We all love rhyming picture books, but we hear everywhere that no one wants to publish them. Is that really true?
Years ago I heard an editor speak at a conference and clearly say, “Please don’t send me anything that rhymes.” And then when I had a consultation with him and he asked me to send him a rhyming piece of mine that he had skimmed through, I asked him what was up.
He said, “Oh, we don’t really mean that we don’t want anything that rhymes. We just say that because we don’t want any more bad rhyme, and that’s mostly what we get!”
There’s a lot written on rhyming. I’m not one of those who marks out the meter with accents (though you must be aware of rhythm if you’re rhyming) or who keeps long lists of rhyming words (but I do consult such lists when I’m really set on a certain word that appears to not rhyme with anything), but I do have some hints to help your manuscript not fall into that “bad rhyme” category…
1. Make sure every line adds to the story. Do not put in empty calories just because they rhyme.
2. Think about how you would say each line if it were plain old conversation. Where would the stressed syllables fall then? If you’re “cheating” a little to make it sound rhythmic when you read it, it’s not going to cut the mustard.
3. No forced rhymes or wonky wording. You know the ones. The lines where the words would never be in that order unless the writer was trying to rhyme. It’s not quaint. Editors will stop reading.
4. No near rhymes. Around does not rhyme with down. No exceptions. Okay, you might get something past an editor who is not a “rhymer,” but do you want to?
5. Write in rhyme only if the story demands it. Most of my manuscripts are not in rhyme. Yes, it’s true that most of my published books are in rhyme, but they do kind of call for it. Check them out!
Hang in there. Keep playing with the words. Give yourself a break and call the next rhyming piece you begin a practice one. Play away! I’ll be cheering you on…