RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 1
I am happy to introduce Tim McCanna as the perfect guest blogger to kick off this crazy month of rhyming fun! He is another musically talented author and comedian. His humorous video clips and picture book trailers are amazing! Tim’s unencumbered style of teaching is contagious and just plain fun so we are fortunate to have him share his rhyming wisdom!
First, please watch this short clip on rhyme by Tim:
A RHYMER PRIMER
by Tim McCanna
Woo-hoo! It’s April 1st, DAY ONE of Rhyming Picture Book Month 2015! I’m totally honored to help kick things off for this rhymetacular celebration. And let me first promise you that I will not use the word rhymetacular ever again. Big thanks to Angie for all of her hard work. This is exciting! Ready to rhyme? Ok, it’s time!
Are you sure you belong here? The only reason you could possibly be reading this post right now is that you A) enjoy reading rhymes, B) enjoy writing rhymes, C) you’re my mother, or D) you’re a misinformed pastry chef who thinks RhyPiBoMo is some sort of Rye Pie Baking Month. Mmmm… Rye Pie. Well, whoever you are, welcome aboard.
SO… WHY EXACTLY ARE YOU RHYMING? SOME SUGGESTED ANSWERS:
1. “It’s fun!” Writing in rhyme is like solving a puzzle. When you fit two pieces together, it’s sooo satisfying! Rhyming should be an enjoyable challenge, and if you’re not enjoying it, then don’t do it!
2. “I can’t help myself,” is also an acceptable answer. If your brain just wants to go there, don’t fight it.
3. “It’s simply the highest form of writing ever.” Seriously! Whether you’re writing a picture book, a novel, a poem, or a song, rhyming is like word MAGIC. The fact that we humans have language at all is astounding, but that we can weave amazing stories that also rhyme kinda blows my mind.
4. “It’s all about the kids.” Am I right, folks? If you haven’t read a rhyming book to a group of wide-eyed kindergarteners yet, then put it on your bucket list. It’s the best. Now, I’m no scientist. I can’t tell you how rhymes help develop kids’ brains or teach them how to read using “word families” and such. But I do know that rhyme gets their attention like nothing else. They can’t wait to help you end the sentence. It brings them into the story, and delights them with rhythm and alliteration and all the other tools we use as writers.
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER WRITE IN RHYME
1. For money. Unless someone is willing to pay you for it, then go ahead. Rhyme for money.
2. For political gain. I don’t think rhyme works that way.
3. Peer pressure. Come on, everyone’s doing it.
4. Because rhyming is easy. News Flash: it’s not.
WHY METER IS WAY, WAY, WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN RHYME
Anybody can stick two sentences together with words at the end that sound alike. It’s really not that hard. What’s hard about writing a rhyming picture book or poem is finding a fresh, natural rhythm to the words that make reading them aloud effortless. Rhymes are twice as impactful when they trip off the tongue in crafty ways. So don’t choose your meter arbitrarily. Make very specific choices about the shapes of your stanzas. Sometimes, you can let the natural stresses of your key words or phrases inform the scan. And while you’re at it, strive for word economy. Keep your sentences clean, short, and punchy. If you find yourself writing in long, rambling phrases just to achieve a rhyme, see if you can’t break up the same idea into tidier constructions. Your readers (and editors) will thank you.
WHY STORY IS WAY, WAY, WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN RHYME AND METER
Your rhyme will only be as strong as the story it’s helping to tell. Rhyming words are the dressing, the decoration, the flash that hooks the ear. As rhymers, a lot of times we fall into the pattern of lists. That’s ok. Everyone does it. Some authors do it very well with great success. But if you have a rich story with a unique main character in an interesting conflict that ends in a surprising twist, that sturdy framework will lend itself to more engaging language giving you opportunities to use interesting rhymes to punctuate and propel your story!
YOU CAN REVISE WITHOUT RHYMING, BUT YOU CAN’T RHYME WITHOUT REVISING.
