That is, to quote Hamlet, the question!
Many picture book writers gravitate toward rhyme.
But you may have heard that publishers and readers don’t like it and wondered, is this actually true? Why on earth wouldn’t a publisher want my children’s book in rhyme?
The answer is that publishers and readers like good rhyme; rhyme that is tight, and rhythmic and adds to the story rather than detracting from it. There’s more to it than simply making sure the end of each line rhymes, and bad rhyme? When it’s bad, it’s really hard to focus on the story that lies beneath.
But when rhyme is good it sparkles on the page and off, it stays with a reader long after the story’s over, and it’s often created a little bit of a (hopefully plesant!) earworm.
We work with many authors who prefer to craft their tales in rhyme, and there are some common mistakes we come across:
- Choosing rhyme over story – this is the number one issue we come across. Is your rhyme chosen at the expense of story? A good story is the key to the longevity of your book. The rhyming is secondary – so ask, do your rhymes make sense? If a reader has to change the way they naturally speak in any way, or if you have to introduce something that makes no story sense just to meet a rhyme, then that is a rhyme that’s made at the expense of story.
- Predictable rhymes – if a reader can guess the rhyming word too easily, try something fresh, less-expected. Keep a reader on their toes.
- Not reading the work aloud – read your work aloud and often. Picture books follow a long oral tradition, and what works on paper often sounds different when read aloud. Get kids of reading age involved! Listen to where people trip over a rhyme and make notes. It’s a surprisingly revealing exercise!
- Lack of attention to meter – meter or rhythm is the beats in your poem, and it matters way more than the rhyming does. Grabbing a reading age kid again is handy, as having other people read your work back to you is crucial. Does it have a consistent pattern that gets stuck in the mind? Count the stressed syllables, and create something musical. That’s what will have youir book picked up again and again.
Ready to make your rhyme sparkle? Book in for a Manuscript Appraisal and we will help to you polish up your skills, and make your rhyming picture book shine.