Get a Professional Critique

A writing tip from Danette Haworth

The best piece of advice I can give to any hardworking, up-and-coming writer is this: get a professional critique.

When I completed my first manuscript (which later became Me & Jack, 2011), I submitted and paid for a critique of the first ten pages as part of an SCBWI conference. The author assigned to my submission was friendly but brutal, and I’d be remiss if I wasn’t honest with you—it hurt! But after I got over the initial sting, some of the things she said resonated with me. I saw how, in just ten pages, I’d used the same unusual word more than once. I’d employed opposing verbs to describe the same action. I’d set a scene in a room that never again appeared in the manuscript.

How could this writer see all of that in only ten pages? Because she was an established author with a solid background in publishing.

Many seasoned editors and authors critique full manuscripts for reasonable fees. What you’re paying for is their experience. They’ll tell you what the lay person can’t: have you created a good hook, do you introduce the conflict soon enough, are your word choices appropriate for your intended audience, what do you do well and where can you improve? This is a worthy use of your money and an education in itself. The things you learn from such a critique will improve this manuscript and every manuscript you write thereafter.

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Danette Haworth is the author of four middle-grade novels: A Whole Lot of Lucky (starred Kirkus Reviews), Me & Jack (Great Stone Face Award finalist), The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, and Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning (California Young Reader Medalist). She lives in Florida with her husband, three children, a Maine Coon kitten who riffles through her papers, knocks stuff off her desk, and bats at lizards on the other side of the window; and Casey, the world’s most perfect dog.



Hailee Richardson never realized how much she hated her Salvation Army life and Goodwill accessories until the night her family wins the lottery. All of a sudden she's no longer the only girl at school without a cell phone or a brand-new bike! And the newfound popularity that comes with being a lottery winner is just what she's always dreamed of. But the glow of her smartphone and fancy new clothes wears off when Hailee is transferred to Magnolia Academy, a private school. All of a sudden, her best friend and parents seem shabby compared to the beautiful Magnolia moms and the popular bad-girl Nikki, who seems to want to be her friend. Now, Hailee wants nothing more than to grow up—and away—from her old life.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

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