Hi Math is Everywhere Readers and Kidlit Zombie Week Friends,
Today we have a special follow up post to our Kidlit Zombie Week from a writer who created an awesome kid’s book with a zombie! Please welcome Lynne Marie, author of Molidilocks and the Three Scares who is wonderful at helping others resurrect manuscripts via her editing services. She is The Picture Book Mechanic!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Lynne Marie, thanks for joining us today! To start off, when and why did you start offering critique services for picture book writers?
Lynne Marie: Over the years I had run several critique groups. I always had that “eye” for fixing broken manuscripts and actually loved the process of doing this. Once I had the credibility and experience of several books under my belt, I wanted to be able to help others outside of my critique groups, but I didn’t have time to spend on it when I needed to be performing income-producing work. So, I decided to make *this* my income producing work and it became a *win/win* situation for me. I started the business around 2015 and then in 2018 officially became *The Picture Book Mechanic* and it has grown to be sustaining.
Kaitlyn: Congrats! Can you share what you do for writers when you give critiques?
Lynne Marie: For a basic critique, I give line edits of basically every word (I am extremely nit-picky), which cover things like language, repetition, grammar, word choice, characterization, plot (and does it move the story forward), whether if feels kid-friendly, whether it is something a kid might think or say, and more. I also give big picture comments to be considered when revising, and give suggestions and explanations throughout. My critiques are extremely thorough in an effort to fix and/or consider fixing all the things, big and small, to ultimately end up with a strong, likeable main character, with a relatable story problem, a plot that engages, and a story that flows smoothly and believably, from beginning to end, with a satisfying story resolution, hopefully with character change and a little fun twist at the end.
I also offer add-ons, like pitch critiques, query critiques, ratings, and pagination — which is extremely helpful and I highly recommend purchasing on a first-run critique. Paginating a manuscript will help you to determine whether you have enough spreads to fill a 32 or 40 page picture book; if the story set-up is effective; whether the spreads are too dense or too sparse; whether the spreads offer engaging art to inspire the illustrator; whether there are informed page turns; whether there is tension; if the pacing is good; and MORE!
Kaitlyn: Very full-service! Can you share some commonalities you see in manuscripts that you often help with?
Lynne Marie: Believe it or not, when I ask a writer what they are trying to say with their story, they often can’t answer. This is an important question. Your story needs to have a subtle message (point you are trying to get across). For example, even in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, we leave the story having learned not to judge things by their appearance. So, we know the author was trying to tell us that, and did so effectively. That’s a more big picture commonality.
Other common flaws are not hooking the reader in the beginning; not giving the main character a flaw or child-like qualities; not giving the main character a kid-friendly and relatable problem that the reader will care about; not orchestrating engaging attempts to solve the story problem; weak or ineffective language; and/or a dull finish. But none of this should be discouraging! I have worked with authors who started out with many of these problems and more, and through thoughtful revisions and reVisioning, their stories have sold!
But to be transparent, these are usually achieved with a critique and revision (or more depending on the manuscript/writer), rather than a one-time critique. One should usually make sure their manuscript gets somewhat close to a manageable read with a not-overwhelming amount of comments to feel confident that they have brought it up several levels. In that regard, I also offer a Rating for $5 additional, similar to the concept of RateYourStory.org but with only a short explanation rather than a longer one (which I highly recommend, and where I am currently one of the Judges. That would be another way to double check — you could use that service and say you request a judge other than me, for another point of view on the rating and some feedback, as well.
Kaitlyn: These are wonderful insights, Lynne, and great to know you’ve helped so many writers with them. When it comes to critiques, sometimes we get feedback we don’t want to hear. What do you suggest writers do when this happens?
Lynne Marie: Always let the critique sit for a few days and reapproach it with fresh eyes. But also, remember that you are a professional, paying for a professional service, and you would want to get the most for your money. You want to know any and all potential flaws to your story so that you can consider them and hopefully address them. My second piece of advice is to just TRY IT. You have nothing to lose. Often, you will be surprised at the results. If you don’t like the results, then you will at least have made an informed decision that something will not work and can move on, more informed than before, in a better direction.
Kaitlyn: Great advice! What other advice can you share with writers on their journey to publication?
Lynne Marie: Pave the path with reading and learning and practicing and growing. Stay on the path. Do the work. Be professional. READ. Invest in yourself.
Kaitlyn: Yes, reading is SO helpful and we can’t get anywhere without practice! How can writers hire you?
Kaitlyn: Finally, my favorite question, if you were able to spend the day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you rather drink tea by the fireside or go fly a kite?
Lynne Marie: This is a tough choice because I would like to do both! If I could spend the day flying kites with my favorite illustrator, despite wanting to give space to current illustrators, it would be Walt Disney so that he could create an alternate world for me like in Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks! And surprisingly, if I could have tea by the fireside, it would be with Agatha Christie. As a child, I quickly read all the children’s books in the library (five a day) and graduated to Agatha Christie mysteries. At one time, I had collected 57 of her at least 82 novels!
But I have a long list of children’s authors and illustrators as fill-ins, be sure of that! I absolutely LOVE picture books! And then there’s Charles Addams, who created the Addams Family. Ok, I’ll stop now LOL…
Kaitlyn: Haha, don’t stop, I was in these worlds with you and totally want to come if you ever figure out how to make these times happen! Thank you so much again for joining us today!
Lynne Marie: Thank you, Kaitlyn! I am so happy to be here and weave in some revision tips for your readers!
Link for services
Lynne Marie’s Bio
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and more forthcoming. When she’s not cruising around the world, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds.
She is the Editor and Agent Spotlight Features Columnist at Children’s Book Insider, a Judge and Co-Admin for RateYourStory.org, a Children’s Book Academy Assistant and an intern at a Literary Agency, as well as a former paid book reviewer and columnist for The Writer’s Journal. Visit her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com.
Facebook: Lynne Marie
Thank you all for joining today! I hope you got some great information about editing and editing services! Make sure to watch the #KidlitZombieWeek hashtag as we start to announce winners of this super fun event, and remember, services like Lynne Marie’s are listed in our FAQs portion of our Kidlit Zombie Week site in case you need it for reference in the future.