Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 2 of CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK - With Margot Finke

Seven Guardian Angel Publishing Authors
( affectionately known as GAP )

Are individually Blogging ALL 7 days of 
Children's Book Week

Beginning May 7th - 13th, 2012

(See list of other GAP bloggers below).

We are BLOGGING about our passion:

Books for Children


GAP authors also offer 2x FREE GIFTS
you can WIN

( entry form at the end of this post )  

A cool tote bag of books by GAP authors
a FREE Picture Book Critique - by me!

  Don't forget to sign up to WIN!



So. . .  let's get to it, mates.

 My Topic for
 Tuesday, May 8th

A Professional Critique – What to Expect
(On loan from my Musings Column)

This is a Video of me chatting about my
Manuscript Critique Service and what I offer

Your critique group has given your story a big thumbs-up. You have rewritten, tweaked and reworked every chapter. Your writing is as tight as a miser’s money clip, your plot is fast paced, and your characters are richly written. Yet you suspect the time has come for your "baby" (manuscript) to receive a Professional Critique. Why so? Because you have just received your fourth rejection letter, and you begin to wonder: is the darn thing really as good as you thought? Your confidence as a writer is now lower than President Bush’s current ratings. A professional is indicated. But how do you go about it? Who do you choose? Where do you go to find reliable professional help at a fee you can afford?
Where to Find a Good Critiquer:Go where children’s writers hang out – writing conferences, colleges, on-line writing lists and chat rooms. Ask fellow writers if they can recommend someone. Professional Critique persons often include their editing or critique services in their e-mail signature.
If you're an SCBW-I member, you can find critiquers in the list of books doctors and manuscript coaches that the organization publishes. Everyone listed is reputable and experienced in the children's book field.
Are They Reputable?No one wants to pay good money for less than the best. If a person is recommended to you, by someone you know and trust, then they are probably honest and skilled critiquers. On the other hand, if you Google "Manuscript Critique Services" and find several names that fit the bill, you had better check them out FAST. Read their websites carefully. Ask for references from satisfied clients. What are their qualifications? Are their fees up in the stratosphere? How long will your critique take? Do they promise more than is reasonable? Find out exactly what a critique from them entails. Snippy, or less than forthcoming replies to any of these questions means you RUN!
Choose the Right Critique Person for You:
A person skilled in advising YA writers on how to strengthen their plots, and create great tension, might not necessarily be good at helping a writer of picture books pare down their pages. There are basic skills that all critiquers need, but the differences between what it takes to help craft a great YA, or an appealing PB, are vast. If you want a professional opinion on your midgrade novel, find someone who specializes in critiquing mid-grades. The same goes for PBs, YA’s, and anything in-between. It is true that certain critiquers work with various age groups: just make sure they are knowledgeable about the age you write for.
Rhyming picture books need expert help. Editors LOVE rhyming stories: they just hate the 99 out of 100 really terrible ones that land on their desks.  That meter must be smooth and repeated in every verse.  The rhyming words need to fit the story and move it along.  Oh, and don’t forget a terrific story as well.  Not easy, I know.  So make sure the person you choose to help you knows a thing or two about the BIG 3 of rhyming stories.
* NOTE: If you write MG or YA books, asking for a complete critique might mean taking out a second mortgage. Don’t laugh! A huge amount of time and effort is involved in thoroughly working through one of these books. This is especially true if the writer needs help in many areas. I suggest asking for a critique of your first few chapters. Most professionals want their money up-front. This can be done for a reasonable fee, and if you are smart, you can use what you learned from the critique of those early chapters throughout the rest of your book. And if money is tight (or not there at all), join one of the many critique groups around. Your writing will benefit from the feedback of more advanced or published writers. A good critique group mentors its members.
What to Expect from a Critique:
Expect the unexpected! A good critique looks under the surface, scanning your manuscript with a fresh eye, and without any preconceived notions. Like anyone else, be it an editor or a prospective book purchaser, most critiquers are hoping for a good read. The first impression a critiquer has of your chapters is often the same first impression that forced those editors to send you a rejection. Unlike publishing editors, who waste no time on writing that is sloppy, unfocused or weak, you have paid your critique person to tell you the error of your writing ways. However, telling you a paragraph needs tightening is not enough.
Examples of What to Expect from a Good Critique:
  • Paragraph or chapter needs tightening - an example of what this means.
  • Verbs are weak—shows a way of using more powerful and active verbs.
  • Plot lacks focus—presents a focused alternative for the writer to consider.
  • Picture book is too wordy—Gives examples of how and where to prune.
  • Dialogue is not age appropriate—shows example that is right for the age.
  • Where paragraphs, pages or chapters are great—praise for good writing.
  • If the overall concept and writing is weak—suggestions re writing classes, reading books, and joining a critique group. Encourages the client to master the craft of writing.
  • A summary that pinpoints areas that need strengthening etc, and mentions what they feel works just fine as is—Encourages you to think out of the box: to turn your chapters or paragraphs upside-down, or inside out, until you get them exactly right. Reinforces the notion that re-writing is not a dirty word! Comments, suggestions and examples that help you identify problem areas more clearly, write tighter, and focus on what is important to the plot. Support, honesty and helpful examples are the cornerstones of a good critique.
What NOT to Expect:
  • Lots of lavish praise, or pussyfooting around, trying to avoid your tender ego—an honest evaluation might upset you for a day or two, but think about it before you blow a gasket. RE-EVALUATE! Those rejection slips could mean the critiquer was right.
  • The Critique from Hell—many put-downs, no helpful examples, not one word of praise, and no summary – next time, you’ll do deep research on a critique person before you pay your money – right?
What You Shouldn't Do:
  • Take it personally—A critique is simply an educated opinion. Consider and evaluate. Put your MS aside for a while, and then reread it with the critiquer’s comments in mind. Some of those suggestions might work better than you thought.
  • Bug your Critique Person about it before the due-back date—A ticked-off critiquer is not a person you want looking at your manuscript!
  • Send an e-mail while you’re still upset—Trust me, you will regret it! No matter that the advice was the last thing you wanted to read: acknowledge receipt of your critique ASAP. Then, take the time to evaluate carefully, before you e-mail her with a barrage of questions.
Never allow yourself to become discouraged—being bummed out by a critique that shatters your writing illusions is natural. Have a good cry, take a bubble bath, beat up the punching bag: but whatever you do, don’t stop writing.

