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New PB Ideas That Start Off Rhyming

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This is an odd question, and I wasn't sure how to word it or look to see if anyone had asked it before.

In any case, for the picture book authors here, what do you do when you get bitten by the new PB bug only to find every word you put down insists on being a rhyme?

Let me explain. I realize rhyme isn't forbidden, but it's very hard to do well. I do have experience writing poetry (rhyme and non-rhyme) and have attended quite a few readings, but I'm trying real hard not to rhyme in my early picture books.

Most of them are at the idea/planning stage right now, but when I go to start the lines of text, about 50% of the time, they come out in rhyme and verse.

That said, when you're struck by an idea that wants to rhyme, do you just go along with it, or do you try to write the book in non-rhyme first to see if it would work better?

I have a number of sites bookmarked to help with the meter and rhyme if that's what I decide to do, but for me and where I am so early in my career, I'm doing my best to avoid rhymes.

I actually have 2-3 versions of all my ideas going at any time until one either hooks me better than the others or until a draft is done.

Does anyone else do this (write the story a variety of ways to see which would read better)? I don't mean during revisions as that's a given, but when you're drafting, do you stick with just the one rough draft or do you try a few?

Thanks so much. Sorry for the strange question.
#1 - August 19, 2014, 01:05 PM

I say go ahead and rhyme it, see if it works. Then look at it later, to see if it still works. My original story Crypt Song started out this way, then I revised it to be more flash fiction like.
#2 - August 19, 2014, 03:50 PM
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Please don't apologize, Kali. It's a really *good* question. And a really interesting question, too.

I've written both prose and rhymers and find - for me - that the story tells me how it wants to be told. In the draft phase, being in the rhyme-groove is being an unstoppable freight train. I truly cannot change gears.

Twice, though, I've later switched rhymers to prose. Once, the story begged for it. (Imagine the words, "No, no, no - and I'm not trying to rhyme here!" being screamed off the page!) The other time, an editor asked me to resubmit the manuscript as prose. Initially, I was very resistant but ended up doing so and now like it equally both ways for different reasons. (Aside: she liked the prose better than the rhyme, but ultimately rejected it.)

I think you're really clever to do your 2-3 versions! What an exercise! But I hope you won't avoid rhymes altogether, even if they appear in a prose piece. The reader in me (especially the reader with three cherubs snuggled close) loves those little rhyming surprises.

Thanks for bringing this up, Kali. I'm really eager to hear what others say!!


#3 - August 19, 2014, 03:53 PM

Thank you both for your replies. I'm like you, Carrots. I grew up with rhyming books and I love them to pieces. I just understand how hard they are to do well and why agents (as well as editors) are a bit hesitant when it comes to accepting them.

I know I can write rhyme and possibly do a good job with it, but I don't want to fall into the habit, you know? It's almost like once I start rhyming, I can't not do it. Same with reading picture books. If I read a rhyming book and then try to read one that's prose, I tend to trip over the words a bit as my mind is still expecting those rhyming connections.

My brain is a very strange place to be sometimes  :)
#4 - August 19, 2014, 05:39 PM

It's all about what Carrot said. It's how the story wants to get told.

I had worked on meter for so long (so, so long) that I wasn't sure I had prose in me anymore. One day, a story unraveled in my head--non-rhyme. I danced. I wrote. They kept coming. I danced more.

Then I began missing rhyme.

And so it goes. Back and forth. I do what the muse wants.

#5 - August 23, 2014, 07:24 AM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

Sounds about right to me. A constant tug of war. Good thing I enjoy writing both. I just want to avoid making a habit of one over the other.
#6 - August 23, 2014, 12:35 PM

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I love writing in rhyme and sometimes, I believe, I must think in rhyme. Sounds weird, I know. But, the beats, the rests, the words, somehow all come together in rhymes some days, whether I'm writing or not. It's music and I love it and wish there were more current books being published in rhyme.
#7 - August 23, 2014, 07:29 PM

Here, here, lab!

I do the same. And when I browse books, I try to find the ones in rhyme first. A good rhyme with solid meter just adds to the fun!

#8 - August 24, 2014, 04:36 AM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

I'm haunted by rhyming PB ideas currently. Thing is, I still don't quite understand meter (I'm not sure if what I see as a hard beat would be the same for others). I admit, I'm mostly counting syllables and making sure things flow (which I suppose is good practice).

Is there an easier way to identify meter/beats?
#9 - August 28, 2014, 11:45 AM

There's sources out there, but try Lane, who's very helpful, tries to lay things out visually.

The other one, which Joseph recommended, is...nuts, can't think of the name. I'll come back.

Counting syllables definitely helps to start you off.
#10 - August 28, 2014, 11:57 AM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

I actually have Rhymeweaver bookmarked. Wonderful resource. I'm just a tad slow when it comes to understanding it. Good thing this is just a first draft.
#11 - August 28, 2014, 04:16 PM

Found it, but.... throws you right into Lane's site, RhymeWeaver. (She reviewed a couple of mine almost two years ago, but I haven't been on the site since she expanded to review a rhyming PB each month. Nice. Time to visit again.)

There's a, though my security flashes a warning, so I haven't visited.

I have yet to find a site that addresses my deafness to meter, but RhymeWeaver was a good start.
#12 - August 28, 2014, 04:52 PM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

I don't blame you for avoiding the other site. I doubt it's as complete as Rhymeweaver anyway. I'll just keep reading up on meter and, perhaps one day, it will click.

I really do enjoy rhyme, as I was a poet before I started writing fiction years ago. But for me, being a poet is nothing like writing a PB, so I'm making myself scrap what I thought I knew and work on rhyme and meter as intended instead.
#13 - August 29, 2014, 04:43 AM

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  • SCBWI Region longislandny is a tutorial in which you can figure out the meter of a poem. Click on the part above the sample poem to go from easiest to hardest. It may help you to hear meter in your own work if you focus on it in other pieces first.
#14 - September 02, 2014, 08:03 AM
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Thanks so much.
#15 - September 02, 2014, 05:49 PM

When in doubt, write it both ways (verse and prose). If you have rhyming in your bones, don't try to fight it. :) Good luck!
#16 - September 30, 2014, 07:56 PM


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