My client Patty thinks writing a rhyming picture book is a piece of cake. She's not alone—many people feel the same way. But it's much harder than it looks. The rhymes and meter should flow like a gentle river. On top of that, a rhyming book, like all children's books should have some tension and a steady pace so the story moves along effortlessly.
Patty had composed 30 couplets to tell the story. When I read her work, I found a few places where the story dragged. Some stanzas needed to be removed to improve the pace or flow of the story. It was important to cut unnecessary lines that didn't advance the plot.
Next, I began to concentrate on the meter (or beats). Throughout the piece the meter was uneven. This is kind of like clapping out of time to a song.
For example, one line may have had ten beats (or stressed syllables) and the following line may have had eight. That's a problem. The rhythm was off. The couplets needed to have the same number of syllables or the story would not sound smooth when read out loud.
Once the meter was adjusted, I focused on the rhyme at the end of each couplet. Rhyme has to be spot on, no cheating. For instance, day and stage is not a true rhyme, but day and say would work. Using a website like Rhymezone can help writers find better rhyming choices.
Then after improving the meter and the rhyming, I read the piece again to see if there was enough tension. In Patty's story, the main character had a problem, but she solved the problem too easily. Patty needed to make it more difficult for the character to reach her goal. So, with this story a stanza or two had to be created to bring about more tension.
As you can see with this example, meter, rhyme, tension, and flow are important factors to consider when writing a rhyming picture book.
If you are interested in writing a rhyming story, here are some more things to keep in mind:
- Know that when you query a rhyming picture books, agents may be less likely to accept it. Agents are leery of rhyming books and they are on the lookout for forced rhyme that does not advance the plot.
- Read other rhyming picture books to see how to achieve perfect rhyme. Learn from other writers how they managed to pull off rhyme.
- Find another trusted to person to read your work. Get their thoughts and revise accordingly.
- Read your work aloud. If you find places where you stumble on a word or the rhythm is choppy, it's time to rethink those phrases. When you read the story out loud, it should flow effortlessly, as smoothly as a gentle river.
A lot of people think it's easy to get a picture book published. But the truth is, writing for kids is tough. Writing a rhyming picture book is even tougher. But if you can perfect the meter and rhyme and create enough tension and flow, you will have the essentials for writing a rhyming children's book.
✌ and ♥
Here is an excellent article on writing rhyming books for kids: