I was going through some old notebooks yesterday (whenever I finish up a project I go on a massive de-cluttering frenzy) and I stumbled across these notes from an SCBWI Writer's Day I attended a couple of years ago. And while I don't write picture books, I was struck by the wonderful advice this picture book editor, Mary Lee Donovan of Candlewick, had to give. Not to menion that Candlewick is a publisher I’ve always admired.
Ms. Donovan gave the attendees a checklist of things they should look for in their picture book manuscript when trying to decide if it was “ready.” But as she listed out her points, I realized that they really applied to all writing, so I’ve substituted “reader” where she used the word “child.”
Does the book:
Relate to a reader’s experience
Will they care?
Is the book written for the reader or the author?
Is the why of the story—the purpose—clear?
Is the conflict clear?
Does it include credible, authentic characterizations?
Does it feature a balanced, complete world?
Does it use delicious language?
How fresh and original is it?
How well is the story told?
Does it throw out a welcome mat and invite you in (I just love that one!)
Next, does it slam the door behind you, locking you in?
Does the opening text set the rhythm and tone for what follows?
Does it illustrate personality with evocative words?
Does it use dialog to move the story along?
Does the dialog deliver information about the characters?
Does it nourish and satisfy with a sense of completion?
So there you have it. Just a few more goals to reach for in your writing on this Thursday morning!