CONGRATULATIONS to the many participants of RhyPiBoMo 2016! We did it!
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You read the many wonderful blog posts, you commented daily, you read stacks and stacks of rhyming picture books and you shared your favorite’s on social media! This month of celebrating the genre that we love has been an amazing labor of love for us all. I always feel blessed to have so many supportive folks join me in April and many friendships have been formed through this event. Many critique groups and even some new RPBs have been published along the way! I thank you all for cheering me on as I grew weary in week 4. You have all been so uplifting and incredibly kind in your many comments, emails and messages and support through the auction and conference recording purchases!
I will be doing RhyPiBoMo in 2017 but I am letting you know that I will not be doing RhyPiBoMo in 2018 because…in it’s place, I will be hosting the 2nd RPB Revolution Conference in April of 2018! And Karma Wilson is coming too!!! It will most likely be in Florida and I will offer the option for extended stays to write on the beach afterwards. I will also offer a payment plan, requiring a deposit to hold your spot, as there will be a limited number of spots. Please follow our RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group to keep up to date on the details. I will be asking for names of people interested, to get an idea of how many to plan for.
I’m very excited about the future of RPBs and the message to writers of rhyme about how we can improve the quality and professionalism of the manuscripts submitted to editors and agents. A friend recently showed me an editor’s comment stating that the “Quality of rhyming picture books being received has improved.” That makes me smile! That is good for us all!! Especially the parents, teachers and kids that we write for. So, I will see you here, same time next year and I will see you at the beach in 2018, where “The RPB Revolutionaries” will leave footprints in the sand! Bring your rhyming dictionaries and your sunblock!
Author Paul Czajak
Writing Rhyming Stories That Sell
So I was given the task of blogging about how to write a rhyming picture book that sells. If that isn’t a loaded topic I don’t know what is! I hate to break it to you but, there is no secret formula. There is no all inclusive blog post that is going to give you the answer. If there was, every one of my rhyming picture books would have sold.
Let me tell you, they haven’t. Not even close.
So if you want to stop reading now because I can’t give you the perfect answer, then please do. Go and scour the internet until the end of days looking for the perfect answer, all the while getting zero writing done. Go I’ll wait.
OK, now that the pretend writers have left, and the true professionals have stuck around we can get down to business. I may not have a secret formula to help you sell that book you are working on, but I can give you some tips that helped me.
Number one, stop focusing on the rhyme, that’s not what is going to sell your book. What’s going to sell your book is the story. The story is the most important part of any book, whether it rhymes or not. If your story sucks, then I could care less that your meter and rhyme are perfect. Remember rhyme will not make a bad story good!
The Three Ninja Pigs, by Corey Rosen Shwartz,
Bats at the Ball Game, by Brian Lies,
Madaline, by Ludwig Bemelmans,
All three of these picture books are all rhyming books. But more importantly these are all great stories. If you’ve read these books (if you haven’t you should) I would be willing to bet your first reaction wasn’t, wow, what a great rhyme scheme. It was, I love this story! Their characters are engaging and memorable. Their stories are original, clever and not a one time read. Children can imagine themselves in place of the characters. As a writer, if you can pull that off, then the child will want to read it over and over again. It’s one of the reasons I never named the boy in my Monster&Me series. I wanted kids to be able to imagine themselves in place of the boy. So by removing that extra barrier, i.e. the name. I’m hoping children hearing the book become that much more engaged. Does it work? Only time will tell.
Number two, focus on the rhyme. I know, a bit confusing since I just told you not to. But once you have the story your rhyme and meter needs to be perfect. Remember poor rhyme can make a great story bad.
I am sure you have already heard the typical list of things to avoid:
The reason you keep seeing these things to avoid, is because it’s that important to writing a good rhyming book.
Near rhyme, just wont do. Have a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary open when you are writing at all times. There are so many wonderful rhyming words out there, so there is no reason to settle.
Backwards talk, or speaking unnaturally just for the rhyme is lazy. Sometimes a rhyme isn’t going to work they way you want it to and your only alternative is to rewrite the stanza, maybe even rewrite the one before. Really, what ever it takes to make a natural sounding stanza is what you need to do. What I’m trying to say is, put in the work and write!
Changing your meter, next to having a crappy story, is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to a rhyming story not selling. When the meter keeps switching it makes it painful to read. Unfortunately we as writers become deaf to our own writing. To counter act this we need to have other people read our stories to us so that we can hear where people stumble. Stop counting syllables. What drives your meter is not the syllable count, but the stress on the word being used. If you have a difficult time hearing a stressed syllable and an unstressed syllable then try tapping it out. When your finger is in the air it’s an unstressed syllable, when it hits the table it’s stressed. If your meter is off, your reading will try to keep the rhythm, but your finger won’t be able to.
