Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Do You Use Kid Critics?

I have been wondering....

Do you "workshop" your manuscript drafts by reading them aloud to children?  If so, who do you read to and how do you find it helpful? 

If you do NOT, tell us your reasoning for this.

Discuss.  :)


Don't forget to mark your calendars for World Read Aloud Day!

16 comments:

  1. I have written a couple that I read to a Storytime when I was a Storytime leader. The kids loved them, but I think it's the 'aw' of 'celebrity' sorta. They love you so they love your story. I am thinking of doing this later in the year, but this time, asking if I can observe someone else reading the stories. That way I can see how they 'interpret' the voice as well as the kids reactions to the story.

    This is a great question and I look forward to the discussion that follows!

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    1. Were your manuscripts fully illustrated dummys, Louise? As a writer who does not illustrate her own work, I worry that kids would not be able to enjoy the story without pictures. I could be wrong. Look forward to hearing everyone Weigh-In. Re-blog or tweet this post to see if you can bring others into the conversation. :)

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    2. Yes. I did illustrate them. I liked them. The kids seemed to like them. And the parents, probably because they liked me, liked them.

      One thing, I just remembered, is that I wrote and illustrated one, thinking I was targeting babies, when turns out they didn't like it, but the preschool group LOVED IT. So I learned something about my writing that week!

      I never did take those books any further after that, but your blog today made me remember them, and I might just pull them out and re-illustrate/write them!

      Thank you again!

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  2. I've read to my own kids - not an unbiased audience :) They're liable to say they like anything :) I haven't had a lot of opportunity to read unpublished mss to other kids. I'd like to, because something about reading aloud for real makes the story feel a lot different then when you read it aloud to yourself and try to pretend kids are listening. A book that's intended to be a picture book read without pictures, though, can be tricky. We're supposed to leave half the job for the illustrator, so the ms can sound a bit incomplete without the pictures to support it, especially if you're reading to under 5s.

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    1. Agreed, Susanna. I am wondering if it is easier for those Author/Illustrators out there, in that case.

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  3. Great question, Marcie! I've never had children critique my drafts. With picture books, I do read them aloud to myself a few times, then have my critique group provide feedback. It might be a good idea to read it to younger children after a MS has gone through several revisions. With novels, I often read a few pages, revise, then hand it over to my wonderful critique group, other writer friends and colleagues.

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    1. Sounds similiar to the process I use. And after reading a few times aloud to myself...and before I go to my Crit Group...I read it to my boyfriend. :)

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  4. I read my books to my kids, but I don't use them as critics. First, any child close to you loves you and will love anything you produce. This goes for children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends' kids, children's classmates, etc. They are not a good litmus test regarding whether something is publishable or not.

    One budding author I know sent me a very long manuscript he said his grandchildren loved and that was proof of its merits. It was very long because he described every potential illustration. He didn't leave any room for an illustrator, and the kids completely understood the story without pictures. That's not a picture book.

    So be very careful if you do use kid critics. Some kids just don't know what makes a book publishable, or they might be afraid of being critical. Crit partners who are experienced in kidlit publishing are your best bet.

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    1. Well said, Tara! Thank you. This is my feeling, too. But I have recently been told I should have kids read my stuff...doesn't sit well with me.

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  5. Most of my kids stories, I write with my kids in mind. They are the first kids who hear my stories. They are not particularly unbiased, but they give me some great ideas and suggestions. They keep telling me to hurry up and get them published!!

    I also find that reading the story out loud to them helps me pick up obvious issues - such as using the same words too many times in a line or the flow isn't right. Then it will be ready to send to crit partners.

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    1. I agree with you, Melissa. Although I do not have kids of my own, I very much keep the kids I nanny and my nieces in mind when I write.
      But when I read aloud, I read aloud to myself and my boyfriend. Not sure I would bring kids into this mix unless they are old enough to know that the pics are not there yet and will be when published. But I agree, reading aloud is a powerful tool...just not sure the audience is needed.

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  6. My answer to your question is... sometimes. Some stories I write just for my kids. These are the kind I read aloud, but usually don't submit. They are stand alone stories without the need for pictures. I have the same feelings as Tara and Susanna, a picture book manuscript doesn't usually make good reading material unless it has the pictures.

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    1. Thanks for "weighing in", Hannah. Great points.

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  7. I read my stories out loud to my husband so that I can pick out mistakes and check to see if it flows. I much rather receive feedback from a critique group or from an experienced author (there is a writer in residence thing here where a writer can submit a ms for feedback). I don't use kid critics although I do read my stories to my niece and nephew (not for critique purposes). Some of the best advice I've received on a MS came from an author at SCBWI conference.

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    1. Sounds like my process, Rena. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  8. When I was a teenager I used to tell a fairytale at each sleepover we had. Each one would involve the people in the room, their love lives and all the gossip we'd been sharing but in fairytale form.Even now I'm begged to tell a story and so when I go away this weekend to a friends house I know that a fairytale is expected of me. I've already been asked twice in preparation.

    My sister reads my work aloud to me and I cringe, but it is beneficial.

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