Corey Schwartz This month’s featured 12 x 12 author, Corey Schwartz, has made a HUGE difference in my writing career. 

Four score and seven years ago, when I was a newbie-schmoobie at writing, I left a comment on her blog asking for a clarification on something that was relevant to my current manuscript. She offered to read it for me and provide  feedback.

Let me say that again.

SHE OFFERED TO READ IT FOR ME AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK.

Nobody, and I do mean nobody, had ever made me an offer like that before. She was a published, agented author. The real deal. I was humbled by the fact that she would reach out to an unknown like me.

Little did Corey know (although now she will when she reads this post), that her gesture that day, which not only turned into an amazing friendship, set me on a path dedicated to helping other writers. I truly believe 12 x 12 would not exist today had I not been so inspired by Corey’s selfless willingness to help someone she didn’t even know. Since then I have returned the favor and am fortunate that we exchange manuscripts quite regularly now. But Corey is an inspiration in the truest sense of the word. Someone who offers to help without expectation of receiving anything in return. 

PLUS, she is an immensely talented writer and a NINJA at rhyme! And you 12 x 12 members are lucky. Because you will not only receive Corey’s instruction on rhyme in this blog post, but you will have a chance to win a critique from her. Who knows? Maybe that critique will change your own writing career, as it did mine.

Either way, remember: reach out a hand to help those who come behind you.

Okay, off my soap box now and heeeeere’s Corey!

HOW TO GET A BLACK BELT IN RHYME

For those of you who don’t know me, I am the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS. Writing in rhyme is actually a lot like studying martial arts. Both require a great deal of patience, practice, and perseverance.

Imagine the three pigs trying to write in rhyme?

PIG ONE

Writes a first draft and thinks it is good enough to send out.

Next stop was the house made of sticks
where Pig 2 stood wearing his “gi.
“I’m highly trained,”
Pig 2 proudly explained
“So, I suggest that you flee.”

PIG TWO

Tweaks the meter and decides it’s “ready’ for submission.

The wolf wandered on to the wood house.
where Pig 2 waited wearing his “gi.”
“Beware! I am trained,”
he proudly explained
“So, if I were you, I would flee.”

Pig TwoPIG THREE

Revises, revises, revises, until it kicks butt!

The wolf chased Pig 1 to his brother’s
And hollered, “Hey, Pigs, let me in!”
Pig 2 yelled, “Retreat!
Or you’ll suffer defeat
By the hair of my chinny chin chin.”

So, how do you get a black belt in rhyme?

The answer really requires more than one post.  But this is my general process:

In the first draft I do NOT worry about rhyme and meter.  I just try to get the story down.  If you really want to be sure that rhyme is not driving your story, you should try doing a first draft in prose. I don’t do that, but I do try to write an outline first, and I will write a particular stanza in prose if I am having a difficult time.

I always try to get story issues resolved BEFORE I spend time tweaking meter and rhyme. No point in spending hours perfecting a line if that whole stanza might get cut later.

It can take a while to get the story right.  But it’s extremely important that your story works (conflict, resolution, etc) before you start refining the rhymes.

Sometimes I get lucky and stumble upon a great rhyme early on, but often a stanza is merely a “placeholder.” It’s the content that I want  (Wolf approaches Pig 2 at his house, and Pig 2 makes a somewhat idle threat) but I don’t have the actual wording yet.

Once the story is solid, I focus on the meter and rhyme. I have rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com open at all times and constantly check for improved word options.  I revise, revise, revise. Then when I think it is done, I revise some more. No matter how good a stanza is, it can almost always get better!

Here are some additional tips organized by level.

white belt

WHITE BELTS

•    Make sure you have established a consistent meter. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you aren’t sure, check with an experienced rhymer! (And, yes, I will always take a look if I have time)
•    Never invert syntax to force a rhyme  (No Yoda speak)
•    Ask people to read your story out loud to see where they trip.

yellow beltYELLOW BELTS

•    Ask yourself, “Is this word or line here just for the rhyme?”  Would you have used that word or phrase if you were writing this story in prose?  Sometimes it is subtle, so if you’re not certain, ask a critique partner.
•    Check to see if all your rhymes are common words (i.e. you/too). Try to use some unpredictable choices.
•    If you have any imperfect rhymes, use rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com to try to find an alternate rhyme that is perfect!

