Nine Reasons to Have Your Writing and/or Illustrations Critiqued

GIF by Isabella Kung

GIF by Isabella Kung

We love a good critique here on the Soaring ’20s Picture Book Debut Blog. In fact, it’s safe to say that without thoughtful, consistent critique of our work, we wouldn’t be awaiting our book releases at all.

That’s why we’re giving away 20+6 free critiques to 20+6 lucky winners!

What’s so great about hearing what’s wrong with our work?

Good critiques . . . 

1. Reveal what’s missing.

“I often liken writing to fitting a jigsaw puzzle together. In writing, as in puzzling, the value of ‘fresh eyes’ is enormous. After you’ve stared at a draft or a puzzle for days and weeks, it’s easy to get stuck. But bring in a new person who’s never seen the puzzle before, and something magical happens. They can find that missing edge piece that shapes the work. They can help you see how sections of the story should fit together.”

Kirsten W. Larson, author
WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane (Calkins Creek, spring 2020)

2. Boost creativity.

“The best critiques ask questions that unlock the creativity gates when I’m stuck. They might identify weak spots that I subconsciously knew were there but hadn’t admitted to myself. After a really inspiring critique, I want to dig in, tear up my manuscript, and make it better.” 

Lindsay H. Metcalf, author
TRACTORS ON PARADE: Planting a Movement, from the Heartland’s Farms to the Nation’s Capital (Calkins Creek, fall 2020)
NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (Charlesbridge, fall 2020)


3. Provide a window into one reader’s experience.

“Unlike journaling or other types of private writing, published writing is not about the writer. It’s really about what happens in the reader’s mind while they read. It’s difficult for a writer to know what that experience is without asking someone! A good critiquer will articulate what she experienced while reading your story, and can recognize what aspects of the writing created that experience.”

Carrie Finison, author
DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, summer 2020)


4. Keep your story on track.

“A good critique can help identify where a manuscript is heading off in the wrong direction and can make a good manuscript great.”

Rajani LaRocca, author
SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS (Lee & Low, summer 2020)


5. Offer a fresh perspective.

“A critique from someone who hasn't read previous versions of your story gives you the advantage of a fresh perspective from a first-time reader. They can often catch things that are confusing that you can fix before an agent, editor or reader sees it.” 

Susan Kusel, author
THE PASSOVER GUEST (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, spring 2021)

6. Improve visual storytelling.

“The most helpful illustration critiques I've received point out things that look awkward, give suggestions of alternate layouts that may improve the storytelling, or offer ideas of small details that could strengthen the illustration further (eg: a puff of smoke to emphasize the squealing of the brakes, a bush in the foreground to add visual interest and a pop of color, etc.).”

Abi Cushman, author/illustrator
SOAKED! (Viking Children’s Books, summer 2020)


7. Identify strengths.

“Understanding what’s working in a story or illustration is just as important as knowing what isn’t. Bask in the glow of comments that identify the strengths of your work and then build on those strengths.”

Colleen Paeff, author
THE GREAT STINK: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, summer 2020)


8. Make you a better writer and artist.

“At a tactical level, critiques can help you fix broken arcs, come up with new ideas, and tweak details. Best of all, a great critique may give you an insight that carries through your work as a writer or artist, making you stronger and better at your craft.”

Vicky Fang, author
INVENT-A-PET (Sterling, spring 2020)

9. Lead to new discoveries.

Receiving good feedback gets me unstuck, lights new pathways in my brain, raises the bar, and renews my enthusiasm for my work. Over and over again, it helps me create things I could never discover alone. Nothing has helped me grow more.

Shelley Johannes, author/illustrator
MORE THAN SUNNY (Abrams, Spring 2021)

Go here to enter the MEGA SOARING ’20s CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY to win a picture book manuscript, dummy, or portfolio critique with one of these (and other) Soaring ’20s members. The contest runs through 11:59 p.m. Sept. 15, 2019. Winners will be announced September 17!