I've mentioned it before. My children read my books.
Don't peg me as the type to send a query stating, "my family loved this book." I have a critique group (two now, actually). I go to writing conferences. I send my work out for others to read. Okay, now that we've cleared that up, back to why my kids read my books.
Adult writers are kind. They, like me for them, appreciate the bundled hours of labor, worried effort, rejection and grief that go into creating a book.
Kids just want something great to read. It has to be fun. They have to like the characters, and stay interested.
So while my critique partner may politely suggest I might want to add a little more drama to a section, kids have too many other distractions to stick with a book that stops making sense or stalls. Unlike in critique group, at home I'm competing with Percy Jackson and Goose Girl. My kids are avid readers, and they know books well. If my daughter puts my book down, I know my plot just hit a sinkhole.
That's when I beg her to stop being nice and tell me what's wrong. So far I've heard, "I hate [Insert name of character I thought complex and fascinating]. She's too whiny."
"You didn't make the scene with [insert what I thought was a scary situation] bad enough. You need to add a whole bunch more, and make it last longer."
Sometimes my daughter asks about a part that didn't make sense. Then I'll say, "What about where . . .?"
And she will say, "Oh. I didn't know that happened." Uh-oh. In other words, I'm not getting that part of the story out of my head and onto the paper. It might need more sense of setting, or clarified language.
If my book is getting as boring as math class, they'll tell me. And if I'm going to write a book that's going to keep my kids attention, I really have to step it up. A bit like this photo of my youngest, trying to stand tall enough to fit this Bahamanian mask.