Secrets of micro-revision: #1 Crushing your cliches

There are several different stages of revision, from big structural down to micro copyediting. Each comes with its own challenges, but sometimes when you get to copyediting and final polishing, it can be hard to step back and give each and every word a fresh “going over”. One strategy is to scan the manuscript, looking for certain elements and marking each time you come to one that jars. We all have “things” we do in our writing, like tics. We are so used to them that we just can’t see them – … [Read more...]

How to critique Chapter One

We’re told over and over how important our first chapter is. It’s the one you’re asked for by agents and editors, it’s the one people sneak a peek at in the bookshop, it’s the one you’ll put on your website as an extract to get readers to buy it … That’s a lot of pressure on one small chapter! But the bottom line is this is the reality today. We can’t afford first chapters that spend all their time describing characters or setting, or are nothing but setup for the story that starts around … [Read more...]

How to critique a poem

When you are in a dedicated poetry writing group, critiquing well is not such an issue because usually most members know the basics. However, in a mixed group of writers where maybe only two or three write poetry, it can be a challenge for the fiction and nonfiction writers to feel like they can say anything useful. The key to a good poem is that every word should count, from start to finish. I also think a poem should have some kind of progression happening, a sense of movement forward … [Read more...]

How to critique a picture book text

The first thing to work out is what kind of picture book it is. Yes, there are several categories. Board books, concept books, simple stories for 2-3 year olds, slightly more complex stories for 4-6 year olds, picture books for older children. Board books are usually written by the illustrator (very few words) so anyone attempting these needs to illustrate as well or they are almost impossible to sell. Concept books (e.g. alphabet and numbers books) need to be original and have something that … [Read more...]