The reality of rhyme…

You know the feeling right before you have a confession to make… the heaviness of the air around you, the quickening of your heartbeat, butterflies going crazy inside?  That’s me, right at this very moment.  It’s not that what I have to share is that big of a secret, in fact, most people who know me, already know this to be true.  But I’ve never said it here, in this context.  No need to put it off any longer…deep breath, here goes… I love to write in rhyme.  Whew!  That felt so good I think I’ll say it again.  I love writing in rhyme and I really love reading stories that rhyme to my children.  I know this isn’t the industry standard at the moment, but at my home it’s an undeniable fact.  My children LOVE rhyming stories.  They enjoy listening to the sing-song cadence and are filled with excitement when they are able to recall the rhyming words on their own.  I know this is taboo because so much of what I read hammers down the point that publishing houses are not looking for rhymes.  In fact, there are agents that won’t even accept a query from an author if the story is written in rhyme.  In case you were wondering, my first story… the one that all my hopes and dreams rest on right now ABSOLUTELY rhymes.  This is a testament to how much I did NOT know at the beginning of this process, and also (hopefully) what I have learned in the process.

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of each word in a story that’s composed of only a few hundred.  Each and every word in a children’s book must do its job well.  This is a fact that’s only made infinitely more complicated when those words must rhyme.  Let’s talk for a minute about rhyming words… cat and sat, wall and ball, me and see? Easy, right? WRONG, and wrong for a few very good reasons.  One of the topics I find myself drawn to reading about is ‘common mistakes that aspiring authors make’.  Whether from the perspective of an agent, an editor, and a publishing house, many of the mistakes mentioned are the same.  One of the first things is always that writers have a tendency to not give children enough credit.  The audience for my (hopeful) books may be young, but they are wise.  They deserve great stories written with excellent words.  It can be offensive to a young reader, for an author to assume he/she can ‘wall and ball’ their way through a story, without an awareness of how much children are capable of understanding.  I know this much, if you’re going to rhyme, it must be done well.

Another struggle is I come across is to avoid writing for the sake of the rhyme.  I recently read a blog on this very topic, which helped me to start asking myself, “Am I rhyming WITH the perfect word or am I rhyming BECAUSE I have my heart set on a word and I’m trying to fit it in?”  ‘With’ usually makes for a seamless story experience, whereas ‘Because’ always feels forced, no matter how cute it might be.  The rhyming words must fit flawlessly into the context of the story.  As a general rule, a book must be able to be read naturally, with normal word order and sentence structure even with the presence of rhyme.  I can’t end a sentence of my story with the words ‘journeyed afar’, when the line before ends with the words ‘cookie jar’, because I need something to rhyme. (That may be a bad example, but you get the gist… I hope).  For the record, I’m not completely committed to writing in rhyme.  In fact, this blog is an active exercise at stretching other writing muscles.  And, I have written my current WIP in prose. It’s still a delightful little story, I still love my character and the journey he takes, but something about it feels lacking. So I’m sticking with the rhyme on this one.  If you need me, I’ll be swimming up the publishing stream, using my manuscript as a life raft. I did make a promise to myself that I will re-write the rest of my projects into prose also,  Who knows what I may find in the process.  I hope that before I make it too far down my list, however, I’ll get a publishing credit or two under my belt.

(As a footnote, I recently read Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell and I LOVED IT. It’s filled with great words and great rhymes.  It fit so well with the theme of the last two posts that I just I had to share)

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime,

-JP

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