Tweak, rework, rewrite! Make that book, stronger, more dynamic, a real winner. Do it for yourself. Do it just to SHOW that  !@#$% critiquer.  But - DO IT!



Surf on over to some of the other Guardian Angel Bloggers
and enjoy their Children's Book Week posts. 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Entry during the Children's Book Week celebration by Guardian Angel Publishing does not guarantee winning the FREE tote bag of Guardian Angel Publishing books, or the FREE picture book manuscript critique by Margot Finke. Winner of the FREE picture book manuscript critique by Margot Finke shall not hold Ms. Finke liable in publication success of submitted picture book manuscript.


*Books for Kids – Manuscript Critiques
*Virtual School Visits – SKYPE makes it happen

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this fun FREE kid's book



  1. Margot,

    Your humor spills off my computer screen. Your guidance and tips in critiquing is just wonderful. You've become quite the video maven. Job well done! Keep up the great work!

    Best regards,

  2. Thanks for the great post, Margot. It's full of practical tips. I'm sharing this on twitter and facebook.

    Have a great day!


  3. You are both so kind, Donna and Mayra. Thank you. Off now to see what you both have to say this Tuesday for Children's Book Week.

    BOOKS for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

  4. Everyone should read this! You offer such a great service..second to none!

    1. Thank you so much, Sharon. Lovely of you to say so.

      BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques

  5. Awesome post. Thanks for the tips!

    1. My pleasure, Nicole.

      BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques

  6. I had a critique from you several years ago, Margot, and it was most helpful. Your comments inspired me. I think at that point ti was a picture book called Brittany's Wall. This year it is turning into an easy ready book called The Magic Wall and who knows where it will go. Oddly enough I blogged this week at Pen and Ink on Children's Book Teacher Appreciation week and Mothers Day. I would love to know what book hooked you on reading? Blessings, Sue B

  7. Susan, thanks for the comment. No particular book, hooked me. As long as I can remember I have read. As a kid was always getting into trouble for reading instead of doing homework or chores. I used a flashlight to read under the covers in bed, when Mum turned out the light. I read everything form jam jar labels to War and Peace. As a kid, Alice in wonderland was my favorite.

    So, if there a reader-holics, I need to sign up for their 12 book. . . er step, program!!

    BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques

  8. Wonderful post, as always. I love visiting your blog. It makes me smile!

    Continued success with the rest of the week!

    1. Thanks a bunch, Nancy. Great of you to leave a comment.

      BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques