News from the Missouri SCBWI Conference — My critique with Emma Dryden

One of the features of the conference that I took advantage of was the critique with freelance editor Emma Dryden.  The manuscript that I submitted, Rat Race, is the same one that I workshop-ed during the retreat with Darcy Pattison.

At first, Emma focused on my synopsis and cover letter which makes sense.  After all, these are the pieces that will give some editor or agent a first impression of my work.  She liked the story a lot but also pointed out something that I had discovered on the retreat.  I need to include more narrative, especially description.  She liked how I dropped a few important terms and then forced the reader to continue on to find out exactly what they were.  Unfortunately, I may have waited just a bit long.

We also chatted about the fact that my character feels young.  This didn’t completely surprise me.  He’s supposed to be 12.  The manuscript, after all, says so.  But the night before when noodling over the story, I had mentally referred to him as 10.  “No, he’s 11.  I mean 12.”


Actually, the story will work with him at 11 so that isn’t horrifying.  Part of what brings it down, in terms of age, is the age of the antagonist.  His kid sister is only 6.  Then Emma lobbed something big at me (this is a paraphrase).  “This just now came to me, but why don’t you make his sister his twin?”


The same age.

10 or 11.

That would pull the age back up a bit, easily to 11.  It would also increase the tension.  He’s now being tormented by a peer.  And she’d have to do slightly different things to him, but they could be much sneakier, much more evil.  She could be one of the mean girls.

And so went my brain for the rest of the day.  Sure, I looked like I was paying attention, but what I was really doing was noodling.  What exactly will this mean for my story?  I don’t have to do it, but will it make for a stronger story?

I think the answer might just be yes.