Black beltBLACK BELTS

Sometimes if meter is too perfect, your story can sound a bit sing-songy.  To avoid this, try the following:

•    Vary your word length. Try to get in some two and three syllable rhymes (retreat/defeat)
•    Vary your sentence length. Using some very short sentences can change the breathing pattern and break the monotony.
•    Get in internal rhymes, alliteration, and word play!

Sayonara, and good luck with your training.  And remember:

Discipline

Corey is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012) GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, 2014) and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD (Putnam, 2014). Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.

Goldi cover

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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124 Comments

  1. Sensai-tional! Thanks for the tips, Corey and Julie. I love Three Ninja Pigs and can’t wait to read your latest books. Congratulations, Corey.

  2. Julie, thanks for the loveliest intro ever!

  3. Corey, your well-crafted rhymes are terrific, and the fact that you’ve had rhyming books published is an inspiration to those of us who love to write in rhyme! I’ll keep hoping my Confetti the Yeti will find a home.

  4. Thank you for the lesson in getting a black belt in rhyme. I’m looking forward to your 2014 releases!

  5. Great post, Corey and Julie. I’m daunted by rhyming, but I loved reading about your process, especially the part about getting the story out first and then worrying about rhyme and meter.

  6. My kids & I also love Corey’s 3 Ninja Pigs book, and Corey has helped me w/some rhyming. So this was a great post putting rhymers into belt levels. haha!

  7. Pat Haapaniemi

    Corey, thanks for the wonderful post! I love your suggestions, especially the one about varying sentence length!

    • Pat, i didn’t want to put an example for each because I was afraid the post would get too long, but here is a great example of varying sentence length from Tom’s Tweet by Jill Esbaum:

      “Dadburn it!” said Tom. “You’re too skinny to eat.
      Why, you’re nothing but feather and bone.”
      He started to leave…
      but the shivering tweet
      looked so frightened.
      Unhappy.
      Alone.

  8. Oooooh, how cool is it that Corey is our featured writer this month? Yay Corey! I’ve been hinting to myself since last year that it would be a good exercise to just *try* a PB in rhyme. I think this is the month. I shy away from it because of the dreaded sing-song potential, but with Corey’s advice, hopefully I can avoid that pitfall. Hi-YAAAA!

  9. I am a green belt in Karate and a black belt in TaeKwon-Do and a blue belt in Jujitsu! I love this post (and I really need to find your books!)

  10. Meeting Corey was one of the highlights of this year’s NJ SCBWI for me. I think in rhyme, but haven’t been brave enough to submit anything. Feeling braver . . . .

  11. I am bookmarking this post! I can’t think of a better primer on becoming a rhymer. 🙂

  12. Julie, thank you for sharing how Corey has inspired you to reach behind and pull up a fellow writer. Your post is wonderful! Corey I bought your Ninja book last year for my literacy and music program and the kids went wild for it! These tips give me a bif more confidence to go back and work on something I started last year and hid from the light of day. So I Thank you. I love the way you formatted your advice to us!!

  13. Corey,
    The Three Ninja Pigs is a huge hit with my students (and it’s on our summer reading list!). Thanks for the tips on creating a story in rhyme. It’s extremely tough and as someone who reads aloud all of the time, when those rhymes don’t work or get too singsongy, it’s wearing. Working on my own rhyming pb, however, is daunting! Pulling off the best story possible and in rhyme–well, your tips have me eager to revise…yet again!
    Thanks so much.

  14. Margaret Greanias

    Love these tips, Julie and Corey! I have a rhyme story that I KNOW could be a bigger and better story — and I’m going to go back and try outlining it to see what I come up with. It’ll be a shame to lose the rhymes I’ve already worked on, but you’ve made me realize it’ll all be worth it in the end. Thank you!

  15. This is fantasmic! I only have one rhymer, and though it’s so short I have been having the darndest time with it! Penny has given me so many pointers, but it is really a discipline. You have a wonderful way of presenting -have you considered developing a class?

  16. 3 Ninja Pigs is also a favorite in our house!! Thanks for letting us in on your process. This was very helpful!!