A perfect rhyming picture book doesn’t happen on the first go. Ever. I wrote 17 drafts of my upcoming picture book, Bitty Bot!, before signing with my agent. And that’s just 17 known file versions. I made hundreds of micro-edits over the course of three years. The title changed, the characters evolved, lines got flip-flopped, words got tweaked, whole stanzas were cut and replaced. The manuscript received a letter of commendation from SCBWI, and I STILL kept revising it. When I signed with my agent, SHE asked for revisions. Before the publishers bought the manuscript, THEY asked for a completely different ending. Then I sold the book, and they asked for MORE revisions! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. (Okay, maybe a little.) But without fail, after every revision, the work became stronger and better. The trick is, you have to be willing to listen to critiques and trust that change is good.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T LISTEN TO ME (or anyone else for that matter)
I’m just one dude. A dude who writes in rhyme now and then. I have my own tastes and I know what works for me. You love writing limericks? Do it. You want to use imperfect rhymes? Go for it. You want to write in loose, free-form, percussive phrases? Try it. Make your own rules. Then break them. Practice. Experiment. Stick to your guns. And now that you are not listening to me, here are…
TIM’s TOP TWO TIPS
Okay, there will be THREE tips, but I like the alliteration in the title, so sue me.
1. You’ve got a fantastic story idea and you think it absolutely MUST be written in rhyme? Try writing it in prose FIRST. It allows you to focus on plot and character without trying to rhyme, which is tough enough. Then, once you have that overwritten prose version down and you’re still positive that rhyming is the best storytelling format, circle the key words and phrases that pop. Make a list of all the richest, most colorful story-driven words and then find rhymes for those. You’ll wind up with more interesting rhymes that lend a spicier flavor to the world of your story.
2. Write the garbage. Write the really, really bad stanzas. Do not judge your words before they’ve been written. Get them on paper. THEN judge them mercilessly.
3. Read lots of rhymers. We must learn by example. Have you been to a book store lately? How about an indie book store that only sells children’s books? They still exist! Go find one! Gobble up all their rhyming books.
YOU’RE STILL READING THIS?
Man, that’s dedication. Well, it takes dedication to be a rhymer, so you clearly belong here. Now, get rhyming! Make those words dance! Enjoy the challenges! Oh, and have yourself a rhymetacular RhyPiBoMo. I know, I know. I promised I wouldn’t use that word ever again. April Fools.
Tim McCanna is the author of the rhyming picture books, Teeny Tiny Trucks (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), and Bitty Bot! (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2016). He has also produced music and narration for award-winning story apps, picture book trailers, and the opening theme song for Katie Davis’s popular “Brain Burps About Books” kid lit podcast. Tim serves as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s San Francisco/South chapter, and he holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing for Musical Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Find Tim online at http://www.timmccanna.com.
Thank you so much Tim!
RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt
This is NOT part of the pledge. It is an option for a writing exercise for those interested. You will not publically share this as part of RhyPiBoMo but may keep a journal of your writing this month for your own review.
Make a list of all the words that rhyme with Tim.
Now create a short, silly poem using some of your new words. They can be used as internal rhymes or ending rhymes.
*Bonus points if you can rhyme any word in the poem with McCanna.
Today’s honored blogger is Tim.
His message is shiny, not dim.
Our Mr. McCanna wears hats with bananas.
There’s only one author like him!
© 2015 Angie Karcher
RhyPiBoMo’s Happy Birthday Maya Angelou Webinar
Hosted by Jackie Wellington – Saturday, April 4th 7:00 pm Central Time
Link coming soon.
Saturday, April 4th we are celebrating Maya Angelou’s birthday with a tribute to her life. You won’t want to miss Jackie Wellington’s heartfelt hour of adoration for Maya with her own powerful poetry. We will read some of Maya’s works and some of our own. It’s a time to celebrate poetry and diversity, so I hope you can stop by.