Saturday, October 29, 2011

RHYMING RUMBLE - How to write rhyme and meter that doesn't suck!

Okay, Mates, I'm on a Rumble 
Rhyme and Meter

Why are so many people convinced they can write wonderful rhyming stories?


A bunch of the manuscripts that land on my critique desk are picture books written in rhyme and meter.  I'm afraid many of them fail the "3" test.  These are the three basic ingredients for a delightfully rhyming picture book:

            A great story, smooth meter, and
            rhyming words that REALLY fit the story.

I write rhyming picture books myself  - 10 of them actually. Yet I really can't take credit for my rhyming talent.  You see, when the rhyme and meter gene was being handed out,  I suspect I slipped in for a second helping.  And over the years, I discovered that writing in rhyme and meter is similar to singing in key.  You either hit the high notes with ease, or you slide around them - hit or miss. 

 So if you can write awesome stories in plain text, why get an ulcer, or tear out your hair, trying to master the elusive art of words that rhyme and meter that flows.   Trust me - there are less angst ridden ways to torture yourself!

Editors do not hate stories written in rhyme.

They simply hate all those rhyming manuscripts,
with really lousy rhyme and meter,
that hit their desks.

SO . . .
You still long to join the Rhyming Rumble - gene spliced or not?

Then for those masochists determined to bleed or go bald,
here are my tips for hopefully creating
rhyming stories that don't suck!

* The first thing to remember is that you need a great story.  Cool
   rhyme and meter only win accolades when they blend into a terrific
   story.  The story also needs to HOOK a child’s interest, and be
   easily understood.

* Counting the syllables in each line helps you write smooth and even
Every first line should have close to the same syllable count –
   no more than one difference
- either way.

* Note where the stress words fall as you read the lines out loud. 
  They should fall in the
same places as those on the corresponding
   line in your first verse.

* Keep the mufti-syllable words in roughly the same place in every
   line of each verse.

* The rhyming words must fit the story and move it on to the next

* When you or someone else reads it out loud, wherever you stumble
   suspect a meter problem.

* Choose a verse that has perfect meter, print it out, and make it your
   "blueprint."  Compare the meter in each new verse you write with
    that in the blueprint -  line for line.

And finally, visit the mistress of rhyme - 
Dori Chaconas

If Dori's two simple discourses on Writing Rhyme don't turn you
into a Shelley or a Keats,  quit while you still have 
a few drops of blood left and some
stray hairs on your head.

And, just for a giggle, my ODE to rhyme and meter:

    Rhyme and Meter Rumble. . .

    There are people who think rhyme is easy to churn.
    They know all the answers - they don't want to learn.
    They think rhyming stories are done in a flash.
    No need for a rewrite: "How dare you say trash!"

    The brash and unruly don't search for strong verbs,
    Their tired old adjectives pop up in herds.
    But editors know that a rhyme flies on wings
    That lifts up the reader with meter that sings.

    Their syllable count is way off -- for the birds!
    Why bother to count, or weed the dumb words.
   Yet when tart rejection slips paper their walls,
   It begins to sink in -- meter's not found at malls.

    But to weave a great story with meter and plot,
    Interesting characters, setting, the lot,
    Takes talent and patience, and three things quite rare -
    A dash of sheer brilliance, hard work, and care.

    The plot and the characters live in your head,
    And problems galore get you out of your bed.
    If you keep the poor meter that doesn't quite fit,
    Will you get a rejection instead of a hit?

    The words that rhyme easy, but don't help the plot,
    Make editors crazy -- they see this a lot.
    Rhyme needs to blend in, so a story can glide:
    Cool fun and action, on a rhyme/meter tide

    There'll be nit-picking nights, thesaurus in hand.
    Daytime dilemmas -- will it rhyme like you planned?
    And, who stole the words that fit your last line?
    You tear out your hair, and chug down some wine

    Like honey that flows from a summer-warmed hive,
    Story and meter must be golden to thrive.
    The characters perfect, the rhyme must fit well.
    All blended together -- a pleasure to tell.

    Yes, rhyme for a quick note IS done in a flash,
    But if you crave editors offering cash,
    Please, put in the time, and the sweat, and the tears.
    And you could be published in oh . . .  say ten years!





Friday, October 21, 2011

EDITING for Self Publishers + the Gentle Art of a Professional Critique.

 Let me introduce you to the gentle
art of Professional Critiquing
. . .

 For more in-depth details: 
Manuscript Critique Services


What follows is for those considering

 When you self-publish, you do not have access to the FREE editing services provided by a traditional publisher.   You must PAY for EDITING.   A good professional edit means a quality book that has a fine chance of garnering glowing reviews. . . . plus SALES!

First, join an online critique group for the genre you write, and pick their brains. Crit groups will also know the reviewers, bloggers, and best places to promote your book.  Most successful authors today work with other writers of their genre, and offer each other feedback and support. Online writing groups usually have many private crit groups formed among their members; 4-6 writers who support and advise each other regarding their manuscripts.  They can often tell you if the publisher you chose is legititimale or NOT.

After your crit group agrees your manuscript is as good as you can make it, have your book professionally edited. No one can successfully self-edit their own book for self-publication. You need a fresh professional eye that knows how to spot plot weaknesses, typos, and characters that are not rich and powerful. A pro edit is expensive, but it makes all the difference between an amateur attempt, and a book that sells.

It takes time to build a platform and find the right contacts and places to promote your book. You have to master the art of tight and terrific Press Releases, set up a great blog that lists your book, cover, and where and how it can be purchased + plus add regular information about yourself and where you will be promoting it. Search out local book stores that will let you do signings. Research book fairs and other events where you and your book will be welcome.