Simple rhyme is not a story killer. Every story is going to have its hat, bat rhyme. But what makes a story shine are rhymes like casserole and profiterole or procrastinating and negotiating. You’re a writer be a writer.
Forced rhyme, this is up there with backwards talk. You are just doing it for the rhyme. Please don’t. It’s another sign of being a lazy writer. You are better then that. How do I know? Because you are here still reading this post. You want to learn. You want to be the best writer you can possibly be. So be it.
Now that I’ve laid out the major no, no’s I’m going to confuse you all with the old saying, Rules Were Made to be Broken. This is where I feel you can make your story shine, when you break the rules. But, there has to be a reason you are doing it. For example let’s go back to Bats at the Ball Game. In this story the meter changes. “How dare he!” You say. “Burn him! Run him out of publishing!” OK, maybe not burn him, I got carried away. Actually I think Brian Lies should be applauded. Why you ask? Because it he did it on purpose and it works. He uses the change in meter to portray a shift in the story. Something like this will absolutely catch an editors eye, because it’s unusual and it stands out.
In one of my newer Monster books, Monster Needs A Hug, Monster is having such a bad day that he decides to do everything backwards to turn his day around. That means talking backwards. Again, another rule breaker but, done on purpose for the sake of the story.
So to sum up, writing in rhyme is just like writing in prose. You have to focus on the story first. Whether you are adhering to the rhyming rules or breaking them, it has to be all about the story. And remember,
Rhyme will never make a bad story good, but it can make a good story bad.
Paul Czajak got an F with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper and, after that, he never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. Paul lives in New Jersey with his wife and two little monsters. In addition to the Monster & Me™ series, he’s also the author of Seaver the Weaver, and a contributor to The Huffington Post. Look for his newest book, Monster Needs To Go To School, out on the shelves September 2016!
Mighty Media Press
Thank You Paul!
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66 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 22 Author Paul Czajak”
Janet Smart. thanks for the advice on hearing the stressed and unstressed syllable. I have trouble with that sometimes.
Thank you, Paul, for the wonderful reminder that the story is the most important factor. – Judy Rubin
Excellent post! Thanks for the tapping tip with stressed and unstressed syllables!
Great advice and any tricks that can help me hear syllables is appreciated.
Melanie Ellsworth – Thanks for all the detail in your post, Paul. I have to remind myself not to include a line just to make the rhyme work. Phew – there’s a lot of revision required to write a good rhyming picture book. I look forward to reading your monster books!
Angie – thanks for another wonderful Rhyming Picture Book Month!
Jill Giesbrecht – Your example stories are excellent! I just got my hands on The Three Ninja Pigs tonight and was laughing out loud. Thanks for the tips.
Thank you Paul! I appreciate your advice!
Maritza M. Mejia
Thank you Paul for the great advice and detail information.
Anne Bielby — Thanks, some good tips here!
NATALIE LYNN TANNER: Paul, THANK YOU for all the WONDERFUL insights and advice! I especially appreciate your #1 piece of advice: “stop focusing on the rhyme, that’s not what is going to sell your book.” We’re writers first and foremost, and telling the story is our number one job. THANK YOU for the reminder!!!!
Yay! Looking forward to the conference in 2018!
Thank you, Paul! Great post! I love your tapping technique for determining the stressed and unstressed syllables!!
I like your comment that story comes first and rhyme can make it better or bad rhyme ruin it. That’s obvious but we might forgethow important it is to write a story children can see themselves in it. YOu make good points Paul.
Thank you for confirming that need.
Great summary of the whole month!
Kristi Veitenheimer – Great post! Thanks for the extremely helpful tips and examples.
Thanks for these great tips, Paul! And thank you, Angie, for another great RhyPiBoMo! Your hard work is really appreciated! — Rebecca Colby
Ingrid Boydston that’s about as close to a magic formula as I’ve seen, I’ll take it, thanks!
Heather B Moon
Thank you Paul for the useful tips and yes I did read your blog right to the end…yeah I must be a REAL writer.
AND…thank you so much once again Angie for all your time and enthusiasm hosting RhyPiBoMo. I have been part of this group from the very start and have learned such a lot. I remember the first year when you hosted all the lessons and gave us stuff to do everyday. You must have been exhausted! I was! A BIG CHEER for Angie’s total commitment to us all please!
