Rewrite, Critiques, Repeat
I decided to start my self-publishing journey with a simple, rhyming story. I love rhymes. I naturally gravitate to rhyming texts. I also needed my text to be somewhere between 500 and 750 words for a picture book. This range is a bit gray but if you stick to around 500 words you should be in the clear. I figured that the word count would be the biggest challenge because rhyming is supposed to be easy, right?
So I spruced up my rhyming text and sent it out to some editors. Now there are editors and then there are editors. One of the lessons I learnt early on was to research your editors properly. Make sure they have the appropriate credentials, but most importantly, make sure they have experience in your genre.
My first editor gave me nearly all positive feedback. As a new writer, that's what I wanted to hear. Maybe it was my skeptical mind, but I figured it couldn't be that easy, could it? Was I a rare rhyming genius who got everything right on the first try? Of course, I wasn't. I will say, though, her enthusiasm for my text gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
I submitted my text for further critique, but this time I chose someone who had a bit more experience in reviewing rhyme. I got some great feedback not only about meter but about my story's flow and arc. It changed my story for the better.
I was also referred to some great videos about rhyming and meter by Renée LaTulippe.
Renée is a genius; she explains things so beautifully. In just one night, I watched most of her videos. I learn about stressed and unstressed beats, headless foot, iambic, and dactylic meters. I think it was more complicated that my two professional certifications combined, but the knowledge I gained was invaluable.
See link below
Three most important lessons for me were:
1. You need to have a solid story in place; the rhyme is just the cherry on top. It's there to complement the story.
2. Don't mess with the stress; Don't change where the stress naturally occurs in a word just to fit your rhyme. So don't change the stress in To -MA -toes to
To-ma -TO - es.
3. Don't use a word JUST because it rhymes. It needs to take your story forward, and it needs to make sense.
I decided that I needed an expert to critique my manuscript for all the intricacies of rhyme and meter. Unfortunately, Renee was not available, but I found someone else, a well-seasoned writer who gave me some excellent suggestions and recommendations which I took to heart.
Now that I was really confident in my text, it was time to get feedback from a Beta Reader. Beta Readers are meant to reflect your average reader. They read your work and advise on any areas that may be unclear or confusing. Since my picture book is intended to be read by an adult, I chose a beta reader who had a background in teaching young children. I wanted to get a sense of how well parents and children might receive the book. It was very insightful. I received a comprehensive report about the Characters, Story Line, Pacing, Page Turn and the target audience for such a book.
So now the text was good to go. It was time to find an illustrator.
NEXT: THE SEARCH FOR AN ARTIST