Children’s author Andrea White is doing something not many authors would be brave enough to do–posting a complete draft of her book online so that children can “edit” it before publication next year. Her proposal is simple: read the book, tell her what’s wrong, fix any spelling or grammatical errors. That’s it. At first, it seems like an easy exercise to get children interested in literature. In the process, they’ll be watching for errors and trying to “edit” a book by a professional author, something which is bound to help improve their own reading and writing skills. But is it that simple?
Windows on the World, Book 1 of UpCity Chronicles series by Andrea White
TIME ANGEL is the second book in her UpCity Chronicles series, a futuristic time-travel series set in the not too distant future. Here’s what she asks of the kids on her website:
Students, I have posted a draft of my new book, Time Angel. But I know I’ve made mistakes. And I know you can help me tell the story better. Let me know if you find spelling or punctuation errors. Are there parts of the story that are confusing to you? Do you have some ideas for me about how to make my plot, my character or the world of the book come alive?
While this might seem like an interesting exercise, I wonder really how many of the suggestions she will take. Aside from keen eyes spotting typos or obvious grammatical/spelling errors, will she really consider the responses the children make? One would hope her story is solid (she’s an award-winning author, so I would assume she’s got it WELL under control), but what if several readers let her know that something specific doesn’t work for them….like a main character or a plot idea? What then? Will she consider revising? Or is this mainly an exercise aimed at youth literacy skills? It’s difficult to say, but maybe she’ll get a wonderful suggestion and follow it to an even better book. Or maybe she’ll end up publishing “as is”, thanking her public for such generous feedback.
It’s a risky but wonderful idea for an author to put the whole book out there for feedback before it’s even published. There will be praise, I’m sure, but she’ll have to be prepared for the negative as well. And people who are not loyal readers, or those who do not have a personal connection to her (such as her Beta readers who act as a critique panel on all early stages of her work), will likely be tougher on her than she’s used to. Maybe it will make her an even better writer, and maybe the book will be stronger because of this exercise, but I hope it doesn’t backfire and destroy her confidence. Writing, as any other artistic endeavor, is a personal thing, and to invite criticism means there needs to be thick skin involved.
If you’re interested in reading the book, visit her website, or make this a fun summer project with your middle grade readers and have them read the book and comment. This could be a great opening for discussion, and the kids will feel like they’re contributing to something important in the long run. Might be fun!