Monday, June 12, 2017

How to Write a Lyrical Picture Book: A Self Study by Tina Cho

Last year I wrote a picture book manuscript about an event I took part of. This manuscript eventually snagged my agent last December. To revise it, she suggested making it lyrical and dreamy. Sounded good to me. But how does one make a manuscript lyrical and dreamy? In this post, I share my hunt for writing a lyrical picture book. Maybe this will help you in your quest as well. 


Merriam Webster defines lyrical as "a lyric poem" or "the words of a song." To me, a lyrical picture book is one that is poetic. I find these kinds of picture books being rich in beautiful words. But the kid in me in the past found them boring. And I am no poet.


I searched my library collection and found a mentor text titled Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang, published by Disney Hyperion, 2013.


 The first page reads:
I love to fly kites. But not from the ground. My city is crowded, and the streets are skinny. Baba and I fly our kites from the tippy-top of our triangle roof. We are above but still under, neither here nor there. We are free, like the kites.

I noticed the beautiful language and the comparison of themselves with kites.


Then I googled how to write a lyrical picture book. Some good blogs posts surfaced which led me in my hunt for how to write lyrically. I want to share them with you.

Who better to start with than--Jane Yolen?! Emma Walton Hamilton wrote a post titled "Jane Yolen's Ten Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know." The first word on the list is lyricism. Emma elaborates here.

My critique partner, Laura Sassi, featured a post written by author Dianna Murray on lyrical picture books. Dianna describes qualities of lyrical picture books and has written one herself. Check this post: "Examining Lyrical Picture Books with Dianna Murray."

One of the best places to find mentor texts is at ReFoReMo. (Reading for Research Month) There is a list of picture books for many types of writing. March 15, 2017, aired "Linda Vander Heyden Sheds Light on the Lyrical Side." She listed five mentor texts for lyrical picture books. Excellent!

What I've noticed is that lyrical picture books employ all poetic devices such as similes, metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia, and more. Author Rob Sanders wrote a post on "Poetic Prose in Picture Books," and listed more mentor texts.

Some other links I discovered:
"Studying Lyrical Language for Prose" by Renee La Tulippe on Marcie Atkins' blog. This post addresses lyrical language in MG novels.

Lyrical Picture Book Endings by Michelle Markel 

Many of these links had one thing in common: Jane Yolen's Owl Moon. I don't own this, and so I listened to it on You Tube and wrote down ALL the words and studied it. I learned that it was written in free verse with illustrative, descriptive words, some repetition, with a refrain, lots of emotion, alliteration, simile, metaphor, and written in first person point of view.

Lastly, I got out Ann Whitford Paul's book, Writing Picture Books. Chapter 14 "Making Music with Your Prose" not only talks about poetic devices, but it talks about the sounds of letters and how certain sounds are more apt for lyrical picture books. I examined my picture book draft and highlighted sounds that needed to be softened and changed. If you haven't read this chapter for a while, get it out and reread it! 

After I gave myself a Lyrical Writing 101, I rewrote my picture book draft adding poetic devices and lyrical sounds. I sent it to my critique groups several times, bless their hearts for putting up with me! Lo and behold, I added too much figurative language, go figure. That has been fixed, and my manuscript is as good as gold. (had to add a simile) There is a happy ending for this manuscript which will be shared in due time. Meanwhile, I wait with silent lips.


I hope you found something in this long post that will help you as your revise your WIPs. 
If you have other advice, do share in the comments! Thank you!



52 comments:

  1. You have given us so many wonderful resources in this post, Teresa.TY and all the best on that secret. I know it's good.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy, and also for posting it in social media.

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  2. Thank you, Tina, for sharing your journey with us. The resources are great and will provide guidance for many of us who seek to write that lyrical story. I have a feeling "Congrats" will be forthcoming when your secret is shared.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. Best wishes on your writing.

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  3. This is a virtual buffet of beautiful language tips. Thanks, Tina. We will all benefit from this post. Best to you on your writing journey.

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    1. Ooo, I like that metaphor, Sherri! virtual buffet
      Thank you!

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    2. See,Tina, already your post has helped me think lyrically!!

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  4. Perfect post to bookmark! Thank you for sharing all the amazing resources that you discovered. Looking forward to learning the happy ending!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy. I'll have to bookmark it for myself, too, for the next time I try to write lyrically.

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  5. Thank you so much for the post. I used Jane Yolen's book, Owl Moon, as a reference when I wrote a lyrical picture book. As you stated above, I used poetic devices such as similes, metaphors, personification, repetition, and more in writing it. I love my manuscript, but it seems to be going nowhere (though, I admit, the only place I have submitted it is in contests). I will check out all the links you listed above for help, work on it some more and start sending it to publishers. Congratulations and good luck with your manuscript!

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    1. Have you tried submitting to your critique groups, Janet? Mine have been invaluable.

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    2. Yes, a number of times. I've written it quite a few different ways, but always left the lyrical part in it. I will keep working on it. I don't give up easily.

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  6. Great post, Tina - and wonderful links.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! Have a good writing week.

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  7. Great post, Tina!! Can't wait to see this in the book store! :-)

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    1. Thanks for all your help, Mary Kay.

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  8. Great post with lots of excellent resources gathered! This is one I'll save! Thanks.

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    1. Ah, thanks, Sherry! Glad it's helpful.

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  9. Thanks for sharing these resources. I appreciate the time you took to gather this information. I wish you every continued success with all of your endeavors.

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  10. Great post! Do you think that a manuscript can be both lyrical and humorous?

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    1. Perhaps. I don't know if I've seen a book like that though. You could ask in Facebook groups.

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  11. Wonderful post and examples. Thanks. Off to re-read Ann's chapter. :-)

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  12. Amazing post. Thank you for all of this great information.

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  13. Great resources. Jane Yolen is the master of lyricism. I love her Welcome to the Ice House series. (Welcome to the Prairie, Welcome to the Desert, etc.) Those are super lyrical and poetic. Another favorite is Red Sings From Treetops by Joyce Sidman. LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!!

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    1. Yes, I agree. I haven't read all of Jane's books. I do know of Red Sings... Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Tina, Wonderful post! I look forward to hearing your good news.

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  15. Thanks for sharing part of your journey, Tina. Lyrical writing is near and dear to my heart. I am always looking for mentor texts and new, creative ways of expression.
    Trine Grillo

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    1. Thank you, Trine. Yes, you write beautifully, too.

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  16. Great post, Tina! Thank you for sharing this information.
    Have a wonderful, restful, and creative summer.

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  17. Very informative post Tina. Thank you so much for the links.

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  18. Thanks for sharing what you learned!! Writing in rhyme is a tricky business but I wouldn't have it any other way ❤

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    1. You're welcome. That's neat you can write in rhyme. Not me.

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  19. Thanks for all the tips, Tina, and YAY for the happy ending! Can't wait to hear more details.

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  20. Wonderful post, Tina! And thanks for including CITY SHAPES. :)

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    1. You're welcome! I love your post.

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  21. Congratulations on your happy ending and lovely post😊

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  22. Tina--
    Not only lovely, but a through post (as you always are) on the matter of lyrical writing.

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    1. Thanks, Mirka, for all your help.

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  23. Hi Tina, this is a wonderful post for me to return to after my vacation (just as you are leaving for your trip to the US--happy trails to you). Lots of great info here; looking forward to hearing about your good news and your trip.

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  24. Thank you, Tina, for a lovely lyrical post that sings. The many resources are appreciated.

    May your writing journey continue be successful.
    ~Suzy

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