moms a ninja, developmental editing, freelance copywritier

‘My Mom’s a Ninja’ – Developmental Editing Example

Hi Thalia;
Thank you for working with me once again.

Here is the manuscript critique. As always… I will give you my impressions as a first time reader, as well as, offer comments for improvement and/or clarification.

My words are in pink. Please note any deletions against the original.

My Mom’s a Ninja

by Thalia Atkins

My mom can do a bunch of things normal people can’t. Hypothesis: My mom’s a ninja.

Fact 1: She loves the color black. She has black pajamas, black dresses, black suits, black hats and black gloves! She even has a black car. There is even a store she goes to (NOTE: Black House, White Market) to buy more black clothes.

OK… so far I’m loving it. I love the concept. Just a few small criticisms.. I’m not sure the age of your audience on this but I would say “hypothesis” is a little bit beyond most kids’ vocabulary.

You could try one of the following:

guess as to why
reason being
secret belief

P.S. I don’t know what is meant by (NOTE: Black House, White Market) – What am I missing? Is that the name of the store or shopping mall she goes to?

Fact 2: My mom loves to exercise but not like normal people. Her friends go to the gym and jog. But, my mom goes to the backyard and practices her moves. (NOTE: yoga and meditating)

I Love – “my mom goes to the backyard and practices her moves.” – However, you gotta give us more than meditation and yoga if my mom’s a ninja… why not a few karate kicks and nunchuck moves??

Fact 3: My mom loves when my sister and I practice tae kwon do. She says that she likes that it teaches us discipline and we get exercise. But, she likes watching me practice with my sword and she loved when my sister got her black ghee (NOTE: received her black belt).


I get the gist of Fact 3 but it’s too wordy. The word ‘ghee’ is clarified butter. The word ‘gi’ is the martial arts uniform. That needs to be made clear to the reader.

Why this has worked so well in Fact 1 and fact 2 is because you’ve gotten to the point quickly. It’s almost like these facts are punchlines. You’ve set it up really well and now we are reading through the facts like they are the ‘jokes’.

What is the point of Fact 3?? That the main character and his/her sister practice tae kwon do? Is it that they wear the gi? Is it that they use the swords? It’s funnier with just one point per fact.. If you know what I mean.

Fact 4: My mom loves to make dinner. Her lasagna and chicken fingers are the best! Yum! But, sometimes she makes a super fancy dinner with things like avocados and shrimp and arugula. Yuck! Luckily, she always has a Plan B. (Note: mac and cheese in front of kid with fancy meal in front of mom/parents)

Remember these facts are to back up why the main character thinks his/her mom is a ninja. Just because mom likes to make dinner does not make her a ninja because it’s not unusual enough. When she wears and buys everything in black then YES… she could be a ninja… making the best lasagna and chicken fingers then NO… she’s a candidate for a home cooking show. However, if she does it in a black apron wielding a katana sword and nunchucks then

YES… my mom’s a ninja.

Fact 5: My mom loves when I get ready for bed without a fuss. But sometimes I’m not tired and yell, “NO! I don’t want to go to bed!” Most parents would get mad and maybe yell back but not my mom. She is always calm and cool.

OK.. again… give us something specific to the ninja experience. For example, if she gets calm and cool and closes her eyes and begins reciting haikus backwards to a count of ten… then YES she could be a ninja.

Remember kids love outrageous stuff and you have a great premise here. Push the limits of the ninja theme and it will reward you.. 

Fact 6: My mom loves to read and snuggle with me (Note: at bedtime). She can read book after book after book. She is always focused.

My mom loves to fall asleep with me. (NOTE: girl thinking “black everything”, “yoga and meditating”, “martial arts” , “prepared” , “calm” , “focused”. – Maybe the emphasis here could be on being focused… so the mom could read her a book and put her in a trance at the same time.. with special hand movements or a crystal swinging like a pendulum… etc.
[Picture mom sneaking out of bedroom as child is sleeping – Agile like a ninja.] – YES I like this visual… it would make a good illustration for the book.

Fact: My mom is a ninja. [Picture of child with one eye open, laying on the bed like she is asleep looking at mom in ninja outfit sneak out of child’s room.] Cool ending.

Remember this:

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

I would suggest this story have a ‘high point’ in it somewhere in the middle. It feels a little bit like a list of facts. Maybe mom does some really cool ninja move to get the cat off the roof or something… or whatever.

