The Writing Process
On my last post, I ended with my idea and what inspired me to write Love Can Come in Many Ways (available for preorder HERE). This manuscript took a few turns along the path toward becoming submission-ready.
As I mentioned last week, I began writing this in early 2017, when I was feeling so saddened by the lack of civil discourse in our country. I mean, how could be people be so unkind and disrespectful to each other? After being motivated by some beautiful animal photos, I began writing a new picture book, Tummies, Tongues and Twisty Trunks: Love is Everywhere.
I know, I know! That was a mouthful for a title! I loved the alliteration of the first part, but as is, it sounded like a nonfiction book, so I added the subtitle to make sure the concept and tone was clear. But yeah, what a mouthful of words! So, I put the title issue on hold and started to write.
At that point, I knew the topic: animals showing affection. I knew the meter (rhythm pattern) I would use throughout, which I wrote at the top of the page to keep me in rhythm as I wrote:
/ – / – / – /,
/ – / – / – /
Or, if you prefer…
DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM,
DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM.
(Note: Sometimes I used a “pause” for the middle unstressed beat:
/ – / || / – /,
/ – / || / – /
DUM da DUM || DUM da DUM,
DUM da DUM || DUM da DUM.
It only took a few weeks to come up with a solid draft. Inspired by gorgeous photos, I made a list of key words that came to mind, such as trunk, fur, arms, paws, tails, etc., depending on the animal. I played with the verbs (gerund form) and prepositions to fit with the rhythm (embracing arms, protecting wings…). This really is the kind of writing I LOVE to do so it was pure joy for me to do this kind of detailed wordplay.
Once I got the animal part down, I knew I wanted to include humans in the mix, as well. I decided to do this by creating two couplets to include ways that humans show affection, love, and kindness (one in the middle, one at the end). I brainstormed another list, everything from hugging and kissing to holding hands to playing games to simply smiling at one another. Here’s another favorite inspirational photos…doesn’t this child’s face say it all?
I tinkered with the rhyme and rhythm a lot. One “trick” I always do when I write in rhyme is to walk while reading my story out loud (thank you, Ann Whitford Paul, for sharing that trick with me so very many years ago!). This is a sure-fire way of “feeling” any glitches in the rhythm (like tripping on a crack in sidewalk if your meter is off!). The other thing I do is ask my husband to read it out loud to me. One of the best tips for checking your work–prose or verse–is to have someone read it aloud who is NOT used to reading aloud. This is a great way to hear how a future book buyer might read your work (and you might be surprised at how differently someone might read a sentence than how you hear it when you write it!).
And of course, I did multiple scans of my text, to make sure my rhythmic pattern was consistent. Because this book was so simple and intended for very young readers, I chose to keep a consistent meter. With longer picture books, I’ll often break the rhythm at an appropriate time, such as a pivot point in the story or where the action is disrupted. But with LOVE, that wasn’t necessary.
After about two months into working on the manuscript, I asked my writing group to review it for me. Their initial response was hugely positive. A couple of concerns were the title (too nonfiction-y sounding), and they guided me towards submitting it as a board book, not a picture book. Multiple people said it was “too thin” for a picture book, that the simplicity and “list” feeling of ways of affection seemed to read “board book” more than “picture book.” Did I mention how helpful writing groups can be? (or writing partners!)
I made a few small changes, including changing the title to Love Can Come in Many Ways. Then, I felt like it was ready to send out (I got the idea in January 2017 and it was now early April). I was super excited about the manuscript and had a good feeling about it. Now, it was a matter of hoping my agent would be as excited about it as much as I was.
Next post, I’ll talk about the submission process. Stay tuned!