Monday, July 30, 2012

RULES or no rules of RHYME

This is what rhyme is to me.  This is my gripe session.  So please bear with me.  I hope I'm not the only one not getting it.

I’ve been told that editors seldom accept rhyming books unless it is well written.  Rhyming picture books must have a story with perfect rhythm and rhyme.  I always thought I was pretty good with rhyme, but the edits I get from my critique group tell me otherwise.  So, I avoid writing in rhyme because the term "perfect" intimidates me.  

I've read a few articles on how to write in rhyme.  I also embraced the suggestions I get from my critique group.  I even studied numerous rhyming picture books.  But after much researching, it still left me dumbfounded.  

Here is an example of a verse I read in a picture book.   I found quite a few words that were near rhymes, not perfect rhymes:

Baby's got some brand new shoes,
white as light, stripe of blue...

Baby likes to run so fast,
spin in circles on the grass.
After all those jumps and hops...
...sees what has green polka dots.

Shoe and blue rhyme, but not shoes and blue. Fast and grass, hops and dots are not perfect rhymes. I’ve been criticized for using these types of rhymes in my writing. But apparently in some cases, it is okay.

I've been told to count the beats (the stresses) and syllables in each measure.  There should be a pattern throughout the book. 

But I don't always find this to be true...or maybe it is and I am reading the passage the wrong way.  The tricky thing about rhyme is everyone reads differently and may place emphasis in different places of a word.  
I've also been criticized for not having equal amount of syllables per line throughout my story.  I honestly don't think it is necessary to have equal amount of syllables per line.  Is it?  I don't see it consistently in picture books.  The important thing are the number of beats per measure.  

Another rule of rhyme is to avoid the rearrangement of words to accommodate the rhyme.  You shouldn't use a word just for rhyme sake.  This often ends up in a speech that's unnatural.  Fortunately, I didn't see much of this in the books I've studied.  

So what does this tell me?
a)     Sometimes rules are meant to be broken
b)     If you are a well-known author or a previously published author, it’s okay
c)     If you write a really good story, sometimes other technical elements can slide
d)    I still don't understanding how to write in rhyme

Do you know of a great book or website that will teach me how to write great rhyme?  Please share them with me.    Here are a few resources I found helpful:

Writing Stories in Rhythm and Rhyme, by Dori Chaconas

The Meter Maids by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Debbie Diesen, Guest blogger, on Julie Hedlund's Write Up my Life

Rhymes and Misdemeanors by Hope Vestergaard

Be sure to check back.  In my next debut picture book author interview, I have New York Time's #1 Bestseller, Sherri Duskey Rinker of GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGIHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE!  Discover how this debut author made it to #1...


  1. Romelle, I absolutely share your puzzlement and your reserch coincides with my own findings on the subject. Some time ago, I decided not to bother looking for answers any more (after so many years) and I give the same advice to others: It DOESN'T make sense, there are NO universal rules and you WON'T crack the code of something pretty much entirely subjective. So don't sweat it, Rhymers!

    Looking forward to that debut bestselling author's interview to find out how she did it. Maybe that'll give us more insight...
    Thanks, Rosie

    1. Thanks, Rosie! You are right. It will only discourage me. I feel better. Remember what you wrote in my comments here when reading the next interview. It will make you chuckle.

  2. This is technical, but I've glimpsed some insight from it in the past. HTH!

    1. This is good! Yes, it is technical, but maybe it'll shed some light. Thanks so much for sharing, cathy!

  3. I agree there are many bad rhymes out there. Since I don't know what I'm doing, I thought the advice from my critique group was reasonable: until you get really good at rhyme, follow the rules deliberately. If you find the rules delivered a boring rhyme, then it's time to break a few.

    1. Yes, I agree. Follow the advice of others and control the rebel in me.

  4. I love writing in rhyme. I've gotten a lot better. When I look at rhyme that I wrote a long time ago, I cringe. Against the advice of not submitting in rhyme, I've written several rhyming PBs and submitted them. Of course, I've gotten no acceptances, but I don't think it is because the rhyme is not good. We have to concentrate on the story and make it one the publisher really wants. I go to rhymezone a lot. I use that site for all my writing - it gives you not only rhyming choices, but alternate word choices, definitions,antonyms etc. I find the site very useful.

  5. Nice of you to stop by, Janet. Yes, I've been using rhymezone too. Very helpful. You make an excellent point: "We have to concentrate on the story and make it one the publisher really wants." Amen to that!



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