Working with My Nemesis

Rhyme. My Nemesis.

Every spelling test that required an understanding of syllable emphasis: Failed.
I am musically declined.
Reading Dr. Seuss is exhausting (his illustrations are a different story).

I confess my rhyming weakness when joining writing groups, because I will never be the person who can help you improve in this area. So how did I come to writing a picture book manuscript in rhyme?

To my displeasure, one of my nagging ideas started as few lines of rhyme. I walked away. Because this. was. not. right. I don’t do rhyme. It’s not me.

I wasn’t gone for long. A rough draft was forming before my eyes. Even though I questioned the approach after every stanza, I kept going. I had a story. It was in rhyme. Horrible, wonky rhyme, with no sense of meter, but it was something.

The manuscript took a rest while I immediately begged critique partners for resources. Certainly I can school myself on this rhyming thing, right? I edited to the best of my ability and in short time, it was in other people’s hands for feedback. I promptly decided this wasn’t a form I should pursue.

Then I attended a writing workshop that included a section on rhyme. A section where I was completely lost. I was in a room with writers who composed lovely rhyme and meter, that made sense, AND was often funny, in a matter of minutes. That sealed the deal. I would close the door on rhyme. This was not where I needed to put my energy.

BUT, my work was not wasted. What I learned from writing outside my comfort zone:

  • Writing in an unfamiliar form can push you out of pattern writing behavior.
  • I developed twists in the story that surprised me.
  • Experimenting was fun. You can always alter the form into something you want to continue to work with.

As an illustrator first — doodling, working with a variety of media, and producing work at all levels of finish is second nature. Playing is part of the creative process that has a complete history outside of what is presented in my portfolio. As I am getting more comfortable in my writing shoes, I am trying to bring over much of that experimental process to writing. And embrace it as part of work.

As for the story? It still exists. It’s being edited. The idea wants to be heard, it just hasn’t found its final form yet.