  17. The timing of this post could not be more perfect, Julie and Corey! I have a rhyming story that I adore and have been working on for a long time, but put it aside to write for contests these past two months. Today, I printed it out, have pencil in hand, and have rhymezone.com and dictionary.com opened on my laptop. Then I see this post! Thank you, at least I know that I’m on the right track! I had been having a horrible time getting un/stressed syllables down, until a light bulb recently went off when I started using the dictionary to see where it puts the stress on multi-syllabic words. I’m with Julie, if you ever start up a class, count me in please! :0)

  18. Corey, and Julie…perfect timing on the topic of rhyme and meter. Your post came just after a pleasant 3rd rejection on revision #4 of a rhyming work I’ve been writing for a year. That just means it’s going places, and will probably appear as a revision #5 before it’s sent out again. Your post will refine that process for me and maybe be the magic that brings this tale to life. Thanks for your insight.
    PS…I read “The Three Ninja Pigs” to 90 of our summer public library kids a few weeks ago and they loved it.

  19. Awesome post, Corey! Creative and clever … and filled with great information! Thanks so much, and congratulations on your amazing books!

  20. Thank you so much for this extremely helpful post, Corey! Yep, I’ve been stuck on the ending of a rhyming pb, and it’s because I need to figure out WHAT THE HECK IS GOING TO HAPPEN before I figure out how to write it.

  21. Corey! Your post kicks butt!!! I love, love, love THE THREE NINJA PIGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please excuse me if I have told you these stories before:

    1) I took your book to read to my nieces and nephews…but the nine year old nephew asked if he could read it instead of me. (I couldn’t tell him no, but inside I was hoping he’d do it justice.) Wow…he read straight through without one trip-up. That, my friends, is the sign of rhyming perfection!!! He even read it with very cool Ninja-Pig expression 🙂

    2) I have a friend that has coached Oral Reading for UIL competition in Texas. She has coached MANY years. She searches for new material all the time. She is very picky. I took her THE THREE NINJA PIGS. She fell in love with it and one of her students selected it for their reading. Hiya!

  22. Great post, Julie and Corey! I love to rhyme! Thanks for explaining your rhyming technique. I love The Three Ninja Pigs! And all three rhyming Belt techniques!

  23. What a fun post! And great advice!! We love your book Three Ninja Pigs, will have to get your other books. 🙂

  24. What an enlightening and helpful post! Thanks Corey. I look forward to reading your books, too!

  25. I love the belt analogy. Thanks for sharing your dojo with us! 🙂

  26. Oh, Corey, you make it look so effortless! (and that’s the mark of a talented rhymer, I think!) Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. One day I want to “grow up” to be just like you!

  27. Excellent advice, Corey, thank you! And I love hearing stories about published authors who go out of their way to help newbies!

  28. Denise Richter

    Great post on many levels…thanks. I have a rhyming manuscript that I have been told to take out of rhyme because rhyme is a hard sell. I’m pretty attached to the rhyming version though I am attempting a prose version. This post is inspiring me to take another look to try to tidy it up. Thanks again!

  29. Thanks for offering to take a gander, Corey. Getting the first stanza’s meter would be a great jumping off point; I really appreciate this!!!

    Farley pig made a decision,
    While resting in his hay.
    A horse’s job did not look like work.
    To Farley, it seemed like play.

    Tired of lazing around in his sty,
    He wished to be active instead.
    Farley decided to offer free rides,
    Rather than stay in his bed.

    Farley announced, “Free piggy back rides!”
    But the animals sniggered and sneered.
    Behind his back he heard them say,
    “That Farley pig is weird!”

    • Hi Donna,

      I think your second stanza had the strongest meter, so let’s analyze that one.

      Tired of lazing around in his sty,
      He wished to be active instead.
      Farley decided to offer free rides,
      Rather than stay in his bed.

      TIRed of LAZing aROUND in his STY

      he WISHED to be ACTive inSTEAD

      FARley deCIDed to OFFer free RIDES

      RATHer than STAY in his BED.

      You have two unemphasized beats between every hard beat. (Tired is a tricky word, because I sort of pronounce it Ti- yurd as two, but not sure everyone does?)

      Anyway, let’s look at your third stanza and see where you are having trouble.

      FARley anNOUNCED (, ) “free PIGgy back RIDES

      but the ANimals SNIGgered and SNEERED

      beHIND his ( ) BACK he ( ) HEARD them ( ) SAY

      That FARley ( ) PIG is ( ) WEIRD

      You are missing some beats in the third and fourth lines. (There is a short pause after announced, so I think the first line is fine. (a comma or period often serves as an unemphasized beat)

      The expression “behind his back” really won’t work with this meter.

