April is national poetry month, which means in picture book world it’s rhyming picture book month. Angie Karcher has created the site RhyPiBoMo, devoted to authors working hard to create quality picture books written in rhyme. Check it out as there is so much great information. This is year number three for RhyPiBoMo, and my first year as a participant.
RhyPiBoMo has inspired me to take a second look at some of my own rhymed manuscripts. I don’t write in rhyme often, but sometimes it just pops out. When that happens I just let the rhyme do its little dance and go along for the ride.
I have spent several days now revising an old manuscript of mine. It’s good, but has some problem spots. I’ve discovered two simple facts.
Fact 1: Writing rhyming picture books is easy.
Fact 2: Writing rhyming picture books is HARD!
First the easy part. Rhyme. The end. Rhyme is easy. Either something rhymes or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t rhyme, don’t use it. Near rhymes drive me crazy and using them is a disservice to the kids reading the book. There are a billion words in the English language (I think the official number is a billion and seven, but I didn’t actually look that up), and if you look long enough, the right ones will show themselves.
Now the hard part. Everything else! And there’s a lot. So much that I’m not going to begin to list them all. In fact I’ll keep this to the one little thing I was working on today.
Meter. And not just any meter. Counting beats and syllables and finding where the stresses fall is predictable. There are rules to follow. It may not always be easy to find all the right words to follow these rules, but in the end it makes sense. What I’m talking about today is, what I call, reader meter. It is completely unpredictable, and is almost impossible to control. Almost.
Most people speak in a similar way. We learn which words or syllables to stress in a sentence, but there is variation. This is where meter gets really tricky. My current story is about a little girl. Several of my sentences started with the word she, so there might be a sentence like (This example is not from my story)-
The day her parents went to town, she found her mother’s wedding gown.
I would read it-
The day her parents went to town, she FOUND her mother’s wedding gown. – placing the stress on the second word.
Some people might read it-
The day her parents went to town, SHE found her mother’s wedding gown. – placing the stress on the first word. Neither is wrong in normal speech, but if the reader tries to read it with the stress in a different place than the writer intends, it sounds wrong.
I found this can be a problem any time a sentence starts with he, she, they or it. If the proper noun is used in its place people will normally put the stress on the proper noun, but the pronoun can go either way.
So I have been working hard to eliminate any of these fuzzy spots. I want the perfect read every time by everyone. I know – Good luck!
Hopefully it’s not luck – it’s hard work paying off.