Too Much Blushing: A Revision Story

I’m wrapping up a new revision pass on a middle grade novel.  It’s been through all my regular critique partners, and I needed a fresh perspective before I finish and send it back to my agent. I especially wanted to identify any places where the pacing was slow. 

So earlier this week, I gave it to a few of my book-loving 7th grade students, along with three stacks of Post-It notes.  I asked them to put a pink Post-It in spots they liked best, a blue one in places where they were getting bored, and a green one with a comment where they had something else to say.  One student returned the manuscript two days later, and I just finished working through her comments.

She pointed out seven places where I was able to tighten up the pacing and went on to offer another 38 suggestions on everything from voice to consistency.  Check out the variety of feedback…

It’s kind of weird that she’s crying from that comment, which wasn’t even that bad. Maybe you should make it meaner.

This whole cross-country part is really entertaining.

How old is Ian?

Oh – I can relate to this part!

Too much science talk.

I thought it said she zipped up her sweatshirt when she went out, and now you’re talking about a jacket.

Is Nonna her dad’s mom or her mom’s mom?

A real kid wouldn’t say this.

I love evil school people.

Too much blushing here- too sappy.

Does this kid have a future in editing, or what?

Her last comment made me laugh in recognition.  I really try to guard against sappiness in my writing, but when you’re the kind of person who listens to Barry Manilow and cries at Folgers commercials, it creeps in occasionally.  Thank goodness I have a twelve-year-old editor to help me root it out.

28 Replies on “Too Much Blushing: A Revision Story

  1. Definitely – this manuscript has been through six adult critique buddies… and the seventh grader was the first one to catch that mistake.

  2. I was blown away by her comments – and told her she should think about offering it as a service for middle grade and YA writers. Seriously, I bet she’d be happy to read for you if you ever want that kind of kid-feedback, so let me know. (I’ll be her agent!)

  3. amazing

    I had a draft of my first novel edited by a few middle-school kids, and their comments were terrific. One thing I noticed in particular: While the adult readers in my life had urged me to emphasize/repeat certain “key facts”, the kids were completely annoyed by the repetition. (They kept writing in the margins “we KNOW this”, “You TOLD us already!”). Kid brains are so frighteningly sharp.

    Huge Congratulations on the picture book — it sounds WONDERFUL. I do love snow. :>

    Rebecca (Stead)

  4. I told her that she could probably start a little business. Let me know if you’d like me to pass anything along to her – I bet she’d be happy to read for you.

  5. You always make me laugh!

    I’m telling you…Folgers has my number. You know the one where the kid comes home from college and surprises the Mom? Gets me every time.

  6. Re: amazing

    Yes – I got one of those comments, too (“You already said they had matching purple binders!”)

    Thanks for the good wishes on the picture book – I knew you’d appreciate the setting!

  7. I think I need to start making some ten and twelve year old friends. Unfortunately, I worked at a high school, and most of my friend’s kids are like two.

  8. Hire this girl immediately! She definitely has a career in editing!

    Kids are totally honest and will quickly cut through all the chaff and get to the core of a book immediately. They will catch obvious mistakes, i.e. the sweatshirt/jacket, quicker than adults, who are more into looking at flow and voice.

    You can’t fool kids as they will spot things that don’t ring true every time…which is why writing for them is so damn hard.

  9. My biggest concern was pacing, and she was a huge help with that. (One comment said, “No real use for this whole section.” I had to laugh – she was right.

  10. YOU are one of those great teachers ~ I can tell.

    I saw your recent post on Verla’s about NCLB, and it looks like you’re doing fantastic, fantastic things with your kids, despite the testing pressures. I’m in the same camp – we don’t teach to the test. In fact, what I teach is generally harder than anything they can squeeze into a multiple choice question. I really believe that if we keep teaching good, solid reading, thinking, and writing skills, the kids will do just fine.