OK… that’s it. Great job! Any questions please contact me at: 

Check out more editing examples here….

Spike’s Planet

Afternoons With Seeya

Croc’s Crust

More interesting stuff from The Writer at The Nexus

A Sneak Peek Critique of 50 Shades of Grey

The 4 Horsemen of the Writers Apocalypse

Renee the Writer is a freelance long form blog post and white paper writer.

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Metered rhyming verse for kids, editing example, developmental editing, freelance writer, white paper writer

Spike’s Planet – Editing Example Of Metered Rhyming Verse For Kids

Spike’s Planet

In Search of the Greatest Treat

Thank you for ordering my developmental editing service. 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 take a look at your metered rhyming verse for kids,

I like the title and subtitle. It already suggests a dog as the main character and a lot of fun.

Hello ______ !

Thank you for coming along with me, 9

But are you ready for what you’ll see? 9

Adventure, trouble, even a monster or two. 12

Ok, not monsters, but the adventure part’s true! 13

My name is Spike, and I’m very smart. 9

I use my nose, my head, and my heart. 9

Yet on this adventure I need a friend 10

To help me make it until the end. 9

OK.. quite a good start. Metered rhyming verse for kids is the toughest way to tell a story and you’ve done a nice job here so far.

The numbers at the end are the number of syllables in the line. Along with the rhyme the beat pattern should stay the same. It’s off but I’m not going to get too strict with it. The biggest thing is the storytelling. That should always be paramount.

So far you’ve introduced us to Spike as if he is talking to us. That’s a nice approach.

What you haven’t done yet is clearly defined that he is a dog. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking the pictures do part of the storytelling and that they will or should ‘fill in the blanks.’ They never do that.

Pictures are there ONLY to backup the text. The text always does the storytelling with kids 4 and up which you’ve stating you are writing for here. The pictures are there to be a redundant source for the text. Text and pics should match.

Having said that, since the title seems to strongly suggest the main character is a dog, make it clear Spike is a dog. He’s invited us on this adventure we should be clear he is a dog by now.

It started on my daily walk.

Met a cat and had a talk.

Then I saw the sign on the post.

World’s Greatest Dog Treat contest on the coast.

I love, love love treats can’t you see.

That’s why the winner, must be me.

The top dog will earn a lifetime supply

So now you see why we have to try.

Together we can go on a journey so great,

Pack your bags, grab your leash, no time to wait!

Hold on… I guess if we are going to explore,

We don’t need that silly leash anymore!

OK… this is nice rhyming and storytelling although the beat pattern is all off. Remember you are trying to accomplish something very difficult here – Metered Rhyming Verse For Kids.

Although, I really like the idea that a dog who loves dog treats wants to enter a contest where the 1st prize is a lifetime supply there are a few missing details.

To make this stronger it needs to be more specific.

For example, it says Spike goes for a walk and sees the poster for the contest and decides to enter, then he immediately tells us to pack our bags. Yet, it’s never said that the contest is for those who can find the best treats. Is that the case? Or is it finding the best recipe and then baking them? And where are they going exactly? Is this a national or international contest? It just says it’s on ‘the coast’.  Small details like this make a big difference in storytelling.

First place to check? The USA!

Good thing it’s a sunny day.

I’ll take a bite of Chicago’s best.

Their pan pizza’s better than all the rest.

So is their apple pie, and fried chicken can’t lose.

How are we supposed to choose?

But our journey just started, this couldn’t be it.

We have to taste each and every bit.

America has delicious snacks and pie

Now to Italy we go with a plane in the sky.

OK… so where is this taking place? You saw a sign on a walk saying there is a contest for the World’s greatest dog treat on the coast, but not which coast.

Then it says we should check the USA first and then it goes on to state popular US foods. Where are the dog treats?

If it’s a dog treat contest you can connect these types of ‘people’ foods to Spike and dog treats specifically. We also need to know which coast the contest is on. We also need to know if you are looking for actual dog treats that someone else made or a recipe to make them.

Also, with metered rhyming verse for kids you’ll need to make these foods specific to Spike.

After all, he’s the main character and the one excited about this dog treat contest. Tell us how and why he gets so excited about all these different treats. What do they mean to him besides a pleasant treat. Help us get invested in Spike.