      FARley heard WHISpers all OVer the FARM

      That FARley the PIG sure is WEIRD

      Now the first stanza:

      Farley pig made a decision,
      While resting in his hay.
      A horse’s job did not look like work.
      To Farley, it seemed like play.

      Your meter needs to be:

      DA da da DA da da DA da da DA

      FAR ley the PIG da da DA da da DA

      See if you can give it a try

  30. Thank you, Corey. I write almost completely in rhyme. I’m always told how hard it is to ‘break in’ though I’m not giving up. Thanks for your inspiration!

  31. Great advice for writing rhyme. Might have to give it a try. Thanks.

  32. Great informative post. Thanks for the valuable advice on rhyme.

  33. Thank you, Corey, for your AMAZING post! Just what I needed to read today! I especially like your “Black Belt” advice to shake things up lest the rhyme becomes to “sing songy”. I look forward to the release of your next two books – NINJA PIGS is a crowd favorite in my house. =)

  34. You’re right, Corey – critiquing will be much easier over here than on Facebook. So I’m putting my first few stanzas here to make it easier.

    Once, Opossum planned a picnic lunch that no one would attend.
    “It’s frankly hard to eat with you,” claimed each and every friend.
    “You’re so picky with your ‘manners’ that you take away our fun.
    We’d rather spend all afternoon just sleeping in the sun.”

    If she wanted picnic guests, Opossum knew she’d have to change.
    The food was made, the table set, the flowers all arranged.
    “If you’ll come,” Opossum pleaded, “then I will not say a word.
    I won’t find fault with what you do, no matter how absurd.”

    Not a creature could resist her when they saw the festive feast–
    and so Opossum seated them, resolved to keep the peace.
    If her guests lacked in politeness and did something to offend,
    she’d be a gracious hostess. Just ignore them. Just pretend.

    Thank you, Corey!

    • Okay, so happy to see this one, because it has a different meter than the others I’ve done so far. This one has ONE unemphasized beat betwen every hard beat (not two)

      Opossum planned a picnic lunch that no one would attend.
      “It’s frankly hard to eat with you,” claimed each and every friend.

      oPOSsum PLANNED a PICnic LUNCH that NO one WOULD atTEND
      it’s FRANKly HARD to EAT with YOU, claimed EACH and EV’ry FRIEND.

      (I cut the once because it didn’t work)

      My first suggestion is that you break each lien in half because I find it much easier to work that way. You have four emphasized beats in the first and third lines, and three in the second and fourth

      oPOSsum PLANNED a PICnic LUNCH (4)
      that NO one WOULD atTEND (3)
      it’s FRANKly HARD to EAT with YOU, (4)
      claimed EACH and EV’ry FRIEND. (3)

      I find this to be a GREAT meter to work in. When there are the same number of beats in every line (3, 3, 3, 3, or 4, 4, 4, 4) it often starts to sound very monotonous.

      Now you just have to make sure you are consistent all the way through.

      Jumping down to here:

      IF she WANTed PICnic GUESTS (4)
      oPOSsum KNEW she’d HAVE to CHANGE (4)
      The FOOD was MADE, the TABle SET (4)
      the FLOWers ALL arRANGED (3)

      You have an extra stressed beat in the second line. It’s only one, but it’s enough to completely throw the reader off.

      This is an incredibly easy fix. Replace Opossum with a pronoun.

      F she WANTed PICnic GUESTS (4)
      she KNEW she’d HAVE to CHANGE (3)

      I’d also add in an internal rhyme since it jumped out at me.

      The FOOD was MADE, the TABle LAID (4)
      the FLOWers ALL arRANGED (3)

      • Corey, Thanks so much for taking the time to read through the start of my story and give me suggestions. I love the idea of adding that internal rhyme. I must have picked a difficult meter, though, since it wasn’t apparent I was using a 15-beat/14-beat (8 stressed/7 unstressed) pattern. I’ll take another look and see if there’s a way to make my lines shorter.

        I love reading all your feedback to everyone – what a great help it is to see how you think.

  35. Margaret Greanias

    Thought I’d copy my stanzas over from FB. Thank you for the offer to look at these first stanzas!

    “There’s an otter
    in my water!”
    Backstroking,
    flip-flopping,
    splish-splashing,
    peek-a-popping,
    making waves,
    water’s dropping.
    SPLOOSH!

