editing critique, short childrens story, storytelling, writer better

‘Afternoons With Seeya’ – Developmental Editing Critique Example

This is another developmental editing critique on a short children’s story.

As you will soon see, the writer did not have a clear understanding of how to tell a story.

I eventually stopped working with new writers. Most public schools teach people how to read and write well. They don’t tell students how to tell a good story.

Some of us are natural storytellers. Most of us are not.

I personally like to work with people who are already quite proficient in their storytelling.

That way I can help them develop their style. Not tell them how to write a story.

You’ll see what I mean with the edit below…

Afternoons With Seeya

Thank you for ordering my manuscript critique. I will give you my impressions as a first time reader, as well as, offer comments for improvement and/or clarification. My words will always be in pink. Please note any deletions against the original. Let’s get started…

Anika is four years old.
Every day after Kindergarten, she visits her mother’s parents for the afternoon.
She calls her grandmother, Achi, and her grandfather, Seeya.
These are many things Anika likes doing at Achi and Seeya’s house.
Cooking dinner with Achi. Achi cooks mainly with rice. Anika cooks mainly with sand. Watching Tom and Jerry cartoons with Seeya. Anika and Seeya laugh and laugh.

OK… so far it’s a little like a laundry list of things they’re doing. We need descriptions. What do they look like? Where are they? What does the environment look like? We need action. We need to see some introduction to a plot or theme to the story already. This is waaaay to normal. Readers pick up a book to be taken on a journey or adventure of some type. There is nothing here so far that suggests that.

Helping Seeya walk with his walking stick.
“I’ll look after you”, she says, when they go for walks.

Playing doctors and patients with Achi. Achi is a real doctor, so doesn’t have to pretend much. Except when Anika is bandaging her.

One of Anika’s most favourite things to do at Achi and Seeya’s house, is listen to Seeya’s stories.

Stories of funny things. Surprising things. Exciting things. Stories of when Seeya was young.

Seeya tells Anika he learnt to swim in a lake on his family’s property in Sri Lanka. With a four foot water monitor, he thought was a crocodile.

“Was it?” asks Anika, jumping up and down.

“No,” Seeya replies, “Just a long lizard. But thinking it was a crocodile, made me swim faster.”

Seeya tells Anika when he was a teenager, he liked a girl. When he saw her at a village fair, he ran to her, said “Good night” and then ran away. He was so embarrassed he didn’t speak to the girl again.

Anika puts her head in her hands. “You are a nutmeg Seeya!”

Seeya tells Anika he went to University in England. To become an engineer, and travel the world. They look together at all the places he visited on a map.

“I’ve never been to so many places in my whole life”, says Anika. Spain where he ran with the Bulls in Pamplona.
“You can’t run Seeya”, Anika says looking at him suspiciously.
“I could then,” Seeya says. “Fast!”.

Italy where he met Enzo Ferrari, who showed him around his racing car factory, and where he saw the Olympics.

“I was in Kinder Olympics”, Anika says proudly. “You won a medal”, Seeya agrees.

What are the “Kinder Olympics?”

Germany where Seeya was as an exchange student, and saw the Oberammergau Passion Play.

What is the “Oberammergau Passion Play?”

“You saw people play in Orby-bow?” asks Anika screwing up her nose. “Almost,” says Seeya.

Russia where Seeya stepped behind the iron curtain. ??? What does this mean? 

“That’s so silly Seeya. Curtains aren’t made of iron,” Anika shakes her head. One day when he finished his stories, Anika sat deep in thought.

“You’ve had lots of adventures,” Anika asks. “Will I?” Well, she’s four… right? This doesn’t really sound like a question a four year old would ask?

“Of course!” says Seeya.
“How do you know?” asks Anika.
“Because you’re my grand-daughter!” Seeya says, smiling.
“I am!” Anika agrees, as she picks up some sand for her lasagna.

OK… I’m not sure about this. This seems more like an outline to a story than an actual story itself. I don’t want to sound harsh, it’s just that I see a lot of manuscripts like this. Too many people think it’s easy to write a kid’s book. It’s not that easy to keep a reading audience engaged either. Even and especially kids.

To do that you need to first have structure to the story… such as:

Introduction–> Rising Action–> Climax–> Falling Action–> Resolution

This outline is the basic outline ALL GOOD STORIES FOLLOW. From popular TV shows to movies to best-selling novels… they ALL start with that basic outline and work out from there. That is missing in this story. What is also missing are a lot of details. We don’t know what anyone looks like… (No pics don’t fill in the blanks or tell the story).

We don’t know what their surroundings look like and we don’t have an agenda/challenge for the lead character to over come. That’s the heart of any story is watching the protagonist get into trouble and how they get back out of it. That’s the transformation of a character or character arc that is so satisfying to a reader… yes even preschoolers. They may not be able to articulate it but they can tell when something isn’t right in a story.

Since there is no climax to the story we don’t really know what the story is about. It’s a nice little story that has no story arc to it. It’s not the kind of book that gets readers excited. You’ve done a nice job of keeping the sentences short and the language fairly simple for a young audience of 4-5.

I would suggest choosing some type of challenge for Anika or Seeya to overcome (It’s a little unclear who the main protagonist is in this story).

It doesn’t have to be huge… just something difficult she has to push herself to accomplish/overcome.

Perhaps her grandfather can help her to keep that interaction going as that is a very nice relationship they have.

Try to start the very first sentence of any book or even chapter with characters in the middle of action of some sort. Action helps to define a character.

Here is a good link for writing dialogue. Yours dialogue is pretty good though:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to- realistic-dialogue-part-i

I’ve also included a few “cheat sheets” to help you make this story stronger.

Thank you. Please contact me with any questions.

thewritersnexus@gmail.com

by

Renee, The Writer at The Nexus, writes about publishing and writing for TV, and stage. Renee is also a voiceover performer, podcast host and coach. She'll critique any piece of writing you send her.

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