2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme
- Bitty Bot is a busy little robot! In your first story Bitty Bot builds a rocket to go on a space adventure. Now, in Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, Bitty Bot builds a submarine to explore the ocean. Was Getaway in the works before Bitty Bot was published?
Yes and no. I wrote the first draft of Bitty Bot back in 2011 and tweaked it for years until I got my agent in 2014. We sold Bitty Bot in a two-book deal to Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster soon thereafter. But I hadn’t written or even considered a sequel at that point. I wasn’t sure if I could replicate the rhyming style I’d used for Bitty Bot into another story! While the first book was in the process of being illustrated, I brainstormed and landed on the concept of Bitty going to the beach and having an ocean adventure. It was a lot of fun to explore new territory with Bitty and use beach and underwater-related rhyming words.
- Do you have more adventures planned for Bitty Bot?
Well, I’ve written a third adventure that puts Bitty in a forest setting. I’d love to have a trilogy, but it all hinges on sales numbers of the first two books. That’s just the nature of the business, I guess. We’ll see!
- Are all your picture books written in rhyme? Did you have trouble finding agents or publishers who accepted rhyming manuscripts?
I’ve written many manuscripts in prose over the years, but so far, I haven’t sold any. Nine out of my ten sold manuscripts are rhymers. The exception is BOING! A Very Noisy ABC, which uses onomatopoeia in alphabetical order to tell a story. I never ran into an agent or editor that said they wouldn’t accept rhymers. The key is to do your research and target your submissions. Luckily, my agent recognized that my body of work had potential and that my rhyming was solid. She’s able to submit my manuscripts to editors she knows will connect with my style and subjects.
- One of our Rhyme Revolution members, Suzie Olsen, would like to know: What writing challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Good question! When I first started out writing rhyming picture books, my manuscripts were very long and dense. I was unwilling to cut a single word, and I included too much detail. I was using long sentences in a fairly inconsistent meter. It was a mess! Once I shifted my style to more spare, airy text in tighter, shorter phrases, things started to click—and sell. On average, my rhyming stories are between 50 and 300 words. I try to leave a lot of room for the illustrator to shine. Not everybody needs to write in those same parameters, but it’s important to recognize when something isn’t working and be willing to change and experiment until you find a voice that works.
- What words of wisdom or advice can you offer to writers of rhyme as we move into 2019?
Writing picture books is hard work. Writing picture books in RHYME adds even more pitfalls to the process. You can absolutely sell rhyming picture books, but editors are watching for manuscripts that fire on all cylinders. Tight meter, unforced rhymes, lovable main characters, great stories with openings that hook and endings with a satisfying twist. It’s a lot to ask for! Be patient and give yourself time to write lots of rhymers and study the greats. If you truly love to rhyme, then go for it!
Learn more about Tim’s books HERE