Contact Newspapers, bookstores, TV and radio in your area, and try for interviews and pictures of your book. Those online groups I mentioned earlier can help you find the right place to host a Virtual Tour for you and your book - lots of interviews, pictures and reviews of your book go into these Virtual tours, but you have to find the right company to set it up.

 We writers tend to be insestuous - we promote among other writers.  This is good - up to a point.  However you need to get known to the ordinary buying public.  A good Virtual Tour will also have access to  places where buyers of books hang out. They will make sure your interviews, reviews  and Press Releases go to the right blogs, newspapers and radio stations.  You will pay for a Virtual Book tour like this, but it will preach to those who might buy your book - not just those who already know you write books.

Get known as a writer of a specific genre on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and other sites that are book related in general. Networking is the name of the game. It takes time to build a following, brand yourself as a writer, and discover the right places to promote yourself and your book. It takes time, money, and LOTS of energy to successfully promote a book.

I know. I had three new books published early this year, and I am still running the Promo Game like a crazy lady - and mine were traditionally published!!


Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

Virtual School Visits


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

REVIEW - Trouble on Earth Day

I don't usually do reviews, but this new picture book
by Kathy Stemke spoke to the GREEN in me.

As parents, we teach our kids about many things.  Yet our "actions" will speak louder than all the nagging words we throw at them.  This new picture book of Kathy's has kids and parents working together for a greener and more reusable and recyclable world.


Trouble on Earth Day -
Picture Book – soft cover

Author - Kathy Stemke
Publisher – Wild Plains Press
Illustrations – Kurt Wilcken
Earth Day projects modeled by: Eamon Monaghan and Summer Dodd

ISBN: 978-1-936021-36-9 
Kathy Stemke is a writer of talent and imagination, and her squirrel characters in Trouble on Earth Day are delightfully written. Illustrator Kurt Wilcken gives the family a cute and cuddly feel – just right for a story that teaches kids that “green” is great. 

When daughter Shelby wins the Earth Day poster competition, things around their tree house change FAST. The words RETHINK – REUSE and RECYCLE, featured on Shelby’s winning poster, become the squirrel family’s motto. Shelby explains it all to her bewildered parents. And when it comes to reusing, Shelby discovers her mom is no slouch. Even a sad bluebird learns about recycling from this engaging young squirrel

This cute story is a wonderful way for young kids to learn how to reuse and recycle – and make it FUN. And at the back of the book you’ll discover a HUGE bonus of games, “green” information, and crafty  ways to reuse and recycle everything; from nylons to old CDs. 
Kathy Stemke makes going “green” way cool. 

 This is another of Kathy's delightful picture books.
View it HERE

Kathy Stemke
Freelance Writer/Author/Educator

Sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter:
Movement and Rhythm


Monday, October 10, 2011

MUSE Conference - ADVICE that ROCKS!

I have just completed a fantastically busy
and rewarding week .

I ran the
HOOK an Editor With Your First Page - Workshop
+ afternoon Q and A chat sessions.

all for
The MUSE Online Writing Conference

This FREE Conference comes around once each year in early October.  It is a chance to take workshops in many aspects of writing for adults or children, book promotion, or pitch your book to an editor.  

The quality of the writing I saw this year was way up,
and I read and enjoyed some awesome first pages  -
 with great HOOKS.

What follows is one of the areas I talked about with the many talented
and dedicated writers who came daily to my workshops.
What to expec when you get a

I want to let you know what I do as a Professional Critiquer.  It is NOT my job to edit your writing.  If you want to write and publish books, you must come to it with a good knowledge of grammar and punctuation. And if it's been a few decades since you had your knuckles rapped in Ms Writeit's class, then take a refresher course in the basics.

A good edit should be provided by the publisher that accepts your book.  It is their job to give your plot and characters a final OK,  and to nit-pick your grammar and punctuation -

A profesional critique should happen before you send your manuscript to the publisher, or before you self-publish.  My job entails nit-picking plot weaknesses and limp characters.  It means nagging you about the need to FOCUS on what is important, and leave those WAFFLES on the breakfast table.  We provide a clean-up crew for weak verbs and constantly repeated words.  A professional critique might suggest you tighten, tighten, tighten your writing - and should offer copious examples on how to do this.  They also vacuum up weak words, and suggest you find stronger and more evocative and powerful alternatives.

A good critique will head off that dreaded side-track, offer a viable alternative, and suggest ways to polish and perfect your writing voice, and the voice of your main POV.  We answer questions support and encourage. All you, the writer  has to do, is provide the basic writing  knowledge mentioned above, talent, staying power, and then write, write, write.  A little LUCK is simply a wild card we all hope will fall into our laps.

A critique, whether professional or private, offers comments, suggestions, and examples for you to consider when you rewrite.  Bottom line: This is YOUR baby.  Others can advise and suggest, but the final choices about what to cut and what to leave are YOURS. As you gain confidence and experience, these decisions become far easier.

Joining a private Critique Group is also a terrific idea, no matter what you write or how you publish.  Networking among other writers, having their fresh view of your chapters, picking their brains, and sharing writing knowledge can only make your writing stronger, richer, and more polished.  These critiques are FREE, so is is wise to let your crit group run through your chapters before you spend hard earned cash on a professional review.  The more suggestions, comments and examples your book needs, the longer it will take a professional to do -  and her time is YOUR money.

A word of caution. When you look for a private group to read your MS, or someone as a crit partner, make sure they write the same genre as yourself. Each genre, from children's books to erotic fantasy have their own particular needs and quirks. Only someone who writes and publishes in a similar genre to yours can really offer helpful and accurate feedback. If you do form a group, make sure there are some advanced or published members. This avoids the blind-leading-the-blind into complete confusion!

I have been with my critique group for 10 years. I can honestly say that I would never have been published without their feedback and great support.