Also, find a way to remind us of Spike’s name. Spike is a good name to rhyme to anyway.

As well, it’s never a good idea to have just one character in a story. They don’t have the opportunity to have dialogue. Maybe give him a sidekick? The cat maybe?

Rome, the capital, is a beautiful place

But why is that man, giving me that face?

Bellissimo!” Who are they?

Bellissimo” We better run away!

They think my spots are pepperoni? No!

Where or where can we go?

My tummy is growling, we need a snack.

Gelato will bring my energy back.

Maybe spaghetti and lasagna as well.

Oh yum yum yum, it all tastes so swell.


Bellissimo!” They still want me as their treat!

These spots are cute, but not to eat!

Although, Italy had meatballs full of taste,

Let’s cruise to Mexico with no time to waste!

Mexico welcomed one and all

Should you be short, furry, or tall.

They have great salsa, spicy and hot

And they eat it quite a lot.

The flavors here are sure to inspire,

Except I feel like my mouth is on fire!

These treats are great, but we need to try more.

That is what this story is for!

If we don’t like spicy, maybe we’ll like sweet.

China is where we might find the treat.

OK… it’s fine that you want to take your reader around the globe with metered rhyming verse for kids like this, but you’ve got to anchor it with the contest. Always make logical links and character connections in your storytelling. Make it specific to the contest which you introduced right at the start.  

China is the oldest country to date

With plenty of time to make food taste great.

Look I see treats, being made in a bunch.

Guess it’s good we forgot to eat our lunch!

Oooh sticky rice cake, tofu, and beans.

They even have peas and collard greens!

China is preparing for the Chinese New Year

It is the biggest celebration here.

We better go and not get in their way.

I’m sure we will come back another day.

Alright, if treats are what we are looking for.

Let’s try India to find some more!”

It’s starting to feel kind of rushed for a story set in metered rhyming verse for kids.

This is the trouble with trying to fit in too many people/places/things where there is a generalized theme. It starts to sound repetitive instead of like a fun adventure. If you concentrated on a couple of countries and had more food adventures connected specifically to the dog treat contest then it would be more engaging.

Maybe Spike (and company??) try to help one of the bakers or chefs and screws it all up. Again, bring it back to the contest. Does Spike have to make the treats? Perhaps he just finds them and brings them back? Maybe he ‘cheats’ by trying to hire a renown chef to make the treats for him and pass them off as his own? The more specific you can make it the more detail and humor you can put into it.

Wow it’s beautiful, but… Who is that?

I am Ganesha, as a matter of fact.”

Ah yes, the Indian God quite well known.

The god of wisdom and his courage is shown.

Try the Laddu.” Ganesha gave us a dish.

It is better than I could have wished!

A ball of rice dough with nuts on the outside

It is mixed with sugar and delicious inside!

So sugary sweet, and oh boy I am full.

The taste is incredible, it was wonderful.

Oh no. I can’t move. We need a break!

Too much food can make your belly ache.

Let’s thank Ganesha for showing us around.

It’s time we go to Africa and see what can be found!

I really like that we are going on a world tour, but it all feels very rushed and we aren’t getting to know Spike. And ultimately that’s how and why readers get engaged… because we care about the characters. Who is Spike? Bring his personality to the forefront. At this point it feels like a very quick food tour of the world yet we’re not getting to know anyone or the cultures very much.

Hello travelers.” Awe, this Monkey is sweet.

Hello! We are looking for the best treat?” – Where did the monkey come from and why? Specifics pls.

Monkey Bread! That’s what you need”

It comes from a fruit that starts as a seed.” – Doesn’t all fruit start as a seed?

I tasted it and what the monkey said was true, – What did the monkey say was true?

While we eat under the Boabab tree for two.

Be careful! Don’t become someone else’s treat!”  

Roar! That sure brought us to our feet.

Run! Run fast!” Keep running with me,

I think there are more lions behind the tree!

Let’s get our tasty adventure back on track,

Maybe Iceland would have a delicious snack.

Iceland is cold, but it feels good on my fur.

Wait, did you hear that? It sounded like a purr.

Ah! It’s a cat! Does she have what we need?

These are treats for you. So tasty indeed.”

We open the seal because it’s closed pretty well.

Oh, no! NO! What is that smell?

