March 25, 2020
$300 | 5 Weeks
Even if you’ve never written poetry before, you can begin the rewarding process of crafting a poetry novel.
Is there a market for novels written in verse? Are they well received?
Yes, there is, and yes, they are! Poetry novels (or “novels in verse”) are popular among young adults and welcome in school libraries. The short, spare text is perfect for the reluctant reader and for creating stories fraught with tension and deep emotion. As for critical acclaim: Did you know that novels in verse have received nominations and/or won all the major awards, including the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Michael L. Printz award? From Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (A Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Honor, and Printz Honor,) to Brown Girl Dreaming (National Book Award winner, Newbery Honor Book,) by Jaqueline Woodson, (the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,) to Out of the Dust (Newbery winner) by Karen Hesse, poetry novels are more celebrated than ever before.
What is a poetry novel? How does it differ from a novel in prose? Do you have to be a poet to write a poetry novel? How do you go about writing one and where do you begin?
If you’re working on a poetry novel or interested in exploring the form, join us to find out the answers to these questions and more.
We’ll dive into the fundamentals and touch on the basics of solid story structure, including character development, plot, pacing, tension, and earned endings. We’ll look at what makes the poetic form different than prose, and how to maximize poetry to serve your story and strike an emotional connection between your reader and your protagonist. We’ll go over the elements that make the use of verse so rewarding and different, including word choice, imagery, and the arrangement of text on the page.
We’ll cover a lot of ground, writing, reading and workshopping your novel-in-progress, so expect a brisk pace, with weekly assignments and readings.
You will work closely with Kelly on your manuscript and assignments. Kelly will provide detailed feedback every step of the way, and will be available for questions and support. You will share feedback, ask questions and participate in discussions about the topics we cover. We’ll read poetry novels, learning from them, and discuss what makes them successful and distinct.
Whether you are a new writer or well-published, join us for a crash course on writing the poetry novel
Each week you’ll have writing assignments and will be asked to read poetry novels to discuss.
Week one: Introductions, Overview, Discussion.
Overview: What is a poetry novel? What makes it different than a prose novel? Why write in the poetry form? Does your subject matter lend itself to poetry? What are the pros and cons of writing in verse? We’ll look at some successful poetry novels and the common characteristics they have.
Moving on to your own work: We’ll begin with a summary/synopsis of your book or idea. Discuss the need your character has and what stands in their way.
How to begin? We’ll discuss rough outlines, the “puzzle piece” approach to drafting, and the process of writing scenes.
Assignment: Refine your summary/idea, narrow down what your character wants, what obstacles they will face, and why. Draft one or two rough scenes, then refine them several times, working with Kelly during the week.
Week Two: Review, Share, Feedback, Discussion. Lecture: Emotional stakes, Complications, Creating tension.
Review and share your work. Feedback. Discuss questions and thoughts that have popped up.
Subject: Emotional stakes, tension. Making your reader care about what your protagonist wants. Keeping tension high through solid emotional stakes. Discussing internal and external needs and how that affects emotional stakes. How will you use this knowledge to benefit your story? How emotional stakes play into building tension for your reader; the use of complications to keep your reader invested and your protagonist evolving.
Assignment: Identify the emotional stakes for your character. Examine already-read poetry novels and identify the emotional stakes for those characters, the internal and external need and how/if they were met. Examine how tension is created, how characters are challenged and changed. Continue work on your novel-in-progress and work with Kelly throughout the week.
Week three: Recap, review, discussion. Topic: Character Development, Plotting, Drafting. Students share their work, discuss what they’ve learned so far, thoughts they have, observations, etc.
Subject: Plotting, sub-plotting. Character development: What makes a character grow? (Dealing with their conflict, dealing with things outside their comfort zone, being pushed, externally or internally. Rising to the occasion. Even failing miserably can connect us to your characters.) We look for those connections that make us see ourselves in them; cause us to invest ourselves in your protagonist.
We touch upon the business of drafting, whether you work by an outline or by “the seat of your pants.”
Assignment: String together 30-50 continuous pages of your novel. Share your work with Kelly as well as your classmates, read and write critiques/thoughts on your classmate’s work.
Week four: Group Workshop. We’ll share our feedback on each other’s works, having an open, honest discussion about each piece, and help each author look ahead.
Assignment: Revise based on feedback (if desired, and/or keep pressing on with your manuscript. Shoot for 20-30 more pages the coming week.) Kelly will work with you throughout the week on your individual work-in-progress. Also: You’ll be given poems from different novels, where the text and white space have been artfully arranged. Think about why the author did it that way and come prepared to discuss your insight.
Week five: Subject: White space and text arrangement. Satisfying (earned) endings.
We’ll discuss the examples we studied during the week. When it comes to use of the sparse text upon the white page, what is effective and why? Students are invited to share their own examples of their and how they arranged text in an unusual and effective way.
We’ll talk about “earned” endings and what makes a character memorable. Is it how they dealt with their obstacles? How they’ve grown? What they’ve shown us? And think about how to apply these ideas to our own work.