    Otter lands
    on his hands.
    Belly bouncing,
    feet a-floor,
    Otter’s surfing
    out the door –
    whole huge house
    to explore.
    WHEEE!

    Here comes Pop,
    yelling, “Stop!”
    Reach-grabbing,
    slip-sliding,
    “whoop whoop”-ing,
    he falls fighting.
    “Not another
    otter sighting!”
    CRASH!

  36. Thank you for this informative post, Corey!

    What are your thoughts on picture books that are written in prose but have a refrain that’s in rhyme? Is that a possibility in today’s market?

    • Heather, this can totally work! My first book (Hop! plop!) is sort of like that. I haven’t seen too many, but I think if it’s done well, it can definitely sell!

  37. Okay, here is Donna Martin’s:

    Twas the night before Christmas and all through the barn,
    Not a creature was stirring while down on the farm.
    The chickens were nestled all snug in their coop,
    And the dog snored softly while out on the stoop.
    And outside the ram with all of the ewes
    Had just settled down for a long evening’s snooze,
    When high above them there came such a sound
    That all ears perked up; yes, even the hound.
    Oh, what did they see up there in the sky?
    But a bed made of straw with an eagle perched high,
    With eight graceful hawks pulling that nest
    While Santa Claws opened his great treasure chest.

    This meter has two unemphasized beats between every hard beat.

    twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas and ALL through the BARN
    not a CREAture was STIRring while DOWN on the FARM

    Meter is consistent in the first two lines

    So.. let’s look to see if there are any trouble spots

    the CHICKens were NESTled all SNUG in their COOP (perfect)
    and the DOG snored ( ) SOFTly while OUT on the STOOP (missing a beat, try to replace snored with a two syllable word…. snorted? panted? )

    and OUTside the RAM ( ) with ALL of the EWES (missing a beat, but I think it’s okay. There’s a slight natural pause)
    had JUST settled DOWN for a LONG evening SNOOZE (perfect meter, hard to say
    the “s” on evenings when it is followed by snooze, so I just dropped it))

    When HIGH (up) abOVE them there CAME such a SOUND (added “up” to fill in for missing beat)
    that ALL ears perked UP, yes (,) EVen the HOUND (comma serves as your missing beat, so it’s fine)

    oh, WHAT did they SEE ( ) up THERE in the SKY (beat missing)
    but a BED made of STRAW with an EAGle perched HIGH
    with EIGHT graceful HAWKS ( ) ( ) PULLing that NEST (I’d like to see you add in a beat in this one)
    while SANta claws OPened his GREAT treasure CHEST (Ha, Santa claws! love the wordplay! 🙂

    Donna, your meter is in decent shape. Watch for overuse of words like “while” (you have it three times in this short section) They are filler words… we all use them, but don’t want to overdo it. (and it doesn’t totally work for me semantically in the second line)

    • Thanks, Corey, for the wonderful advice on tweaking my story…now I have a great example to use on the rest of the manuscript!

    • These are great rhymes – especially ‘ewes’ and ‘snooze’! But something that stood out to me was the “yes, even the hound.” Knowing dogs, I would expect the dog to be the first to perk up his ears, but here it sounds like it is unusual for him to do so, or that he was the last to do so. This seems like an example where the rhyme drives the word choice rather than the story?

  38. Thank you for the wonderful post! I’m bookmarking too! I would love a class too!

  39. Great post and fantastic advice, Corey! And as always, you are so generous with your time and expertise and all these comments with submitted rhyme are so educational for everyone!

  40. Debra Shumaker

    Thanks Julie and Corey. I love the advice to vary the length of sentences to avoid the “sing-song” verse. . . . I’ve been so focused on a perfect meter, I didn’t think about varying sentence length. What great advice!

  41. Thanks, Corey. I don’t write in rhyme, but can apply your tips to prose. I hear you saying, get the story arc down and develop the characters–then go back and worry about the language. Look for dull nouns and verbs and use a thesaurus to give them muscle. Love your books!

  42. As you can see, from the few examples posted above, you really do need to “scan’ each line. (“Scan” means to methodically check each syllable to see where your beats are falling.) It is a somewhat grueling process but unless you are naturally just born with a great ear, it is the only way to make sure your meter is flawless. This is why I talked about patience in the post!