Why is a cat meeting them in Iceland and what is sealed that needs to be opened?

There are a lot of assumptions being made as to how the reader will interpret this.

How does the cat know they are looking for treats? Does the cat hand them a bag or a box of treats? Small details make a big difference. It helps the reader visualize the story… and no, pictures do not fill in the blanks.

Bleck. I know it smells bad and my eyes want to cry,

But we wouldn’t be treat testers if we didn’t try.

It’s delicious fish sardines. Yum yum!”

The silly cat sang with a happy hum.

Although I don’t quite like them, there are people who do!

Everyone has different tastes like me and you!

So, now that Iceland is out of the way

It is time for Germany for a nice splendid day.

Whoa… this is head spinning in terms of how many different countries you’re fitting in. The trouble is this doesn’t allow the reader to get to know the landscape at all or the people in it. We don’t even know Spike that well. Narrow down where Spike goes to find great treats and keep connecting it to the contest and the fact that Spike loves treats. The more you do that the more you’ll have specifics to work with and the more your audience will be invested in the story and Spike.

When in Germany, let’s do what they do!

They are wearing lederhosen, so we should too!

Bavarian costumes with matching shoes

Everyone’s dressed up, in any way that they choose!

Oktoberfest has bratwurst and pretzel’s so large

We need to find just who is in charge.

Try the schnitzels.” The bear said with a grin.

In Germany their food could definitely win.

Waffles, schnitzels, what could they not make?

There is so much for us to take.

There are lots of German words here that are not described. So, if you don’t know what they are you don’t know what they are. Kids may have trouble with this.

I don’t know how much more I can eat,

It is so hard to find the best treat.

Germany had food from the ceiling to the floor,

But let’s go to England, it’s almost next door!

London is a place with tea to drink,

And delicious biscuits. At least I think.

We’ve been invited by the Queen for tea.

She owns all of England, as far as you can see!

-Why? Why would the Queen of England invite a dog looking for treats over for tea? Kids may not be sophisticated enough to articulate something like this, but they always know when something doesn’t make sense.

Leaps in logic can be done only when the characters and their mission have been solidly established. Then you can get away with it.

I thought she’d be the best person to ask,

To help us with this difficult task.

What is the best treat to find?”

She gave me a look that was so sweetly kind.

The best treat of all does not have a taste,

It doesn’t have packaging, can’t go to waste.”

Now I was getting rather confused,

The Queen saw that I was not amused.

The best treat of all, is time together.

With family and friends, that treat lasts forever.”

Now my mind was quite undone,

But we had to go, the contest had begun!

Our worldwide trip was now done,

Wasn’t it just so much fun?

We sailed across the seas and such

And we sure learned oh so much.

Like my spots look like snacks but it’s my fur,

And spicy foods aren’t what I prefer.

Now that we are back, and I’ve hugged my family,

I now know what I had to go see.

The best treat of all was not something you eat,

Family time together just couldn’t be beat.

And now you are part of my family too,

Because of everything we’ve been through.

It’s nice that the big treat at the end is spending time with family and friends. The trouble is not once has it been mentioned that Spike misses his family. We thought this was about the treat contest. Now we find out it’s a veiled lesson on spending time with your family. These are the pitfalls in telling a story that is engaging with metered rhyming verse for kids. 

We won that contest, just so you know.

Now I get hugs wherever I go.

Until next time my wonderful friend.

For now, I must say it is The End.

Dude, give me a high five!

I would suggest keeping this about Spike and a buddy going in search of finding the best treat. Always keep it coming back to that. Have Spike and the buddy go to one or two countries at most. That way they could interact with each other and the locals. Perhaps you could have them engage people in the country they visit to help then with the contest and win a lifetime supply of the best treats ever. The more specific and focused the storytelling the more engaged your readers will be.

Ok that’s it for now.

Need a long blog post for your site? How about an insightful, yet easy to read white paper?

Talk to this gal —> renee the writer at the nexus, white paper writer, freelance writer, philosophical writing

Renee is a writer and graphic designer who creates long form blog posts and white papers.

She also creates the blog post featured images, the white paper covers and graphics including info graphics and co-ordinating social media shout outs.

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More Editing Examples here:

‘Afternoons with Seeya’

‘Croc’s Crust’

Visit The 4 Horsemen of the Writers Apocalypse

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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: 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.