Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It's Writer Wednesday!

First, let's welcome three new judges to Rate Your Story!

1.  Linda Skeers LOVES children's books! She's the author of picture books, children's nonfiction, magazine stories, poems and articles on the craft of writing. She is a former instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and co-teacher of the annual Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop. Linda enjoys mentoring aspiring writers and does private manuscript critiques. For more information go to

2.  Mira Reisberg - 

Mira is the Director of the Picture Book Academy where she hosts extraordinary online courses including the upcoming Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books and provides free teaching picture book video reviews on her blog. You can also find her at and on her personal website at You can read her article on plot here or contact her directly at

3.  Lisa Albert - Lisa Albert’s thought-provoking young adult novel, Mercy Lily, debuted from Flux in 2011. Lisa’s also written three nonfiction titles including, Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight SagaLois Lowry: The Giver of Stories and Memories, and So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor? She’s been a contributing writer for The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market where her author profiles and articles on the craft of writing have appeared.

Lisa has presented workshops on writing and the publishing industry for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and has appeared events held by the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians, the Wisconsin Book Festival, and the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.
In addition to being an author, Lisa is a Library Assistant at a K-8 school library and loves being surrounded by books and children every day.  

Find out more about Lisa’s services as a manuscript consultant and critique provider at 

And now, for the continuation of last week's article from:

The Chester County Children's Writers Group!

Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky  


by The Chester County Children's Writers Group:
 Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky 

In this post, we continue our discussion of what we've learned through many years of critiquing together. If you missed the first half, you can catch up here on Cheerleading, Regular Writing and Critiquing, Information and Brainstorming, and the Tough in Tough Love. Now for the last four letters in CRITIQUE--  

I: Ideas and inspiration 

Group collaboration is splendid way to gain inspiration and shape ideas. One of us came to a critique meeting with the kernel of an idea. When she shared the idea, within a few minutes the kernel turned into a bushel basket full of ideas.  

In Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works, he explains how this works. It isn’t just a group collection of individual talents. Instead, it is a chance for those talents to exceed themselves, to produce something greater than anyone thought possible. When the right mixture of people collaborate in the right way, what happens often feels like magic. Sharing ideas and creating new ideas is part of the magic of a critique group. 

Q: Questions to ask your characters and yourself

You're writing a story. You know what you are going to have your character do -- but do you know your character?  Critique group members frequently ask questions that prompt you to explain a character's motivation, change a scene, or alter your plot. 

Questions to ask yourself:
What do you want to accomplish with this story?
Do you know how your characters feel in every situation?  
Do your characters have any weaknesses? 
Is there something you don't know about your characters and wish you did? 

Questions to ask your characters:
What do you really want? 
What do you do best? 
What scares you? 
Do you have a secret? 
What do you hate doing?

The art of critiquing is the art of asking the right questions--questions that get to the heart of characters and the heart of the story.

U: It's not about you; it's about the work. 

Check your ego at the door and listen. It's not by chance that "silent" and "listen" have the same letters—listen for the "why" behind the comments. 

And remember….it's business! The one person in your group who never “gets” your work and is always critical….no, they don’t hate you personally. They are simply expressing their opinion, and their opinion likely represents that of thousands of other readers…so listen!   

Not defending is hard. We all want to jump in and say, “but, this is why it HAS to be that way.” But in reality, it doesn’t. 
Someone thinks your character is unlovable…WHY? What gives them that sense? A plot twist comes out of the blue….WHY is it so surprising? WHAT made someone think it would go in another direction?

Listening to critique comments is your chance to hear how others have responded to the words you put on paper. 

E: Editing expertise and objectivity

“The only real writing is rewriting.” So says Miss Butler, teacher in Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder. Critique group comments are an excellent way to guide rewriting. 

When it’s someone else’s words, it's easier to spot inconsistencies and to suggest ways to cut and trim and speed up the pacing. 
Consider carefully comments, even those you may disagree with at first. Try alternative suggestions about plot lines and characterization. You can't tell whether something will work for your story until you try it. 

Avoid the perils of trying to respond to every critique comment. You don't want to lose the focus of your story or end up with a manuscript that sounds like it was written by a committee. 

Take the comments from your critique group, digest them, see how you can use them to create a stronger, more exciting, more moving story. 

Go Forth and Critique! Please share with us your best critiquing ideas. 


  1. Great selection of new judges! Glad to see RYS thriving and growing!

  2. Wonderful additions to the judging panel!
    And thank you for the second half of CRITIQUE...just love the 'U' is difficult to step back and accept what others have to say about your "baby"...but I think you must if you want your story to be 'raised' to be a successful adult. :)

    1. Vivian - Agreed! Sometimes we remind each other...actually out loud, "It's not personal, it's business." Which works to get us all focused on the work.

  3. Welcome to the new judges! And thanks Chester Cty Children's Writer's Group for sharing your acronym tips!

  4. Welcome ladies! I have benefited from the wisdom of the RYS judges in the past and can only imagine I will learn so much more for these inspiring new judges as well!

    Donna L Martin

  5. Glad to be here! I'm looking forward to reading and judging!

    Lisa Albert

  6. Thanks Linda, Mira, and Lisa for becoming RYS judges. The RYS comments I've received have been "spot-on" and most helpful in revising manuscripts.

  7. thanks for the introduction of the new judges. I love the CRITIQUE post, they are so helpful. We have had newcomers to our critique group before and they don't come back. I can't help but think they don't like being given 'suggestions' to their manuscript. But that is what they are - only suggestions - and I am always glad to get suggestions from other members. They sometimes make me realize things I couldn't see myself.

    1. Janet- You make a great point! Critique can point out problems and critique group members can make suggestions to solve those problems, but it is always the writer's role to decide if and how they want to revise.

      Glad you've enjoyed the posts!


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