Over the years I’ve had critiques and edits on many of my stories. Adults with a passion for writing or often a job to critique manuscripts have always provided excellent reactions and advice. Last May I had the opportunity for a different type of a critique. A teacher friend offered her writing club of fifth and sixth graders a chance to become junior editors for one of my unpublished stories.
These kids were at a school close to my home and we had never met. I didn’t expect to get a lot of useful feedback. Maybe a this was good or I liked the characters. The reality in middle grade is the majority of books are purchased by parents, teachers, and librarians. Adults also control the publishing of books because they know what sells. But this was the target audience and boy did they have something to say…
So there I was on a lunchtime visit to hear from these fours students (two girls; two boys). They gave me thirty minutes of feedback along with a page of written remarks each. You’d never know these kids were 11 and 12 years of age:
*Cut down on the figurative language connected to how fast Ethan can run. Younger readers are not going to understand this.
*Give the mother a raise in her job and why must every story I read have to have a happy ending?
*I was weirded out with the one scene where Shirley dressed up as Mrs. Dumphey, but I loved everything else.
*More background on the adoption. Make it so the mom was always going to adopt but was waiting until it could work out. This would provide more anticipation.
*You could go deeper with some of your character emotions especially in the first chapter.
*I liked every character but this could be longer than the 44,000 words you stated on the cover page. Maybe one more side plot?
And that was only the beginning. They did in fact love the story and thought it was sequel worthy. I thanked them and spent the evening contemplating more changes. They have a promising future based on their professional comments.
I don’t think so.