I appreciate your honest. You’ve given excellent advice, Paul. Good luck with those rhyming books that haven’t yet sold. Perhaps you’ll be able to polish them to perfection.
And Angie!!! The RPB conference in 2018 sounds awesome.
Melinda Kinsman – Thanks for a great post, Paul. Yes, I wish we could nail down that fickle “which books sell” formula!
And thanks for organising a great RhyPiBoMo 2016, Angie! ❤️❤️🎉
Many thanks Paul for the great post! Story, Story, Story first! Got it and repolishing story this weekend.
A nudge is always welcome.
Have a great weekend!
I really enjoyed reading this post…reinforcing all those things we have been told all month and offering new ideas to think about! I like how all the info was addressed in two rules which will make it easier for me to remember!! Thanks Paul for the reading suggestions as well!!
Great advice, Paul! Story first – so important to remember. I can get carried away with concentrating so much on the rhyme that sometimes I find myself straying from the story idea I started. Think I’ll post this up on my wall! Pat Haapaniemi
Thanks, Paul. I’ve been enjoying all the Monster & Me books that I could get my hands on this month – they are fun indeed. And a good example of the points you mention: story first, good rhyme, cool words.
Daryl Gottier- Thanks so much for all the helpful information!
Thank you, Paul! I agree that your Monster & Me series engages more readers because you did not name the MC. Manju Howard
Thanks, Paul, for the fun and informative post!
Thanks, Paul, for your insightful post with all the information nuggets. You emphasize that all parts of a story need to work together and putting more emPHAsis on the rhyming scheme won’t necessarily be a winner.
Thanks to you, Angie, for an absolutely fabulous month! You’re tireless in your dedication to writers and providing information! Hugs and Blessings to you! =]
Gayle C Krause
Love your Monster books, Paul. And thank you for your sage advice. 😊
Wonderful advice. Thank you.
Great reminders and explanations. Thanks for this thoughtful post! Sherry Howard
I kept reading til the end! Thanks!
Thanks for the post reminding us that it’s story first.
Linda Schueler: I’m going to start tapping out my stories. Thanks so much.
Thanks Paul for a right on post. It’s the story that counts most, yes! I know that sometimes a line of rhyme pops into my head and I think, wow! You’ve just tuned on my light…let that line sit while I hunt for the story that wants to be told. Genius!!!
Angie, I can’t believe it’s over..thanks so much!!!
Paul- Great advice!
Angie- Thank you for a great month!
Paul thank you for your suggestions. It hit home your comment how we can become deaf on how our rhymes may be off, but not to the readers. Looking forward to reading your book, Monster Needs Your Vote.
Thanks for your post Paul. “Story first” got it. I like how you describe “tapping it out” to determine stressed and unstressed syllables. Great advice!
Laura Renauld –
Thank you for sharing your tips for the trade 🙂
Melissa Stoller —
Thank you, Paul! What a great last day post . . . it just about sums everything up!
Thank you for the wonderful post to end on! Thank you for the great advice to tap out the stressed syllables, I needed that. Thanks!
Great month, Angie! Your endless energy and efforts amaze me.
Thanks, Paul. Great post on rhyming rules and when to be a rule breaker:)
It’s always about story, isn’t it? So easy and yet so hard!
(Katelyn Aronson) So many great points! Thank you so much, Paul!
Paul great post loaded with great information. Basically study, study, study and then work, work, work on your writing. Great tips!
You grabbed my attention, Paul 🙂 Thank you for the tips and examples. Story first!
Angie-thank you for another terrific RhyPiBoMo. You have rocked the world of rhyme and rhythm 🙂 I look forward to next year, but 2018 is a sock buster! Gooooo ANGIE!
Sarah Harroff – Paul, thank you for laying down the rules and reminding us when they can be broken. Angie, as always, thank you for EVERYTHING you do each April. I’m sad to hear there’ll be no RhyPiBoMo in 2018, but am excited to see how you evolve this thing. 🙂
Good stuff! My favorite line: You’re a writer be a writer. In other words, stop whining and get your butt in the chair.
Thank you for your post. I especially like that you pointed out the changing meter in Bats at the Ball Game. I just read that story last week, and I was blown away by the subtle, but noticeable shift. It is a perfect example of the rhyme and meter serving the story and not the other way around!
Thank you, Paul! These are great reminders, and I especially love your point about simple rhymes existing beside more exciting rhymes. Thanks for sharing your insights!
Wonderful reminders, Paul. Thanks so much! I love that we can break the rules SOMEtimes. I love rule breaking 🙂