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My brain only thinks in rhyme - help?

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Hi there,

Back in July I submitted a picture book text I wrote here on the blueboards and received great feedback. A lot of it, and what I have since read on the web, is the strong suggestion not to write picture books in rhyme.
There is also the big tip to go to the library and read recent published PBs to get inspiration. I have done that (although I live in the Netherlands so the english-language library book section is not that big). Often the books I like best are in rhyme and as I am trying to rework my book, my brain always always always thinks in rhyme.
Does anyone have tips on how to retrain a brain away from rhyming? Or resources that help? I have read a lot online about how (not) to write in rhyme...a lot focus on rhythm. And I admit that the reasoning against rhyme for translation purposes is an argument I can also relate to with living overseas. But I am struggling writing a non rhyming story.
Does anyone else have this experience and how did you go about successfully not rhyming?

Thanks for your tips and support!
-Chloe
#1 - October 08, 2018, 06:38 AM

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Don't fight it. Just learn to rhyme really well (which also means perfect that meter!). Do you have critique partners who are good at critiquing rhyme? Rhyming books do sell. They have to be good & the rhyme has to be good.
As for NOT writing in rhyme? I find some stories beg to be told in rhyme & some just do not. Don't make the story be something that it's not.  If you do want to expand your horizons & write in prose, I suggest making a point of reading many non-rhyming picture books as well. Notice how things are worded. Both methods take practice.

Some agents don't like rhyme - but mainly because if your story needs editorial help they don't have the rhyming expertise to help you.
I've read plenty of translated rhyming books - sometimes the rhymes are lost in translation but I don't think that's any reason not to write in rhyme.

edited to add: I don't think directly changing a ms from rhyme to prose necessarily works. It's better to take your plot points & start writing from scratch on a new page.
#2 - October 08, 2018, 09:11 AM
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 09:14 AM by marla-lesage »
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Chloe, the only way I know to train to do something is to do it repeatedly. You could try copying a few stories (either on paper or the computer) to let your hand learn the rhythm of a non-rhyming story and then emulate a style or structure that is pleasing to you. You can also try writing your rhyming story in prose. But as Marla says, serve the story.
#3 - October 08, 2018, 10:53 AM
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Great advice here. I agree with trying to write a new story in prose rather than trying to rewrite your current rhyming story in prose. Some stories come to me in rhyme and some don't. Both styles take lots of practice, so rather than giving up on rhyming, maybe work on perfecting both styles, depending on the story.
#4 - October 08, 2018, 12:03 PM
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I'm not a rhymer, so take it for what it's worth. But rhyming, when done right, is much loved in PBs. If your rhymes are true rhymes, the cadence is excellent, and the story does not have lines that are forced in the service of rhyming, you are one natural for writing Picture Books.
If you are advised not to, it's either because your rhymes aren't excellent. In case of generic advice, you are running into "rhymes don't translate well" and "there are too many." But when I look at newly published picture book texts, there are many MANY rhyming ones.

So with these caveates, I'd say work on perfecting your rhyming and the craft rather than fight it.  :clover
#5 - October 08, 2018, 01:29 PM
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I personally avoid rhyme as I speak a dialect of English (Australian) with a different vowel system from what's typically seen in US picture books. (AusE has slightly different stress patterns, too, which makes things even more complex!)

That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with rhyme so long as it's done well and the metre is spot-on. If you're looking to break away from rhyme, though, I think the suggestion to focus on metre and rhythm is a good one; you could also consider the use of other sound patterns like alliteration to help expand your repertoire.

I think that part of the appeal of rhyme is the sense of "completeness" it delivers. Perhaps you could test yourself by coming up with different ways of achieving that same feeling without the use of rhyme. Metre, repetition and circular narratives are just a couple off the top of my head. :)

Wishing you all the best!
#6 - October 08, 2018, 01:38 PM
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I agree with everybody to perfect both rhyme and non-rhyme.
By the way, I think poetry is the hardest form to master, so you are already way ahead of the game. Kids love stories in rhyme.
#7 - October 08, 2018, 05:34 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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I've taken rhyming stories I've written and re-written them in prose. It's a good exercise.
#8 - October 08, 2018, 05:54 PM
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You have great advice above. We have a Rhyme Primer in the SCBWI area: https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=72674.0. It talks about why rhyme is such a hard sell and points to some resources for writing it well.

That said, I bet you speak and write in prose most of the time. So maybe you could use those skills in your picture book texts. Imagine you're just chatting with a kid as a kid. How would a child say what your story needs said?

The others have mentioned having the format of the text meet the needs of the story. Think carefully about the rhythm you're using and why your text needs that rhythm. A bedtime story might have a gently rocking rhythm and rhyme because this encourages sleep. A humorous romp might focus on word play and need to rhyme, but it might not. Rhyme for a story reason, not a self reason.

Also, consider that some books contain a rhyming refrain, or unrhymed repetition,  or only one character who is narrated in rhyme. There can be some verse without being only verse. Most picture book texts have a rhythm to them or other elements of poetry to them. You can write out shorter texts and see how the rhythm flows without any rhyming. Classics work well for this.
#9 - October 08, 2018, 07:55 PM
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Hi everyone,

Thank you for the great and quick responses.

@marla-lesage i don't have a critique partner yet. so far I have been relying on the blueboards here, but I am hoping to join a crtique group of scbwi benelux soon. thank you for the advice not to fight it but perfect it. Love that.

@vijaya and @jayca - yes I have tried writing the current story in prose, and every couple lines or so I start to think in rhyme again. Its a book about running, so the tempo is kind of fast and upbeat which i think is why i keep deferring to that style. But I am going to keep practicing.

@217mom - yes so many books i love are in rhyme! and indeed I will work on perfecting the rhyme rather than scrapping it fully

@stephC - good point to try to work in other forms of writing style in prose.  thanks for the tip!

@debbie yes I will revisit the  rhyme primer again. I had looked at it before but it has been a while. Indeed working in other styles also would be a good exercise.

Thank you all for the great advice. My take aways are: practice practice practice and develop both styles to see which works best for each book. :)
#10 - October 09, 2018, 04:06 AM

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