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Are you writing a novel for young readers?

With years of experience in writing for this market and critiquing writers at conferences and workshops I am now offering a critique service for novels aimed at middle grade and YA readers. I will read your full manuscript—or partial (fee will vary with word count). I will give you detailed feedback on the following components of your story.

Concept: What initially catches the attention of an agent, publisher and ultimately readers is the concept at the core of the plot. Is yours compelling, original, intriguing? You know the concept that drives your story, but I don't. Let me read your book and give it back to you in a couple of sentences. If I can't do that your concept needs clarifying—I can help with that too.

Opening: A book's opening is the door to a world the reader has never seen before. Do you bring the reader into that world comfortably or make them work to orient themselves; do you confuse them? Does your story’s opening engage the reader and at the same time make honest promises about what the story will deliver? Does it give the reader a sense of what the larger story will be about?

Character Development: Are your characters interesting and at the same time easy for a young reader to identify with?

Plot Structure: The plot is the skeleton that supports the entire work. No amount of good writing will make up for a weak plot, but a robust plot can cover a world of bad writing (sad but true). I will examine the plot arc of your story and suggest ways to make it more effective.

Pace: Are you using a balance of "scene" and "summary" to move the plot forward. Is the pace too leisurely or rushed? Is it too uniform?

Conflict: What is the central conflict in the story? How early is that conflict identified for the reader? How does that central conflict create the story? What changes occur in the course of the story (conflict requires change) and is the resolution of the conflict sufficient and satisfying? Are there ways to restructure the conflict to increase the payoff?

Dialogue: I look at everything from the naturalness of the dialogue to how dialogue tags are used and the integration of business (the physical actions that accompany dialogue which may, in fact, even contradict a character’s spoken words).

Tone: Novels for young readers must have an urgent almost claustrophobic tone. This is the hardest thing to teach, but I can tell you whether or not you have it, and make suggestions that will help. The Page: Young readers want open-looking text which is created by frequent paragraphing, liberal use of dialogue and the inclusion of short, blunt sentences.

Point of View: Novels for young readers bring the reader in close. First person and limited third are the preferred point of view choices for these novels. Don't panic if you're writing in third person omniscient, but I can tell you whether or not your choice is effective for this readership.

Pitch–Readiness: How close are you to having a manuscript that is ready for prime time? I don't know how many hours you worked on your story or how many revisions you have done, you do, and this knowledge can cloud your judgment. "I've been working on this thing for years it must be ready!" Not necessarily. I can give you an objective assessment.

Quick list of what to do to make it better/more publishable: I will give you a brief summary of the necessary changes, a to-do list that will make your rewrite more manageable.

You the Writer: I will give you a list of your strengths and weaknesses. It is helpful to know where you stand as a writer, which things you do with ease and which you need to work on.

Your Market: I can help you identify your readership. When pitching an agent or publisher one of the most important components is a clear target for your book. Who is going to read this? "Everyone" is a very bad answer. Each book appeals to a very particular group. You have to know who you are writing for. Also, a large portion of the sales of these books is to the school/library market. I can give you insights that will make your book more appealing to these critical markets—and what will keep you off their shelves forever.

Note: I write realistic fiction and this is the genre I know best. I also critique novels for adult readers and have written several myself, however middle grade and YA fiction is the area in which I have most expertise.

Structural Editing Service: I can also mark up your manuscript for rewriting, suggesting specific changes in guiding you to a better story.

Interested? Please contact me by e-mail: adrianfog@aol.com