Thursday, August 1, 2019
Want to Self-Publish a Rhyming Children’s Book? Read This First
As a children's ghostwriter I deal with lots of new ‘authors.’ One scenario I come across now and then is when someone sends me a story with rhyme in it. And, it seems lately I'm getting more clients who try to rhyme their drafts.
When this happens, it’s never done right and it’s my job to guide these authors.
I recently received two such manuscripts. One had rhyming here and there throughout the story. The other rhymed every other line.
Unfortunately, some of the rhyming words were forced. What this means is to make two words rhyme, the sentence is put together awkwardly (unnaturally) or one of the rhyming words is used unnaturally just to make it rhyme.
Two examples of awkward rhyme is:
Whenever I go to the park,
I run around and sing like a lark.
The forced rhyme below is from The Turtles’ “Happy Together” (1967):
"So happy together. And how is the weather?"
Notice the unnatural way these sentences sound. They don’t make sense. It’s easy to see that they’re put together simply to rhyme the last two words. This causes the reader to pause. Pausing is never a good thing, especially in children’s books.
Along with causing the young reader to pause, 'bad' rhyme can even cause confusion
When a child gets the rhyme hook, she will be anticipating that rhythm and pattern throughout the story. At the first spot when it’s not there, you’ve caused a PAUSE. And, if you’ve got rhyme awkwardly here and there, you’ve lost the focus of the story. You’ve lost the message you were trying to convey.
You never-ever want to cause a pause or confusion in a story, especially a children’s story.
But, what if you REALLY want to rhyme?
Below is a slightly more natural way to do this:
Now it’s time to close your eyes my dear. (8 syllables)
Beside you lies your favorite bear. (8 syllables if you if you say favorite as fav-rit)
(Taken from “Days End Lullaby.”)
Keep in mind that even this verse has its problems. For one thing, ‘favorite’ is used with two syllables in that verse: fav rit. Technically, ‘favorite’ has three syllables: fav or ite.
So, you can see that while getting two words to rhyme isn’t that difficult, there’s lots more involved in rhyming ‘right.’
The bare-bottom elements of children’s rhyme:
• Each sentence needs to be relevant to the story and move the story forward.
• There needs to be a continuing rhythm or beat to the sentences. This has to do with the stressed and unstressed syllables of each word used.
• There needs to be a pattern throughout the story.
• It should be written without forcing words – without using unnatural sounding sentences or unnatural meanings.
• And, it should all be wrapped up in a great story.
Taking all this into account, if you’re thinking of writing a rhyming children’s book, read lots and lots of traditionally published rhyming books. And, read those from the major publishers. Analyze how they’re written. Break them down.
You might even take an offline or online course on rhyming for children.
You can also check out Dori Chaconas’ website. She has an example of a syllable template you can use. Find it at: Icing the Cake (it’s at the bottom of the page).
Rhyming can be fun and kids LOVE it, but please take care to do it right.
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.
And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.
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