Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Open Mic Wednesday on Storywraps

Today I welcome Melinda Kinsman to the mic.  I know she will both inform and inspire you.  I am so happy to have her here on Storywraps today. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into your guest post and for sharing it with us Melinda. It is very much appreciated.

The Very Difficult Question - Should You Write In Rhyme?   

Hi everyone!

I'd like to start this post by thanking Marilyn for thinking that I might be someone who had  something important enough to guest post about! 

I've been learning to write, illustrate and self-publish children's books for a couple of years now, but I still feel I have so much to learn that I can't really be seen as an expert in any part of the process. 

As Dr. Seuss would say, though...

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.         
Dr.Seuss, from "Oh The Places You'll  Go!"

So, for what it's worth, I shall try to share with you a few things that I HAVE learnt along my journey so far.

When I first got the urge to write, it was simply something I enjoyed doing to entertain my young niece. I made up lots of poems for her and had them bound into a one-off book using a photo book company. I wanted every page to be bright and colourful, so I used colourful borders and bright, non-commercial, clip art illustrations. The poems stayed within the family. 

Now, this is an odd thing to try to explain to those who don't know me, but, despite me being very active in some ways, I'm unable to sit or stand normally at a desk to look at a book or screen. It's due to neck problems that I've had for a very long time. My neck also sees me spending a fair amount of most days lying on my left side. A few years ago I discovered that I could lie on my side WHILE holding an iPad in my left hand AND typing or drawing with my right hand! This was REVOLUTIONARY!! (OK - I get easily excited - but, yes, it was a big thing!)

So far, one thing that I have found I can DO with an iPad is writing and illustrating books. Of course, as someone with no natural artistic talent whatsoever, the illustrating part was a bit of a challenge, but I'm just going to talk about the writing side today!

So, those old poems crept down from the bookshelf, and a few were dusted off and made into an illustrated eBook. I was having fun! Next I decided to write a book of illustrated poems just about monsters. It was then, via a Facebook friend, that I first heard of the strange word "meter". Apparently this "meter" wasn't quite right in some of my poem lines, and they didn't "scan" well... was time to investigate...

In case you too ever get the urge to write in rhyme, I should first warn you that everywhere you look you will keep seeing the same advice - DON'T DO IT! You will read that many traditional children's publishers refuse to even read manuscripts written in rhyme. Some people will say it is because they can't be translated into different languages. You may then look at all your favourite picture books, see that they are in fact written in rhyme, and wonder what's going on!

Digging a bit deeper, you will discover that many publishers say they will not accept rhyme because they get fed up with reading "BAD" rhyme. If presented with a great story that also happens to be written in BRILLIANT rhyme, however, then will probably jump at it. 

As a self-publishing author, I had no publisher telling me what I could or couldn't do. That was the plus side. The downside was that I alone needed to be responsible for ensuring the quality of my books. So, how should I try to avoid writing "bad" rhyme, and what on Earth were these strange words "meter" and "scanning" referring to?

I started my investigations by trying to read a lengthy book about how to write rhyming poetry for adults. The words "meter" and "scansion" were in there, and I started to vaguely understand them, but I couldn't work out what rules I needed to follow if I wanted to write rhyming poetry for young children. In fact, I was just getting more and more confused! HEEEEEELP!!!

Thankfully my sanity was saved by the timely announcement of a new event on Facebook. I'd already heard of PiBoMo (Picture Book Month), but I now spotted an advert for something new in spring of 2014. Something called RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month). 

A wonderful lady, Angie Karcher, was about to singlehandedly arrange a whole month of daily lessons and guest blog posts. All entirely devoted to how to write rhyming picture books! Of course, at the time I just wanted to write simple poems, not whole picture book stories. (I'd read that picture books needed to involve plots, characters, and complicated things called story "arcs"... They sounded a scary option!) This seemed like a great place to find information, though, so I signed up quickly.

I learnt so much that month, that I wouldn't even know where to begin. If you want to find out more too, then check out the archived 2014 blog posts on Angie's website below. (You'll also find even more information there, in the 2015 blog posts from this year's 2nd RhyPiBoMo event.)

If you want to know a LITTLE bit more, but can't yet face overloading on that much information, then check out this great (and wonderfully simple) website...

Finally I thought I was starting to understand what the rules were! 
In a nutshell...
1. When writing in rhyme for younger kids you need to keep to a repetitive rhythm that the child will be able to pick up on. Selecting rhyming words to use on the end of lines is only a tiny part of the process. 
2. Each line of your poem (or picture book) can be tapped out as a rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables. You can write this rhythm out using different symbols for the stressed and unstressed beats. When doing this, people say they are  "writing scansion" for or "scanning" the lines. 
3. The main "meter" of the poem is defined by the number of STRESSED beats in a line. THIS MUST NOT VARY! 

Of course, things got more complicated than that, and getting involved in a RhyPiBoMo rhyming critique group also taught me many valuable lessons. I started to realise that getting people with different accents and speech patterns to ALL read your words with your intended rhythm the first time through (as is seen as ideal) was in fact very tricky! 

I started to believe the "Never Write In Rhyme" advice, and I experimented with a series of prose Early Chapter Books. It was no good, though. I enjoyed writing in rhyme far more, and by January 2015 I had started a new series of rhyming picture books. (Yes, I've finally graduated from short poems to picture books!) 

I'm about to release the fourth book in my rhyming picture book series, and I continue to enjoy writing in rhyme. I try to get feedback from people with lots of different speech patterns before I finalise the wording of each book. This can throw up some unexpected surprises...

Sometimes it is easy to change words around a bit so that everyone is reading a line in the same main rhythm, but sometimes I have to completely change the lines. Sometimes I start to wonder if getting ALL people to read all your lines with the same stress patterns is IMPOSSIBLE! 

More surprisingly, sometimes I discover words that my U.S. rhyming dictionary states rhyme (and which also rhyme in my own northern English accent) do not in fact rhyme at all for some American accents. I avoid using these as rhyming words, and replace them.

So, I started by asking the question, "Should you write in rhyme?" 

Now I know a little better, my answer would have to be, "Only if you REALLY feel you must, but proceed with EXTREME CAUTION!"

Melinda's Bio... 

Melinda Kinsman is a relatively new "indie" children's book author and illustrator. She loves writing RHYMING children's picture books, as well as rock climbing and hill walking near her northern English home. Her books are all also credited to a motley bunch of cuddly toys, called the Top of the Wardrobe Gang. You can meet them over on their website at, and you can find their books on

Book alert!!!!!

Melinda's latest picture book has just been released, and it's having a free promotion until Friday the 10th of July on Amazon.  It's called "Aliens Love Astronauts".  Her books are amazing so please check them out.

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at

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