First off, almost all of my picture books start out rhyming. I don't know why. I just like them that way LOL They don't always stay rhyming, but if they do, this is how I swing things.
1. I need an idea. I get most of these from watching my kids. But other things inspire me too. For this particular project, Lisa had the outline and a couple pictures and she asked me to write the manuscript. I was thrilled to agree :D
2. I sit down and write. Sometimes by hand, sometimes by key :D I'm not very structured when it comes to picture books. But for this one, since Lisa already had the outline, I tried to be very organized. I numbered all of the images we discussed and tried to write a line or two for each. I had a very difficult time. I finally just read through the outline, sat down, and wrote, referring back to it every now and then when needed. And I was able to finish. Lesson learned. When it comes to picture books I am anti-organized :D
3. Revision time. I go through and clean up the rhymes, the repeats, and anything else that needs to go (or get added). I send it to my sister and another crit partner or two and I read it to my kids and get their input.
4. Once I have a fairly clean manuscript, the real work begins. It's time to clean up the rhythm and meter. Rhyming picture books are a hard sell. They have to be as perfect as possible. So...I print it out and mark it up. I count the syllables in each stanza and line. It looks like this:
Then I mark the stressed and unstressed syllables. And then I change words and lines so it matches up as perfectly as possible with the meter I want to use. I do try to stick to the form I've chosen as closely as possible while writing, but I make mistakes, and sometimes I just use a filler word or two so I can move on. When revision time rolls around, I take a notebook and keep track of the syllable stress patterns while I read/rewrite. It ends up looking like this:
And when I'm done, I have a rhyming picture book with a nice flowing rhythm and meter as perfect as I can get it. :D
Does anyone else out there write rhyming books or poetry? What is your process?