Here’s the skinny on writing rhyme–rhyming readers and picture books are hard to sell.
(On page 10 in Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks, you’ll learn that “ABC” texts are also hard to sell.)
Some guidelines for publishers and literary agencies in Writer’s Market and Markets for Children’s Writers specify they do not want rhyming texts. This is because editors and agents receive many poorly done submissions in rhyme. Shirley Raye and Jennifer have more than 30 books on the market, but each of them has sold only one rhyming text (The Princesses’ Lucky Day and There Goes Turtle’s Hat, which were released by Picture Window Books).
Prose can be lyrical, and you can create rhythm without rhyme. You can certainly use prose to instill the magical ingredients of heart and kid appeal. You can use repetition, alliteration, and patterns—like the common pattern of three events or major actions.
However, many writers sell rhyme. If you are convinced your story is best told in rhyme, get an English textbook and study scansion. Scansion is the analysis of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem in order to establish its meter. (When marking syllables, people use an ictus (‘) to mark a strong stress, and a breve (˘) to mark weaker stress.) To write good rhyming verse, you must understand metric feet. Meter means “measurement,” and in rhyming verse, it refers to the repeating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the lines of a poem. A metrical foot is a set of syllables, usually two or three, that has only one stressed syllable. A delightful picture book to study for rhyme is Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen. Do it right like Lori, and your rhyming book will probably sell.
Questions about scansion, writing rhyme or about writing for children in general? We’d love to hear from you.