#SummerSparks Day 6 – How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day

How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript
by: Nancy Raines Day

Rhyme and/or prose?

First off, let me say, if you don’t feel you have to tell your story in rhyme—DON’T! It’s hard to do right—and prose may be the better choice. Besides, some editors are prejudiced against rhyming books, not because kids don’t love rhyme, but because they see so much bad rhyme. Unfortunately, bad rhyme is much easier to write!

Even if you feel your story must be in rhyme, consider writing it in prose first. That way, you can concentrate on how the story should go. You’ll also find out what words you choose to use to best tell your story.

This will help you eliminate some of the pitfalls of rhyming texts. It’s all too tempting to let what rhymes dictate what happens next in the story. And instead of choosing the best word, you may go with the rhyming word.

But once you have the story down in prose, look at the words you may want to emphasize by putting them at the end of a line. Words that have lots of possible rhymes—or even one rhyme that is relevant to you story—can go at the end of rhyming lines. Using one of the many online rhyming dictionaries will give you the full range of possibilities.

Do everything you can to use only perfect rhymes. Drawing examples from my latest rhyming (non-fiction!) picture book, Way Down Below Deep, eyes and size and herd and blurred are perfect rhymes, as are assistand resist and seeing and fleeing. Anyone can rhyme moon and June—strive for an unexpected rhyme to surprise and delight your readers.

Realistically, though, when you’re trying to get across information or telling a story, you may need to use an imperfect or slant rhyme once in a while. Worms and turns furnish one example of slant rhymes; multitudes and food furnish another. You can maybe get away with one or two slant rhymes in the course of a picture book manuscript, but the rest should be perfect to get an editor’s attention.

When you’re putting a text in rhyme from prose, try to keep mentally flexible. You’ll get better at getting in this zone the more you do it. There are many ways to say whatever you want to say. Some of them are natural-sounding and kid-like, and some aren’t. (Inverting subject-verb order or adjective-noun order is almost never a good idea, for example.)

Have you got rhythm?

Many authors focus on making a text rhyme and forget that a regular rhythm is equally important. Poetry without rhythm is like music without a beat.

Rhythm comes from the accented and unaccented (or stressed and unstressed) syllables of the words. They may come in pairs of STRESSED/unstressed as they do in these lines from my On a Windy Night:


The BOY walks FAST—and FASTer STILL.

Each of the lines typically has four such pairs, or feet.

That works well as the story picks up speed as the boy’s panic sets in. When his fears prove to be unfounded at the end, I switched to a more leisurely rhythm of unstressed/unstressed/stressed for the first and third “feet” of the first line:

When the CLOUDS roll BY, a full MOON shines BRIGHT.

Whatever rhythm you choose, it’s important to set up a pattern—and stick to it. When I’m writing rhyme, or critiquing someone else’s, I put a short vowel mark over unstressed syllables and a long vowel mark over stressed syllables as I read it out loud. Then I mark off the feet and see what the pattern is and how well each stanza adheres. A few exceptions are allowed, and may even help make it less sing-songy, but only a few.

Sometimes an author “fudges” when reading his or her own work to make it fit the intended pattern. It helps to have someone else read your work. Listen for places your designated reader trips or tries to accent the wrong syl-LAB-le. A critique group is invaluable for catching these places!

Coming up with a text that tells your story with the right pacing, the perfect words, AND has regular rhyme and rhythm is like completing a really tough jigsaw puzzle. It took me 8 years to get On a Windy Night to its published state. But, oh, the feeling of accomplishment when you finally feel like you’ve nailed it makes it all worthwhile!

Squid Pic


Writing in rhyme can be freeing too. Pick a favorite story written in prose, now give it a twist and make it rhyme. Or do the opposite.


About Nancy:

NRD postcard

Nancy Raines Day’s What in the World? Numbers in Nature, to be published by Beach Lane Books this fall, will be her fifth (out of nine) rhyming picture book. She is also a freelance editor specializing in critiquing picture books for SCBWI members.

WDBD cover       what-in-the-world-9781481400602_lg

Rhythm in Poetry


Let me know, are you participating  in this years #SummerSparks writing challenge?
Do you like to write in rhyme? Does rhyming get you tongue-tied?

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2015 Summer Sparks post:

  1. Family Celebration by Tracey M. Cox
  2. Back Where I Come From by Tracey M. Cox
  3. The Benefits of Playdough: Molding your PB Idea Into A Story by Donna L. Martin
  4. Go Jump In a Lake by Tracey M. Cox
  5. Take a Vacay! by Tracey M. Cox
  6. How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day
  7. Don’t You Know that You Are a Shooting Star? by Tracey M. Cox
  8. Sun Burst by Tracey M. Cox
  9. Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller
  10. Get Out! by Tracey M. Cox
  11. Pieces by Tracey M. Cox
  12. Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson
  13. Do the Twist by Tracey M. Cox
  14. Celebrate! by Tracey M. Cox

#summersparks 12: Persistence by Donna McDine


Summer SparksPersistence
by Donna McDine


How can one word invoke a floodgate of emotions? Words are indeed powerful. As a writer persistence is pertinent in establishing a long lasting career, as well with any career choice, school, music, sports, etc.

Honing one’s writing skills through workshops, conferences, critique groups, reading, writing and editing consistently moves one forward to receiving the almighty acceptance through a sea of declines (I know the industry word is typically “rejection” but I prefer the not as harsh sounding word as decline).

Don’t allow discouragement seep into your thoughts, which often times makes room for stalling in mid-sentence of your creativity. Keep the persistence going for your hearts desire with positive affirmations that you are giving voice to what enriches your soul.

A few affirmations I follow on a daily basis…

  • What you expect, you fulfill. Think of yourself as a writer who will publish, and often, who will be respected and read, who will have financial returns for your writing investment.”
  • You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” ~ George Horace Lorimer


Your persistence will pay off in the long run don’t give up!


Donna McDine


Donna McDine is a multiple award-winning children’s author. She writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.  

Donna is the author of the following books:



Find Donna McDine:



Spark Writing Prompt


She hoped and prayed the audience didn’t see through her lies as she made her way to the stage for her speech…


Donna will be giving away the following:

Total Funds for Writers Newsletter by C. Hope Clark (1 year subscription) – a $15 value

to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.

Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Donna’s post!


Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

LET’S GET SPARKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Yes, this is it!

Summer Sparks
starts TOMORROW!

A few of you might be wondering what to expect. Here’s what is laid out:

  • SUMMER SPARKS runs from June 21st to July 4th (officially). There’s one bonus post and a few follow-up posts from me though.
  • Each day a new blog post will appear. Make sure to follow my blog. Email sign-up is over here —>.
  • Learn something new about the writing process, some ins and outs of writing, writing tips, etc everyday.
  • Writing prompt! Get inspired and let those sparks fly!
  • Comment on posts. I would love to hear how you are doing. What you thought about the post.
  • Join the SUMMER SPARKS fb group page to ask questions and to intermingle with other participants, if you like.
  • Have fun. This may be a writing challenge, but the main purpose is to inspire you, learn, network, and take some pressure off.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below. Or ask over on the SUMMER SPARKS fb group page.

Happy Writing!


SUMMER SPARKS Writing Challenge sign up 7 days left

Are you ready? Only seven more days to sign-up for


There’s a line up full of great advice, story sparks, and some prizes scattered throughout.

So go to this JUNE 1st POST to SIGN-UP!

***Sign-up is June 1st through June 14th.  You MUST comment on the June 1st post, complete the challenge, and comment on the last post to be eligible for prizes.***