People ask me all the time what we do in our writing group, so I thought I’d put together a highlight reel of sorts. This month we had four manuscripts to critique: One picture book, and three chapters from middle grade books. All were very unique and enjoyable.
Everyone loved the picture book manuscript that was submitted this month. It was very funny and age-appropriate. One of the things we all commented on were the sounds the author used. They were written out in very humorous ways that will make the book a fun read aloud. There was a lot to love about this book—the character was endearing and the action was paced well. One of the suggestions had to do with consistency. Some of the animals were real and some of them were fantastical; we wondered if it would be stronger to have all fantastical animals. Another suggestion was to vary the settings of each scene. Instead of having them all take place on the beach, one could take place in a forest, another in a cave, and so on, which would heighten the visual interest of the story.
Next on the docket was an opening chapter from a middle-grade mystery. The writing flowed well and the narrative was clear—that alone is a major accomplishment for any writer! The suggestions were primarily about how to ratchet up the tension and end the first chapter on a suspenseful note. This is an important point: Getting the tension right is often a second-draft task. In the throes of the first draft, writers often sense that the tension is not quite adequate. Tell yourself it’s okay and don’t let it stop you from completing the first draft. Once you’ve got everything out on the table, it’s much easier to sense where the tension needs to be and recognize what you, the author, can utilize as a source of suspense.