  43. Wow, Corey! Thank you so much! I challenged myself to write my first rhyming MS in May and am currently working on revisions. This truly came at a perfect time! Rhyming is hard! I always thought I had an ear for it when reading. But, when I started writing in rhyme it was more challenging to switch gears. I am slowly trying to learn all of the rules. Thanks, again, for your help! I will be using NINJA PIGS with my first graders this year!

  44. Janie Reinart

    Corey thanks for looking at this. 🙂 Blizzard of Birds

    Softly, softly
    Snowflakes fall
    Drumming, drumming
    Downy’s call
    Softly drumming
    Winter squall

    Shyly, shyly
    Starlings stall
    Watching, watching
    Wren so small
    Shyly watching
    Starts the Ball

    Swiftly, swiftly
    One and all
    Flying, flying
    Flicker tall
    Swiftly, flying
    Blue Bird brawl

    • Hi Janie,

      is this a rhyming picture book? Feels more like a poem. Is there more, or it that the end?

      Your meter is spot on! It’s very lyrical and I like the repetition. Not sure how I feel about every end rhyme using the same word family. If this is it, then it works. If it goes on much longer than I think it would get monotonous.

      I am not at all experienced with poetry, but what you have is lovely!

      • Janie Reinart

        Thanks Corey. It is a rhyming picture book. I did use the same word family. If you are curious I could put the rest. 🙂 I have back matter with info about each bird.

    • Pamela hamilton

      This is so pretty .. I love the images your words create in my mind.

      • Janie Reinart

        Thanks Pam! Wrote it when there was a blizzard outside and all these birds had a feeding frenzy at my feeders. I think it is a quiet book so not sure anyone will be interested. Not sure who to sub it to .

  45. Hi Corey,

    I, too, had originally posted this on the 12 x12 FB page, but since you’ve moved to this one, I’m copying and pasting it here.

    Thanks a bundle!!!

    It started like any other
    With children in school that day.
    But things got a little crazy
    When the alphabet ran away.

    A absconded for the hallway.
    B bolted for the door.
    C catapulted ‘cross the desk.
    D dashed across the floor.

    E exited through the window.
    F flew across the sill.
    G galloped to the lockers.
    H headed for the hills.

  46. Pamela Hamilton

    Really good post, that I think applies to prose too. As for me writing prose, probably not. I still have nightmares about having to write a poem in 5th grade English class. I just didn’t get meter!

  47. I loved the Three Ninja Pigs. It is wonderful that you are enthusiastically supporting your fellow writers, thank you!

  48. Wonderful post on rhyme. I love how it’s organized by level of difficulty. I am a black belt in chocolate chip cookies…. Yeah. That’s another story…. Corey also extended her unselfish kindness to me. Impressive.

  49. Lori Mozdzierz

    Thanks for the great advice, Corey! It is so easy to get caught up in making the rhyme sing that the story can suffer.

  50. Lovely lovely post! Corey is one of the most generous pb writers I know. Corey, thanks for being such an inspiration and for all your help.

  51. oh my gosh! this post is the best I’ve seen! thank you Corey!

  52. Kathleen Cornell Berman

    Thanks for sharing your process Corey. It has sparked my interest and I think I might give it a try. Some of my favorite picture books are in rhyme. The Three Ninja Pigs is so much fun to read aloud, can’t wait to read your next book.

  53. This is a very informative post! It has inspired me to try my hand at rhyme. I also appreciate, however, the advice to get the story down first in prose or outline. No sense putting up a frame without a foundation.

  54. Corey never fails to knock my socks off with her snappy rhyme, meticulous meter, and seemingly infinite generosity! It has been truly delightful to read all these wonderful examples.

  55. Corey is such a gem of a human being! I was lucky enough to meet her two years ago at NJ SCBWI (and see her there again this year), but before I ever met her in person, I read her blog and she offered to read a PB of mine, just as she did for you, Julie. Corey, you were such a huge help. I really appreciated you taking the time to do that.

  56. Aw, thanks so much! You are all so sweet! I know I didn’t reply individually to each comment, but I read every one and they were all greatly appreciated!

  57. Love, Love, Love this post! I have worked a lot on my rhyme since 12 x 12 began. I thought I knew what I was doing before 12 x 12, but boy was I wrong. This post is awesome, and I love the suggested list of questions to ask ourselves and others. This is a wonderful reference for my own rhyming stories. Thank you! Angie 🙂

  58. Corey – your advice to get the story down first w/o rhyming or w/just sketchy rhyming is golden. When I first started rhyming, I would rhyme the whole story right off the bat and rhyming is so sooo hard and then, when you have to revise, it’s a nightmare to redo all your rhymes. I’ve since kicked the habit but loved seeing it stated here for all rhymers to see. thank you for being so generous with your time!

