Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meter Maids Lay Down the Law (of Rhyme!)

Happy Wednesday!

And, happy new school year for many of us!  I returned almost two weeks ago already, and my students are fabulous.  As usual, we laid down the ground rules on the first few days of class.  Here to set the "ground rules" of rhyming stories and picture books are the "police of poetry" -- that is:


Employ These DO’s and You Can’t Lose!
By The Meter Maids

When you read an article about writing in rhyme, you often hear about what you should NOT do.

DON’T invert your syntax
DON’T use imperfect rhymes
DON’T choose predictable rhyming words

As Meter Maids, we constantly urge writers to avoid these crimes of rhyme.

But even if your manuscript is free of these pitfalls, it may not be strong enough to make it out of the slush.  There are certain things you need to DO to elevate your manuscript to a level that will get an editor's attention.. 

You manuscript can’t just be “fine”...  it needs to SHINE! 

It must be rip-roaring, rollicking “fun on the tongue.”

How do you accomplish this?

DO use alliteration  (and the less-often-mentioned assonance and consonance).

The repetition of sounds gives your stanzas some zany, zonky, zip! 

From BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson

An itty-bitty mouse,
Pitter-pat, tip-toe 
Creep-crawls in the cave
From the fluff-cold snow.

DO include internal rhymes.

Extra rhymes here and there always add a lot of flair!


   From OLLIE AND CLAIRE by Tiffany Strelitz Haber (Spring, 2013)

Toe shoes and snow shoes and go-with-the-flow shoes, 
a thingamajig and a kit. 
She mushed and she pushed and she squished it all in 
and then zipped it right up and it fit!

DO play with words.

Not in the dictionary?  Inventify it yourself!  (Who says nouns can't be used as verbs?)

From MY LIFE AS A CHICKEN by Ellen A. Kelley

To the brooding woods I scramble,
Prickly briar’d, bristly brambled.
I am chased by hungry brutes.
I am spooked by swoopy hoots.*

*This line is also a great example of assonance- repetition of a vowel sound

DO vary your sentences lengths.

If you don’t vary your sentence lengths, your stanzas will eventually become monotonous and sing-songy.  Trust us!

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.

Put it together and there is no doubt... you'll have a story that really stands out!

Corey & Tiffany
            Always on patrol.

For more tips on rhyme, visit us at

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

Tiffany Strelitz Haber is the author of two rhyming picture books: THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN (Henry Holt Book for Young Readers, 2012) and OLLIE AND CLAIRE (Philomel, 2013). She will eat any food she is served, be it fried witchetty grubs on a stick or calf’s brain ravioli, and loves to be high in the air or deep in the sea. Tiffany lives in NJ with her two little monsters, Jack Dalton and Travis Hawk.

Comments are OPEN!!


  1. What perfect examples! Thanks for some Meter Maid magic.

  2. Thanks Meter Maids! These were so helpful.

  3. I love to write in rhyme and I can use all the advice I can get. Great examples!

  4. Dear ladies of rhyming
    It's true that the timing
    Must rhythmically move us along.

    But you always point out
    If the rhyme's to have klout
    We must choose words that sing like a song.

    Great advice, Corey and Tiffany...using verses from picture books really helps me to "see" the tip...thanks so much.

  5. And thank you, Miranda, for having The Meter Maids guest post on Rate Your Story!

  6. I adore the endorsement of 'inventifying' words, but I just can't think up anything clever without soundign too cutesy!

  7. Cathy,

    I had a friend in college who wasn't used to being in a Jewish crowd. Trying to fit in one day, she said, 'I got schmucked on that test!" Ha.

    If you're comfortable entirely making up a word, try using a noun as a verb :)

  8. I am almost there, I swear. One more assonance and I am on it.

  9. Thank you for the good advice and examples. I have a long way to go ;)


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