From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme (Poetry)

101 creative writing exercises - Rock and Rhyme

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme Poetry.

Today’s post features an exercise from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is filled with exercises for various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.

This exercise comes from “Chapter 8: Free Verse.” The creative writing exercises in this chapter focus on free-form poetry writing.

I chose this exercise because it’s fun and inspiring. It asks you to use a song as a foundation for writing a poem. Many song lyrics are poems in their own right. This exercise focuses on rhyming, but it also shows you how to look at your writing’s musicality and encourages you to think about rhythm and meter in your work.

Give it a try, then come back and tell us what you learned. Feel free to share the poems or lyrics that you write from this exercise in the comments section.

Rock and Rhyme Poetry Writing Exercise

Rhyming poetry goes in and out of vogue all the time, except when it comes to children’s poetry, which is almost always packed with fun and clever rhymes.

Some poets take to rhyming rather easily, and sound-a-like words roll off their tongues like butter. Other poets struggle, dancing through the alphabet and flipping through rhyming dictionaries just to find a rhyme as simple as bat and cat.

Poems that rhyme may be a challenge for some, but they’re still fun to write and a blast to read (they are especially fun to read out loud). Rhyming is good practice for exploring musicality in language and experimenting with word play.

The Exercise

All you need is a song. A rhythmic and rhyme-y song without a lot of fancy runs. You’ll want a relatively simple tune. A short pop song will work well. Forget about classical music because most of it doesn’t have lyrics, and what we’re doing requires words. We’re writers, right?

Rewrite the lyrics but keep the rhythm and rhyme scheme intact. You don’t have to replace the rhyme ring and sing with a rhyme like thing and bling. But you do need to find another rhyming pair (like dance and pants). Your rhymes can be as strict or as loose as you want.

If you do just a few of these, rhyming will start to come more naturally to you, and your rhymes will flow with greater ease.

Try to rewrite the song on your own, but if you’re really struggling, hit up a rhyming dictionary or a thesaurus.

Tips: You might want to start with a short, three-chord pop song. Then, graduate yourself to longer and more complex tunes. If you know all the lyrics to your song, that will be immensely helpful. If not, do an online search to find the lyrics to the song you want to work with.

Variations: Here are a few variations that you can use for this exercise:

  • Try it with nursery rhymes: Hey diddle diddle.
  • Try it with a famous poem: Shakespeare anyone?
  • Try it using a song without lyrics: You’re on your own!

Applications: Working with rhyme helps you think more carefully about word choice and points your focus to the sound and rhythm of a piece of writing. This is also an excellent exercise for anyone who has thought about writing song lyrics or children’s poems and stories.

I Rocked Some Poetry

Here’s my attempt with the first chorus from 80s one-hit wonder “99 Red Balloons” by Nena.

The Original Verse
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
Set them free at the break of dawn
Till one by one they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message: something’s out there
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

My Attempt to Catch the Rhyme
Shoes untied at a little bus stop
Sigh and whistle a tune ’cause it’s all you’ve got
Set your feet on the tired green lawn
Tie your shoe, stretch and yawn
Five o’clock, the bus should be here
Time is precious, the deadline is near
Waiting till the bus comes by
Ninety-nine cents just for a ride

Are You Ready to Get Down?

Try it for yourself and post a verse or a chorus in the comments! If you’re looking for a song lyric resource, then check out 99 Red Balloons and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders, which is packed with awesome song lyrics that are ideal for this exercise.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


6 Responses to “From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme (Poetry)”

  1. I tried it on one of my favorite John Farnham songs, “Don’t you know it’s magic”.

    See her at the marketplace
    Where she comes from nobody knows
    Now that you ask me
    I guess I like the way she wears her clothes

    The way she smiles at him
    My heart just swells it grows and grows
    You think I’m telling you fairytales
    I suppose

    My Version:
    Can’t you see her smiling face?
    Her hips sway wherever she goes.
    Blue eyes sparkling bright
    makes you wonder what it is she knows.

    She walks right by with a grin
    leaves hearts broken in rows and rows.
    She’s in every man’s fairytales
    to her toes.

    And this time with Toby Keith’s, “You shouldn’t kiss me like this”:


    I got a funny feeling
    The moment that your lips touched mine
    Something shot right through me
    My heart skipped a beat in time

    There’s a different feel about you tonight
    It’s got me thinkin’ lots of crazy things
    I even think I saw a flash of light
    It felt like electricity

    You shouldn’t kiss me like this
    Unless you mean it like that
    Cause I’ll just close my eyes
    And I won’t know where I’m at
    We’ll get lost on this dance floor
    Spinnin’ around
    And around
    And around
    And around

    They’re all watchin’ us now
    They think we’re falling in love
    They’d never believed we’re just friends
    When you kiss me like this
    I think you mean it like that
    If you do baby kiss me again

    My version, “If I could have just one wish”:

    My head spins, boy I’m reeling;
    maybe its this bottle of wine.
    My eyes burn I can’t see;
    I’m sure that I’m not feeling fine.

    Your skins burning like an amber light;
    a fire deep inside me begins.
    I wonder when your eyes grew bright
    wonder at simplicity.

    If I could have just one wish
    I’d hold you right where we sat
    Never say my goodbyes
    it’d be as easy as that.
    In your arms like before
    our love sound
    so sound
    so sound
    so sound

    We’d never have this row
    we’d rise high above
    in my dreams this never ends
    if I had just one wish
    we’d stay right where we once sat
    What would you baby do with me then?

    You really have to listen to the lyrics to get the full affect of these songs and rhymes. I love the opportunity to really listen to music. So often I have it playing in the background but I tune the words out while I work. It makes me forget how truly beautiful the lyrics can be sometimes. I’ll have to make an effort to listen to the words more often.

  2. almondjoycie says:

    Original: So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
    My version: We Said Our Last Goodbye

    Standing on a lonely hill
    Beneath a cloudy sky
    He always thought our love would grow
    Before we said our last good bye.
    Didn’t know just what he did wrong
    Never got to ask me why
    Why must I be so doggone proud
    To make us say good bye
    Will I ever get a full night’s sleep
    When clouds roll through the sky
    For I never learned how to forgive
    When we said our last good bye.
    I always wonder from afar
    Let out a mournful sigh
    As I wish upon a star
    After we said our last good bye.

  3. Bonnie Batten says:

    I love this concept. I’m a habitual rhymer and often there’s a tune playing in my head when I write something down.
    So I’ll give it a whirl with Paul McCartney [I Want to Hold Your Hand].


    Oh say, can you see me
    I’m waving both my hands
    Descend the plane so gently
    Here is the place to land
    Here is the place to land
    Here is the place to land

    I hope you see my signal
    Alone upon the sand
    And please do not kill me
    As you attempt to land
    Here is the place to land
    Right here upon the sand

    And when I spot you I get nervous and cry
    It’s such a worry
    Oh my nerves
    I might die
    I might die
    I might die

    Thank God you saw my signal
    As you approached the sand
    Thankfully you did not crush me
    In your attempt to land
    You found the place to land
    Right here upon the sand

    • As I read this, I kept thinking about some person on an island with a plane flying overhead and trying to land. Interesting concept. You did a good job staying in tune with the rhythm of the Beatles song!


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  1. […] poem was inspired by an exercise on the blog Writing Forward, Writing Tips and Ideas. The idea is to take a good song with rhythm and rhyme and a relatively simple tune and rewrite it […]