  59. Thanks for a great post, Corey! My kids are huge fans of The Three Ninja Pigs!!!

  60. WOW. This is super Corey! I appreciate the lesson in rhyming. I have this in a folder and will be referring to it often! Thank you, thank you! *waving*

  61. Corey, I love the tiered ninja belt advice. Thank you so much for your post and your generous critiques!

  62. Michelle Levin

    I can only second (or 72nd) everyone’s comments here. this is the MOST helpful rhyming post! Thank you, Corey.

  63. Stacy S. Jensen

    Thanks Corey. You’ve made it fun to understand … and easy, if I weren’t afraid of rhyme.

  64. Thanks, Corey and Julie for this informative post. Since English isn’t my first language I never did learn syllables but this has been a fun read. 🙂

  65. I love breaking down the rhyming skills in belts. Seeing the progression of the pigs stanza was so helpful. It’s hard to kill darlings in general, but abandoning a rhyme that works in search of a kick butt rhyme is always a hard leap!

  66. Hi Corey! I just want to say what a lovely person you are! Thank YOU for taking the time to critique my rhyme (Fishing in the A B Sea) and thoroughly explaining the technique. You’ve helped me a great deal. I love your clever explanation here as well! It’s going to take me a while to get my black belt, but I have a wonderful sensei!

  67. Hi Corey, Thank you for sharing from the heart! Not only is your post packed full of helpful information, but the way you have taken the time to break down member’s stanzas in the comments section is really incredible. I’ve learned so much! And, yup, if you ever offer a class..I’m there!!!

  68. Corey, your advice about starting the story in prose or outline and then putting it in rhyme is really helpful, so that the rhyme doesn’t end up driving the story. I got a bit discouraged on rhyme after an agent liked my one rhyming ms. but wanted to see it out of rhyme. Trying to write it in prose turned it into a completely different story (which the agent didn’t like but I do!), and I found out it’s so hard to let go once you fall in love with your own rhymes! It seems like rhyme is so hard to sell – the most recent reason I’ve heard is because if editors want to change the story, it messes up the rhyme and is harder to revise along the lines they want. But, like a lot of people, including kids, I love reading rhyming stories.

  69. It is refreshing to say that rhyme has a way of making it back into books. Once we were told that rhyme was not gold so back to the prose I did wander. Flung far from my course I’m now back on my horse riding the stanzas and meter. Your Ninja belt hints are exciting tips but this pig hasn’t learned how to canter. So thank you Corey for sharing your story and being that black belted Ninja. I can only hope that I’m not seen as a dope for sharing my thoughts with such banter.

  70. Being a karate-ka myself, I know how important each grading is for lifelong journey! 🙂 despite being 2nd Dan in karate – I am definitely white belt beginner in rhyme – but I love a good journey.thank you so much for this post – brilliant

  71. Great advice! I still have a story written in rhyme that I love too much to give up, still feel it needs to stay in rhyme, but need to rewrite the whole thing because the rhyme for it just doesn’t WORK! lol!

  72. I recently wrote a story in rhyme, then into prose then back into a different rhyming pattern. I am glad you feel it’s ok to just get the rhyme ing story down no matter how rough for the first draft. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom. 😀

  73. I love to rhyme…. cant help it. thank you

  74. Corey – your advice is so practical and succinct. And dividing tips into belts makes a great visual. I’m curious: how did you become a rhyming ninja?

  75. Great post, Corey! I especially loved the advice about getting the story down first before worrying about rhyming. I’m going to do that in the future!

  76. This was a great post – I especially agree about trying to work out story issues *first* before perfecting the rhyme. I’ve learned that the hard way, a couple of times over. 🙂

  77. Thanks for this great post! I love love love rhyme, but it is a very difficult thing to master. Am off to revise a rhyming story now! 😉

  78. I am so impressed with your thoughtful nature. Thank you for all you do to help insire other writers.

  79. thank you! I have never written in rhyme before, but I’ll try writing one with your suggestions 🙂

  80. Jessica Pilarski

    Great post! Great advice!

