Here are five things I do after I think I’m finished with my story (BTW, this also works for non-rhyming text, but I find it especially helpful for rhyming work):
1. Read your work aloud. Picture books are meant to be read aloud so you need to hear how your words sound.
2. Tape-record yourself reading your story aloud. When you play back the recording, listen for any inconsistencies in the flow/rhythm. Listen to the sounds of the words. Do they roll of your tongue with ease? Are they pleasant to the ear? Will children and adults want to hear them over and over again?
3. Read your work aloud while walking. This is one of my all-time favorite tips (which I heard from Ann Whitford Paul): I will walk through my house with manuscript in hand, reading aloud, and if there’s any glitch in the rhythm, my feet stumble a bit. I actually feel the inconsistencies in my body. It’s a very telling technique. If I get hung up on a certain line or stanza, sometimes I’ll take a pad and pencil and go for a walk, repeating the words till I get something that fits the rhythm of my gait.
4. Let a “non-reader” read your work aloud. By “non-reader”, I mean someone who does not normally read children’s literature, especially aloud. I find this extremely helpful. My husband assists me with this, and every time he reads my rhyming work aloud, I can immediately hear any flaws. While he reads, I make a note of any spots where he hesitates, or stumbles a bit, or the flow/rhythm sounds off to me.
5. Workshop your story amongst other children’s writers. Critique groups, “critiquenics” and retreat or conference opportunities are a great way to get feedback on your much-labored work. Let your professional colleagues be the final judges of whether your story is ready for an editor’s eyes and ears.
We often hear editors say that they don’t want rhyming work. I honestly believe that most editors like rhyming work, IF it’s written well. The problem is that too many writers submit work that hasn’t been scrutinized enough. Make sure your story is its absolute best and you’ll have a much better chance for publication.
Best of luck!