I continue to review my notes from this week’s first page critique.  I have more insights to share with aspiring children’s book authors:

  • A critique is the opinion of just one editor.
    I read an intriguing story about two adolescent rock stars and it just happened to feature bugs.  While a tale about child stars is a great hook, one editor said she would definitely not read on, simply because she hated bugs.  The combination might be unusual, but that doesn’t mean another editor wouldn’t like it.  You have to remember that editors are people with personal preferences and pet peeves which may influence their decisions. (Note: a few months later, I attended another first page critique where this first page, revised, received praise from a different editor who said he would read on.)
  • Make your work believable.
    Even in the fantasy genre, some elements should be grounded in the realm of possibility so readers can relate to the characters.
  • Look to other markets besides the trade and mass market.
    One story about creation was thought to have an excellent hook and a theology that would be embraced by the Christian book market.
  • Watch your message.
    A single line with the wrong message can damage an entire tale.  One story mentioned that a hospital wasn’t any fun for kids.  That’s a message the editors didn’t want to send.  Children need to understand that the hospital is a comforting place where doctors and nurses help them feel better. 
  • Don’t write a nonsense story just for nonsense’s sake.
    While nonsense tales can be fun, they still must have a narrative structure.  You need a hook beyond the humor.
  • It’s difficult to mix whimsy with serious subject matter.
    One tale was told with whimsical language and set a frolicking scene among pond-dwelling animals.  However, there was a serious underlying tone when the conflict was introduced and the editors found these elements too contradictory.

Do you have any insights to share from a recent critique?  Please add to the discussion!