  81. Gee, with SCBWI and moving I completely missed this fabulous post AND all the learning going on in the comments. I DO rhyme, but only when my story begs for it and these are awesome tips to help me progress.

  82. I want to win this critique! I love writing in rhyme and always have rhymezone and thesaurus.com opened as well. 🙂 Is there any particular sites you recommend for understanding what syllable in a word should be stressed versus unstressed? I just read it aloud stressing what the beat falls on to see if it sounds ok. My husband thinks I’m weird.

  83. Sharalyn Edgeberg

    Thanks for the great & helpful information about rhyme! I will definitely look at my attempts at rhyme to see how I can improve them!

  84. I love your book, Corey! Thanks for the tips on rhyme. I will need to start out with the white belt tips, I think =)

  85. Thanks for a helpful, fun post, Corey! I don’t rhyme, but there are a couple in my critique group who do and getting the story down before concentrating on the rhyme tip may help them quite a bit. And this post will help me critique them better as well. Wendy

  86. HOW DID I MISS THIS POST? Thank goodness for your end-of-August check-in post, Julie, which directed me here.
    Corey is definitely one of the most selfless and generous writers I know. I, too, benefited from her advice for one of my rhyming stories…and reading this post inspires me to go back to it and follow her steps to make it black-belt worthy.:)
    Thanks so much, Corey…others have suggested writing a rhyming picture book in prose first…but for some reason, this post really lays it out so clearly as to why that is a great idea. I WILL DO IT!!!
    You are a master rhymer…much appreciation for sharing these tips.

  87. Thank you for this explanation on rhyme and what works and what doesn’t work. I appreciate how you broke down the revision process into different belt levels, very clear and concise.

  88. Thank you, Corey, for the great tips! I just wrote my first rhyming picture book in February. I keep referring back to this post to help me with editing. You’re right — it takes a lot of patience to get it right!
    My daughter was learning Aikido last year, so The Three Ninja Pigs was a favorite bedtime story in our house.

  89. I’m usually not a huge fan of rhyme but I could definitely see reading your books in art class. Also, so cool that Dan Santat illustrated your book. Just curious if you were able to collaborate with him a little or just through the publisher? Either way…really fun! 🙂

  90. Hi Corey,
    Thank you for such an inspirational post! I feel like I’d sworn off rhyme for awhile, even though I love it. And now…well, I’m excited again. 🙂 I love your humor and the advice to write the story in prose first and work out the main issues, getting to the heart of the story, then try it in rhyme. Also, Three Ninja Pigs rocks!
    Many, many thanks,
    Beth Thaler

  91. Wow, Corey. . .your instruction is so clear and easy to follow that I think even I could attempt poetry! Thanks so much for your post, AND inspiring Julie to help us in our passion to write.

  92. Darlene Frybarger

    Corey, thank you so much! You have made this so easy to understand. I will save this post – it is like a very clear path I can follow since it has been a little difficult knowing even how to get started with rhyme. Great post!

  93. Kathleen Cornell Berman

    Thanks Corey for all your great suggestions. One of these days……I will try to write a rhyming book. I absolutely love to read them!! And I know kids love to hear books with rhyme.

  94. I’m learning so much just from reading this post. I’ll head over to your blog for more info because I know I need a lot of work in this area. I have a rhyming story that needs a lot of work! It was a pleasure meeting you in NJ at the SCBWI in Princeton this past June. I sat next to you at a meal and enjoyed our conversation about school visits. Best of luck!

  95. I can’t wait to put your tools to use. I love writing in rhyme but I can’t seem get it quite right. Your post is encouraging! I’ll keep at it!

  96. Oh my goodness, what planet have I been hiding on to only get to this post NOW. I am going to spend the next week here and read every word six times.

  97. Thank you Corey for your fabulous post! I LOVE rhyme, and always appreciate being inspired by someone who is so fantastic with the form!

  98. This is excellent! So helpful. Thank you, Corey!

  99. You’ve given such valuable advice, and what a colorful way to present it too. 🙂 I love the “ninja” and black belt metaphor! I just finished a PB manuscript that is a combination of rhyming verse and prose…
    It seems to work really quite well, and rhyming is definitely NOT a “hard sell”.
    So there, and take care!

  100. Thanks Corey for being so sharing, I love rhyme 🙂 but find meter confusing 🙁 .
    Gonna have to re read this post and absorb, absorb, absorb . . .

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