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Being Realistic about Rhyme

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Hello!  I am new to pb writing, although I have been working on my ms for the last few years, on and off.  I am only interested in writing in rhyme, and have tried my best to avoid some of the major pitfalls of writing in rhyme.  Is there any chance that an editor would even look at the story, as I am an unpublished author?  I have no interest in writing the story in prose, and have not gotten to the point where I am ready to submit yet, although I feel like the story is close to complete.  I'm just curious what other people's perspective is on the chances of getting an honest look at it!

Thanks!
Colleen
#1 - September 24, 2015, 06:07 PM

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It's hard when you like to write in rhyme, but hear so many industry pros saying "don't". If you look at the shelves, you can see that plenty of rhyming stories get published every year, so they ARE saying 'yes' to somebody, and some of those books are by debut authors. It can happen, so don't give up hope!

Edited to add: You probably also need to recognize that you're making a difficult thing even harder because not only your story but your rhyme and meter have to be really really really really good. But it can be done!
#2 - September 24, 2015, 06:15 PM
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 06:17 PM by CarrieF »
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Sure. If you want to write in rhyme, then write in rhyme. Rhyming pb's get published all the time. But writing well in rhyme takes a lot of practice. Rhyming gets a bad rap because when new writers sub without doing their research (and taking the time to practice), the result can be really painful to read. Even more painful than bad prose. That being said, there ARE some editors who just don't feel comfortable working with rhyme. Either because they don't have enough knowledge about it or it simply isn't their cup of tea. You're just as likely to get rejected for bad prose. So I say, write what you like. But do your research!

Also, if you don't have any magazine credits for poetry, an editor might be more likely to have negative expectations.
#3 - September 24, 2015, 06:30 PM
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Diana, your response has just given me new ideas!  I am so focused on trying to get this one particular story published that I never even gave a thought to writing a poem for a magazine.  Do you have any suggestions as to a good magazine for an unpublished author to try to submit to?  I have loved writing poetry ever since I was a kid, but never really thought about going anywhere with it!
#4 - September 24, 2015, 06:35 PM

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If you want examples of books with stellar poetry and story arc, study Room on the Broom, the Gruffalo, and The Gruffalo's Child, all by Julia Donaldson. She is amazing.
#5 - September 24, 2015, 06:51 PM

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Highlights/High Five, Ladybug/Babybug, etc (Carus mags) are great, and publish poetry and rhyming stories. They are hard to break into. But if you love to write in rhyme, keep at it! There is a market for it, and always will be I think. Just keep working at it!
#6 - September 24, 2015, 07:32 PM
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There's nothing wrong with writing in rhyme (I do it all the time), but it needs to be perfect. That means perfect rhyme, perfect rhythm, and no indication that you sacrificed your story or word choices to fit the structure. It sounds like you've been working really hard on all of that.

I think agents and editors are discouraging about rhyming stories because it's a cliche that kids books are written in rhyme and because they see so many that could use a lot of work or stories that just don't need to be rhyming. But, as everyone says, rhymers are published every year, so somebody is selling them.

My first PB is a rhymer that got picked up out of the slush pile. I know another author whose rhymer landed her a publishing contract just from her first page at a conference. And I know a few authors who landed agents with rhymers (Diana is one of them...look at that beautiful cover!!)


edited for crazy typos


#7 - September 24, 2015, 09:30 PM
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 08:33 AM by jeanne k »
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I'm in agreement with everyone else. If you want to write in rhyme:

Put the STORY first.
Make sure you don't sacrifice meaning for a rhyme
Never force a rhyme, or use an inverted rhyme
Put the STORY first (Yup that's crucial)
Try to use rhymes that are fresh and unexpected
Make sure to read your ms out loud to make sure the rhythm and rhyme work well

Good luck!
#8 - September 25, 2015, 05:20 AM
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What they all said! I am NOT a natural poet ... in fact, it's the *hardest* thing to write well. But sometimes there's a flash of inspiration and then it takes me weeks or months or even years to get it just right. I've managed to sell a couple of poems to Highlights and Ladybug and my first trade book is in rhyme. One couplet was off, and my editor and I really worked on it to get it pitch perfect. Story has to come FIRST.

I think if you are studying the great poets and practicing, you will thrill children with your rhymes and stories. Some of my favorite stories are actually ballads and how I loved them as a child. Still do.

Good luck writing your stories, whether they rhyme or not.
Vijaya
#9 - September 25, 2015, 05:34 AM
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Thank you to everyone for your encouraging words.  It is very motivating to know that my story might have a chance.  Now for one last question: what is the sweet spot for the word count for a rhyming pb?
#10 - September 25, 2015, 06:33 AM

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Ummm, mine is really short. Less than a 100 words. I told you, I'm not a natural poet ... I would die if I had to write a ballad to save my life.
I think the sweet spot for PBs is 500 or fewer words, but again, write what the story demands.
Good luck, V.
#11 - September 25, 2015, 06:43 AM
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I'd say 300 words --for the sweet spot. The less the better...usually. There are always exceptions. Goodnight, Goodnight, Constructions Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker is just over 500 words. Blue on Blue by Diane White is only 124. Then there's Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty that's over 800 words! So...tell the story you need to tell and see where that takes you.
#12 - September 25, 2015, 06:52 AM
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I would say the sweet spot is definitely under 500 words. Young Henry is around 600 words (if memory serves), but it's a ballad, so I think it can be afforded some extra words.

My newest rhyming manuscript is 430 words. It's in 4-line stanzas and that word-count seems pretty good to tell this particular story.

If you find yourself going over 500 words, you should step back and ask yourself if you really need everything that's in there. Although, I guess we should all do that anyway, regardless of whether we are rhyming or even if we are under 500 words.

