1. DO avoid rhyming cliches. There are a lot! For example the title of this post, which in case it wasn’t obvious it is meant to be ironic. Without wanting to sound too harsh: your rhymes should sound like they have been written for children not by them. Unless of course you are aiming for very young kids in which case simple rhyming is perfect.
2. DON’T sacrifice story for rhyme. You’ve written a great story, don’t change it because you want the rhymes to work! Obviously, if you have to use a ‘fox’ instead of a ‘badger’ because nothing rhymes with badger (true fact!) that is fine. But if you are making significant alterations to your plot then you need to either revisit your rhymes or consider scrapping the rhyming altogether.
3. DO be imaginative. There is nothing wrong with going completely off piste with a rhyme. Especially if it is funny! The beauty of picture books is you can bring these ideas to life through pictures. No one wants a ‘Square’ when it comes to childrens books. Try, if you can, to be clever too. Tom Fletcher’s ‘The Dinosaur That Pooped A Planet!’ has some great lines. If I could set you homework it would be to read that book.
4. DON’T forget that cadence is as important as rhyme! It might rhyme, but if the sentence doesn’t flow then the rhyme will be irrelevant. If you are really finding a line hard work, ask someone for their opinion.
5. DO drop a line that has no place. I know. You’ve written a great line. It’s hilarious, it’s clever, it’s unique, but sometimes it’s got to go! If a line has no place you need to cut it. If you’re really lucky you might be able to use it on another occasion. This is a harsh fact of life, accept it and move on.
6. DON’T rush. Sometimes you just need to come back to it later. Fustrating if you have limited time or you’re working to a deadline. If you’re experiencing a bit of a block you can check out my blog on overcoming writers block.
7. DO be slightly flexable with grammar. Now there are some people who will strongly disagree with this one. After all you are writing children’s books, the grammar should be perfect! What sort of lesson is it teaching them? I agree completely. However minor infingments are probably ok, for example using ‘quick’ instead of ‘quickly’. My general rule: avoid where possible and don’t be ridiculous, it’s a matter of common sense (and general consenses).
8. DO make sure you punctuate correctly. Punctuation is important because it dictates how people read a sentence. If it is wrong then they won’t be reading the rhymes as you intended. Top tip here is to ask people to read your book out loud to you, any mistakes will soon become apprent.
10. DON’T/DO part rhyme or near rhyme. Everyone does it! It’s a fact! Even the masters like Julia Donaldson. Sometimes a part rhyme works really well, other times it really makes me cringe. My advice on this one would be… if you do part rhyme then do it sparingly.
I hope this post has been helpful, I wish you the best of luck! Rhyming well isn’t easy, but if it was then everyone would be doing it.
If you liked this blog then please ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’ for future blogs! Check out my other blogs for more tips for children’s authors.
Huw Jones is the author and illustrator of ‘Sydney the Salesman Centipede’. Available on Amazon.