Two things happened recently, that have greatly altered the course of this little writing journey I’m on. First, I watched a fantastic webinar on ‘How to Be a Better Critique Partner’ given by Heather Alexander. I learned a great deal, and I’m still unpacking much of what she said, but one part resonated with me (and it actually had nothing to do with critiquing). During her presentation, she made a comparison between that the revision process and a home renovation. She made it clear, not the kind of remodel that involves slapping on a coat of paint and changing the light fixtures; what she was referring to was ‘knocking down walls kind of stuff’. I’m a very visual person, and I appreciated the analogy, I even went so far as to write her words in large print on the bottom of my notes page. But kids got home, life moved on, I slept and somehow lost track of it.
Fast forward a couple of days, and I received feedback from someone who graciously agreed to beta read for me. I could’ve pinched myself when she agreed to do so. She’s previously published (with more picture books on the way) and comes from a similar background (healthcare turned writer) with much more experience. I heard back from her sooner than I expected, and her feedback was all too familiar. For the third time now, someone with industry experience told me, “Drop the Rhyme.” All three times it was said with much more tact, but I like to cut through the fluff when possible. Three different times, each one separated by months and miles, but the advice didn’t change and this time I heard it. If I can be honest, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.
I am terrified at the thought of not writing in rhyme. It’s all I know. In my family, rhyming is my ‘thing’. Just ask my parents to see old Anniversary cards or Christmas picture books, and you’ll see that my history of rhyming goes back a long way. Heck, I won a poetry contest in the eighth grade… I RHYME…IT’S WHAT I DO. I know I’ve talked about writing versions of my story that don’t rhyme, and I promise I did. I just I never did so with the intention of putting all my eggs in that basket. I don’t know if I’m even any good. But I believe, with every ounce of my ‘wanna-be’ writer self, that fear should never be the reason to hit the brakes. At least not in situations like this. Sure, it feels foreign, a little scary and like I’m starting from scratch, but the boy at the center of my story deserves for me to try. (As an aside, I recently read “… if you write, then you are a writer” so I’m trying to settle in with the title.)
I think I’m starting to understand what Heather was talking about now. Not that I hadn’t done major revisions before, because some those had been painful, but this is taking “kill your darlings’ to a whole new level. (For my non-writer friends, don’t panic… the ‘darlings’ in this case are words, favorite words even, that need to be cut from a story. William Faulkner said it, so you know its good advice.) One of the first things I did was go back to my main character and ask for his help. He did not disappoint. What he did do, however, is throw the entire sequence of my stories about him in a tailspin. I have three stories written about this boy and they landed in different pieces and different places than I had ever previously considered. I think he may be on to something, but to get there will take a few more swings with a sledgehammer. Words are starting to flow, but I’m not taking off my hard hat yet.
Sure I loved my ‘house’ before the renovation, it was filled with first words and early lessons, but I can already see I’m going to like the changes. It’ll make a mess in the process, but I feel energized and I’m eager to see where this takes me. So here I go, in the middle of a self-induced rhyming fast (library books included) and venturing into foreign lands. I’m also halfway through the Picture Book Page Turns webinar (kidlitcollege.org), I think I’ll be making a dummy with my WIP this week. I’ll share what I learn soon. Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!