a lot of people. I love the pictures, too!

Paeony Lewis said...

Great post, Clare. I'll direct new students to it (before they have their first critique!).
I suspect good critiquers would also make good editors, and that some writers aren't necessarily good critiquers. Critiquing is a skill in it's own right.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Lorrie,
All the best, Clare.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Addy. And glad you enjoyed the pictures!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Malachy. You're right that you need to cultivate the editor in your head. If I'd done a general post about joining a critique group, I'd have talked about the other side of it, too -*giving* feedback, which I think is extremely useful for cultivating the editor in your head. Most people I know who've joined crit groups have said that it's really helped with their self-editing because they're so actively critiquing someone else's manuscript. It's good for teaching you how to be more dispassionate about your own work and critiquing it more objectively and thoroughly.

I think that you're in an excellent position having a great agent (we both have Celia -and James- Catchpole) so that you're getting feedback on your manuscripts before they go off to the editor. And you may be fortunate in having a fantastic critiquer for a wife (I know another author who only shows his wife and gets amazing feedback from her -and then shows his agent) AND your submissions aren't unsolicited. Many picture book writers, including published ones, don't have an agent who sees their work before it goes to an editor. Having said that, I do have an agent but I still like to get plenty of feedback first (with a few exceptions. There have been a couple of manuscripts that I've sent straight to my agent.

I think it's a really interesting point about making things safe or samey. I guess the more confident you become, the less likely you are to be swayed by opinions about being 'safer'. In one of my books, it was the editor who decided it wasn't safe enough (where no one in my critique group had suggested that) and it did end up being 'safer' than I'd have gone for. I guess it could happen that people end up being more formulaic as their fellow critiquers have 'learnt' rules for writing a picture book. With increased confidence (which I've certainly got through my groups), I've been MORE inclined to break rules because I now feel confident enough in what the rules are...

Finally, many editors now specifically want to see revisions by a writer before they decide whether they want to work with them. I've heard editors saying they want to see how well they think someone can work with them by taking on their feedback. I think that learning how to work with feedback from non-editors is incredibly valuable for this, too.

I'm really intrigued now: does your wife give you specific feedback? I'd love to know how it works.


Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Moira.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

I agree, Paeony. Being a good writer doesn't necessarily make you a good critiquer in the same way it won't necessarily make you great at school visits and children's entertainer. It's like good researchers at universities not necessarily being good lecturers. Our best lecturer by far was the one with the worst track record of research but he was inspirational and a fantastic teacher. I remember being gutted by seeing a really well-known professor whose work I loved give a lecture and he was terrible. But I do think that practising critiquing other people's work is really helpful for editing your own work.


Penny Parker Klostermann said...

Absolutely wonderful, Clare. A lot of great points to reflect on and practice. I feel like the critiques I receive have been invaluable in my growth.

Carrie Finison said...

Great post, and very thorough. The one point I would bring out in addition to all you've mentioned is the value of GIVING critiques as well as receiving them. I have learned so much simply by giving critiques to other writers, I think because you have to really focus not just on what you like or don't like about a manuscript but being articulate about WHY. I've found that when I practice finding the good and the bad in other writers' work, I have an easier time seeing it in my own.

malachy doyle said...

OK. Liz lies in while I feed the dog and cats. Then I bring her a cup of tea and, if she's in the mood, my latest story / version. She takes up her red pen and goes for it. Then, when I've fed the ducks and hens, I bring her another cup of tea and we discuss it. In my next Picture Book Den blog (May 19) I'll show who, and how people, influenced my new picture book, The Snuggle Sandwich, in its seventeen year gestation.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Penny. Same here. I'm very pleased to be in a critique group with you!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Carrie, I think you are absolutely right. I've mentioned that a bit in the comments above (particularly in Malachy's I think?)but the post was so much too long when I started (and still pretty long now) so I had to cut loads out, including that. You've said it more eloquently than I did!
Thanks, Clare.

Alison Boyle said...

Seminal advice, Clare, and thanks. Seeking out the best feedback group/individual is likely to mean not going for the most comfortable option. Wise words too on hearing the points, but not necessarily agreeing with them and acting on them straight away or in fact at all.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thanks, Alison.

I agree that it's not going to be the most comfortable option but anyone who decides to submit a manuscript to an editor has decided to go down a route that won't always be comfortable. So we might as well get more used to those uncomfortable situations so we're prepared when we're in less than comfortable situations with editors...


Romelle Broas said...

This is an excellent post, Juliet! I love the diagram. I'll be bookmarking this post because it's a good one to share with friends who think writing a picture book is easy. There is a lot involved to get our manuscript to where it needs to be.

Jane Clarke said...

Terrific post, Clare, I think giving and getting feedback is really important and I shall make a point of referring writers to this.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Romelle.
Good luck in your writing,
All the best,

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Jane. I didn't have time to cover giving feedback in this post but I do think it's incredibly valuable, too.


Juliet Clare Bell said...

Liz seems to have the right idea -working in bed (my favourite place to write/edit). I'm looking forward to reading all about it. Thanks for letting us in on your editing process...

Lynne Garner said...

I'd written for a number of years for magazines so was used to sending work in and and editor making changes. So when it came to writing my picture books I saw them as a 'product' that had to be refined to fit the market it's aimed at. So those who see my work are other picture book writers I trust and my editor.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Very interesting, Lynne.

Rosalind Adam said...

I belong to an amazing crit group. We meet once a month to crit each other's work and once a month as a children's book group/bring-a-dish lunch group where we pull other children's writers apart and eat delicious food. All six of us are children's writers and five of us have had picture books published. In fact, one of the group is your very own lovely Pippa Goodhart so, as you can see, our wip feedback is of the very best calibre, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept or act upon it. I sometimes go home silently stinging, knowing they were right, being angry with myself for not seeing it first, not knowing quite how much of the suggested changes to act upon. [So glad you didn't change your sister into a hamster!]

I think I might [with your permission] read your six points on 'How to make the most of the feedback you’re given' at our next crit meeting because I'm now thinking that it's possibly not just me who suffers the stings.

Thank you for these excellent suggestions and yes, I'd love to read a similar post about how to GIVE feedback. It can be as painful as taking it... almost!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Thank you, Rosalind.
I'd be delighted for you to read them out at your next meeting. And I strongly suspect it's not just you who feels the stings!
I've been thinking about setting up a children's reading group where we look carefully at other published books... you've got me even closer to getting my act together to sort it out now. Thanks,
PS I did rewrite the whole of my story with a hamster in place of the little sister. Although I resubmitted it to the editor who asked for it, it never quite worked for me -or for her. One day, I'll go back to the original and try and sort it out.