How To Tell If Your Writing Stinks

First I must brag. I MUST I tell you, because some threatening bad guy is standing behind me forcing me to post this message I just received: Who Hoots?” was one of my 8-year-old son’s (and my) favorite books when he was little. (He says, “Tell her I remember it!”) I used to read it to him while feeding him dinner. Every time he’d laugh, I’d stuff a spoonful of peas in his mouth. I think you are personally responsible for the fact that he actually grew.

I love, love, love getting messages like this. First because it just feels great, but it is also proof that my “babies” are out there, all grown up and living with other people, making
me proud. Which brings me to today’s blog…
I get a lot of people asking me why did my early picture books stink? Or rather, how did I know they were so stinky? The answer is, I studied. I studied the best books in my local book store – they will prominently display the bestsellers. It’s especially helpful to read the ones in the same genre as yours. Do you write in rhyme? Study the best – and I don’t mean Dr. Seuss. Everyone tries to imitate him, and usually it does not work. Read people who are popular now, like Lisa
Wheeler, who is fabulous, and

funny, and very successful at what she does. Check out her Sailor Moo, which has one of the funniest gags in it (hint: do you know how many stomachs a cow has?).
There are any number of reasons my early works were stinky: they rhymed badly, the story meandered, there was no point, they were
preachy (the worst crime of all!), or were just plain boring. Maybe they didn’t follow the “rules” I had set up. If you have something like Who Hops? which concerns animals, you can’t include, say, a rock that can’t swim, as I did in my first BAD version! Yes, I was taking it a bit too literally, but I was afraid of scaring all the little children with an animal who couldn’t

swim – would they sink like a stone? Ack.

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