It's good that you're asking all these questions. I wish I had done more homework when I wrote my first epic of a rhyming PB manuscript.

#13 - September 25, 2015, 08:46 AM
Young Henry and the Dragon (2011, Shenanigan Books)

I agree -- under 500 words.

eab
#14 - September 25, 2015, 10:51 AM

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Here are the word counts for my last six rhyming pbs (which are also my first six):

THE SEVEN SEAS -- 500 words (without back matter)
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG -- 660 words
TOOLING AROUND -- 150 words (not counting the sidebars)
BEASTLY BABIES -- 300 words (just the verses)
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN -- 117 words (without sidebars and back matter)
PICKY EATERS -- 115 words

Eerdsmans
Shenanigan Press
Charlesbridge
Beach Lane Books
Beach Lane Books
Sterling

The first two books were published in 2011, the middle two are current, the last two will be published in a year or two. Note the decreased word count from 2011 to 2016.





#15 - September 25, 2015, 06:22 PM
« Last Edit: October 06, 2015, 02:14 PM by Betsy »
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PICKY EATERS
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG
BEASTLY BABIES
TOOLING AROUND

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Totally agree with everyone.  :exactly

My picture book Race Car Dreams is in rhyme and is 251 words.

And I am with you V. NOT a natural poet either. My first drafts are usually off A LOT and change quite a bit during revisions. It takes a lot of molding to get my rhyming stories where they need to be. Race Car Dreams took a year.

I admire those who can't do it so quickly and naturally. But I love writing in rhyme, so I am learning and growing and soaking up every bit of info I can on it.



#16 - September 25, 2015, 07:47 PM
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Thank you all so much for this information.  I am finding it very helpful.  I have been able to get my ms from about 800 words to about 550 with your comments as inspiration!

Now I am wondering how you know when you're done editing and when the ms is ready to submit.  I want to make sure it's the very best before I actually send it off, but I don't know how to tell when it is at that point.  Throughout the course of writing, I've had about 10 people from this website critique it, and I have revised as necessary.  The problem is I feel like I could continue having more people critique but there will always be something that they recommend revising.  How does the cycle stop?  How do I know when it's truly ready?

I have posted my story on the Online Critique section, if anyone is interested/willing to look at it.  It's called The Baseball Friends.

Thank you all so much!
Colleen
#17 - September 28, 2015, 10:54 AM

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When I find myself making changes, then changing the story back again, and when there are no "twinges" of doubt about any of the words, phrases or sentences in the story and my gut says, "This is as good as I can get it," then I know my story is ready. Learn to listen to yourself. You know when something in a story isn't 100% perfect.
#18 - September 28, 2015, 12:46 PM
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My first rhymer comes out next year. It's called Mary Had a Little Glam. It has 315 words.

btw...this is an excellent resource for people who like writing rhymers:

http://rhymeweaver.com/
#19 - September 28, 2015, 05:46 PM
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Thanks, Tammi! What a fantastic resource! :running


#20 - September 28, 2015, 06:53 PM
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Ditto, what Verla said, Colleen.

Tammi, that's a great resource! Thank you.

Vijaya

#21 - September 28, 2015, 06:55 PM
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My first rhymer comes out next year. It's called Mary Had a Little Glam. It has 315 words.

btw...this is an excellent resource for people who like writing rhymers:

http://rhymeweaver.com/

Yes! Awesome resource Tammi! I just tweeted this link during our #PBPARTY contest for those wanting to write in rhyme. And www.rhymezone.com is another.
#22 - September 28, 2015, 08:27 PM
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Thank you so much for that resource, Tammi!  I have a lot to learn!  😀
#23 - September 29, 2015, 05:56 AM

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You're welcome!  ::-)
#24 - September 29, 2015, 09:27 AM
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Some excellent advice here. I recently wrote a guest blog on how to rhyme right in picture books on Tracey M. Cox's blog that might be of help.

For reading others who do it right, to Julia Donaldson, I would add anything by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Ashman.

Of my own rhyming books, I'm proud of On a Windy Night (325 words), a Halloween book, because it took me sooo long (8 years!) to get it right. I first wrote it in not-so-good rhyme, then rewrote it in prose with rhyming refrain at an editor's suggestion. Though I wanted it in rhyme, that made me figure out exactly how the story needed to go and the words I would choose to use. Then--after my own emotional experience of fear in dark and unfamiliar woods--I was able to rewrite it in very good rhyme and a rhythm that picks up speed. And the editor I sold it to spurred me on to make it perfect.

My newest picture book, What in the World? Numbers in Nature, was called an "elegant rhymed counting book" by the New York Times Book Review and "gracefully simple" by Kirkus. It took me 8 years as well. Word count was 150.

It is hard, but you're going about it the right way, Colleen.
Nancy Raines Day


#25 - September 29, 2015, 12:40 PM
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 02:46 PM by nancy-day »
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What in the World? Numbers in Nature
Way Down Below Deep
A is for Alliguitar: Musical Alphabeasts
On a Windy Night

Just want to say THANK YOU to Jeanne for the compliment about my cover! :) (Long time no see, Jeanne.)

As for when a manuscript is ready, I think it's best to have input from a few trusted people. Other than that, you just have to feel it. But I do think you should be careful about subbing too soon. Things often seem clearer when you set a manuscript aside for a while.

I have sold 6 picture books so far and all of them are in rhyme. Well, one of them is partially in prose.

I think you should let your passion guide you!
#26 - September 30, 2015, 07:57 PM
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Just added rhymeweaver to our own rhyme primer which can be found here: https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=76959.0

It contains lots of other resources too.
#27 - October 05, 2015, 09:12 PM
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