Picture Book Writing: Critique of First Draft


As promised, here is an update on my picture book manuscript critique with Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard from MentorsforRent.com.  I took one of Lisa’s picture book writing class at the Loft Literary Center many years ago and found a link to their critique services on her web site. I signed up for a 1-1/2 hour “On-the-Spot” critique, which was perfect for a picture book dummy.  We all live in the same area, but they offer services via Skype or conference call so they can take clients from anywhere. I admit I am technologically impaired and therefore could not get Skype to work (even though I was absolutely sure I had everything in order), so they quickly and conveniently switched me to a conference call. The format worked fine for me.

Laura began by reading my manuscript aloud. It was very helpful to hear someone else reading it, because the “dead spots” in the text really stood out–hard to ignore it when I heard a dull description or an awkward word combination.

Then Laura proceeded with her initial take on the story, followed by Lisa. Having two perspectives really facilitated discussion of problem spots and potential solutions. It also helped me to really hear the constructive comments because they agreed on several key areas that needed attention.
All in all, it was a great experience and a wise investment. I was very nervous initially, as writing is uncharted territory for me. But Laura and Lisa were very professional in their evaluation and supportive with feedback. The big issues I need to resolve will take some time and creativity, but I hope to have another draft to ready for review in six weeks and plan to contact them for a second critique. I have to give myself deadlines or it will never happen. My goal is to have a polished dummy in my portfolio for the SCBWI conference in NYC in February.
I find the combination of writing and illustrating is like solving a complicated puzzle, with tons of tiny pieces that all have to fit just so or the story falls flat.  A very helpful guideline from Lisa was to always keep in mind two children–the child who is lying in bed with eyes already closed just listening AND the child who isn’t listening at all but is instead following the story through the illustrations. The story has to work on both levels, or it will not be a successful picture book. Much easier said than done! : )
I’m taking a break now to work on a set of promotional postcards. I want to let the comments sink in for a bit and incubate before I start to plow into revisions!

7 responses to “Picture Book Writing: Critique of First Draft

  1. What a great service Laura and Lisa provide. Can’t wait to see how your great story evolves!

  2. Thanks, Nancy! It was fun to talk with you yesterday about your work. I have full confidence that you’ll be able to make your dummy even stronger. Though it’s definitely smart to let comments sink in for a few days, at least, before tackling revisions. Good luck–can’t wait to see what you do!

  3. It was so interesting to talk with you since your process begins with the art rather than the language (I am such a word-centric person that always takes prominence). But I love learning about the ways other artists tell their stories!

    • Hi Lisa–I think my biggest challenge will be to put the images away while I try to get the text to stand stronger on its own, especially the transitions. I agree–it is interesting to think on the other side of the creative process!

  4. Pingback: Monday Writing Magic – Building Relationships Within the Kid Lit Community | Picture Books Help Kids Soar

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