This month’s featured 12 x 12 author, Corey Schwartz, has made a HUGE difference in my writing career.
Four score and seven years ago, when I was a newbie-schmoobie at writing, I left a comment on her blog asking for a clarification on something that was relevant to my current manuscript. She offered to read it for me and provide feedback.
Let me say that again.
SHE OFFERED TO READ IT FOR ME AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK.
Nobody, and I do mean nobody, had ever made me an offer like that before. She was a published, agented author. The real deal. I was humbled by the fact that she would reach out to an unknown like me.
Little did Corey know (although now she will when she reads this post), that her gesture that day, which not only turned into an amazing friendship, set me on a path dedicated to helping other writers. I truly believe 12 x 12 would not exist today had I not been so inspired by Corey’s selfless willingness to help someone she didn’t even know. Since then I have returned the favor and am fortunate that we exchange manuscripts quite regularly now. But Corey is an inspiration in the truest sense of the word. Someone who offers to help without expectation of receiving anything in return.
PLUS, she is an immensely talented writer and a NINJA at rhyme! And you 12 x 12 members are lucky. Because you will not only receive Corey’s instruction on rhyme in this blog post, but you will have a chance to win a critique from her. Who knows? Maybe that critique will change your own writing career, as it did mine.
Either way, remember: reach out a hand to help those who come behind you.
Okay, off my soap box now and heeeeere’s Corey!
HOW TO GET A BLACK BELT IN RHYME
For those of you who don’t know me, I am the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS. Writing in rhyme is actually a lot like studying martial arts. Both require a great deal of patience, practice, and perseverance.
Imagine the three pigs trying to write in rhyme?
Writes a first draft and thinks it is good enough to send out.
Next stop was the house made of sticks
where Pig 2 stood wearing his “gi.
“I’m highly trained,”
Pig 2 proudly explained
“So, I suggest that you flee.”
Tweaks the meter and decides it’s “ready’ for submission.
The wolf wandered on to the wood house.
where Pig 2 waited wearing his “gi.”
“Beware! I am trained,”
he proudly explained
“So, if I were you, I would flee.”
Revises, revises, revises, until it kicks butt!
The wolf chased Pig 1 to his brother’s
And hollered, “Hey, Pigs, let me in!”
Pig 2 yelled, “Retreat!
Or you’ll suffer defeat
By the hair of my chinny chin chin.”
So, how do you get a black belt in rhyme?
The answer really requires more than one post. But this is my general process:
In the first draft I do NOT worry about rhyme and meter. I just try to get the story down. If you really want to be sure that rhyme is not driving your story, you should try doing a first draft in prose. I don’t do that, but I do try to write an outline first, and I will write a particular stanza in prose if I am having a difficult time.
I always try to get story issues resolved BEFORE I spend time tweaking meter and rhyme. No point in spending hours perfecting a line if that whole stanza might get cut later.
It can take a while to get the story right. But it’s extremely important that your story works (conflict, resolution, etc) before you start refining the rhymes.
Sometimes I get lucky and stumble upon a great rhyme early on, but often a stanza is merely a “placeholder.” It’s the content that I want (Wolf approaches Pig 2 at his house, and Pig 2 makes a somewhat idle threat) but I don’t have the actual wording yet.
Once the story is solid, I focus on the meter and rhyme. I have rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com open at all times and constantly check for improved word options. I revise, revise, revise. Then when I think it is done, I revise some more. No matter how good a stanza is, it can almost always get better!
Here are some additional tips organized by level.
• Make sure you have established a consistent meter. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you aren’t sure, check with an experienced rhymer! (And, yes, I will always take a look if I have time)
• Never invert syntax to force a rhyme (No Yoda speak)
• Ask people to read your story out loud to see where they trip.
• Ask yourself, “Is this word or line here just for the rhyme?” Would you have used that word or phrase if you were writing this story in prose? Sometimes it is subtle, so if you’re not certain, ask a critique partner.
• Check to see if all your rhymes are common words (i.e. you/too). Try to use some unpredictable choices.
• If you have any imperfect rhymes, use rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com to try to find an alternate rhyme that is perfect!
Sometimes if meter is too perfect, your story can sound a bit sing-songy. To avoid this, try the following:
• Vary your word length. Try to get in some two and three syllable rhymes (retreat/defeat)
• Vary your sentence length. Using some very short sentences can change the breathing pattern and break the monotony.
• Get in internal rhymes, alliteration, and word play!
Sayonara, and good luck with your training. And remember:
Corey is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012) GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, 2014) and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD (Putnam, 2014). Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Author, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Picture Books, Rhyming, Writing