Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a top-notch writing workshop put on by KS/MO SCBWI. The subject was poetry and rhyme and the workshop leader was Peggy Archer.
Writing in rhyme is not natural for me. Part of it is my subject matter. Black Lives Matter, Race and Racism and the Zika virus are not exactly topics that are just begging for a rhyming treatment. Nope.
But I am trying to get back into picture book writing and picture books frequently rhyme in spite of the fact that many editors and agents advise writers not to write in rhyme. Why? Because it is so very hard to do well. While I don’t tend to write in rhyme, I love wordplay and fun language in a picture book. To that end, I tend to use onomatopoeia (sound words like pitter patter or kaboom) and alliteration (wicked wiley words). As in poetry, picture book writing requires using each and every word for maximum impact. Poetry workshops are a great help and Peggy’s was one of the best.
Here are 3 things I learned from Peggy.
- Word lists pay off. Whether you are trying to rhyme or just looking for fun read aloud words, Peggy recommends creating word lists. Don’t put as much effort into adjective and eliminate virtually all adverbs. Put your effort into specific, colorful nouns and verbs.
- Word length can be used to speed up and slow down your text. Multiple syllable words give the impression of speed. Single syllables slow things down.
- Rewriting is 100% essential. This doesn’t mean tweaking a word or two. It may mean discarding and adding lines or altogether changing the rhythm. Be aware of the emotion and idea that you want to convey. I knew this but getting to see Peggy’s examples helped me to see what I rewrite on even very short text can accomplish.
I’m never going to be a world class poet, but Peggy supplied me with some tools to make my picture book texts shine.