March 25, 2020
$300 | 5 Weeks
Learn all you need to write a verse novel for young adult readers.
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
Kelly is so obviously an expert in her area. I loved her personable and positive approach to critique and feedback. I really feel that I gained a lot of insight and skill during this time. —Heather Woodward
Young Adult Poetry Novel Course Outline
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: 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: 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: 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.
Why Take a Poetry Novel Writing Course with Writers.com?
- We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
- Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
- Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
- Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
- Award-winning instructor Kelly Bingham will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.
Learn how to write a verse novel for young adults. Reserve your spot today!
Want to hear more from Kelly on the young adult poetry novel? See her Writers.com interview.
Student Feedback for Instructor Kelly Bingham
I found the earlier exercises extremely helpful and came away feeling encouraged about my novel idea and excited to continue working on it. [Jack] was accessible and encouraging and gave excellent feedback. I would take another of his classes, perhaps when I am farther along with my project and looking for structure and feedback. I just want to say again how much I appreciated the teacher's attentive and individualized feedback and encouragement. This was my first fiction-writing experience, and it felt like a risk. I was in good hands with Jack. Elizabeth Hawkins
Jack was very encouraging and provided me with helpful feedback. His comments are friendly but also critical, which is important with writing, as too many compliments and not enough critical opinions aren't helpful. The class content was engaging. I've already recommended the class to a friend and will continue to do so. And I'm taking another class at the moment. I've been very happy with my experience. Shay Meinecke
This was probably the best online writing class I’ve taken in terms of what I learned from it and class participation. I found the lessons very useful, and will incorporate them in how I write... Jack was very thoughtful, conscientious, and informative. He did a great job with the class... I would definitely recommend your classes. This was my second class from you, and I’m enrolled in Jack’s May novel writing class...I’ve taken online writing classes from UCLA, Gotham, Writer’s Digest, and Writers.com. I must say I’ve really enjoyed Writers.com. Thank you! Bill Hughes
Jack is a fantastic teacher. He is infinitely patient, doesn't take anything personally, and he is supportive without relinquishing his desire to provide us with detailed, specific, constructive criticism. I of course worked with him longer later and was very impressed with his ability to refrain from taking offense when I did not use one of his suggestions, but simply anticipate why I might be hesitant to do so and offer a solution that could satisfy the need I had which prevented me from making changes to the text to begin with. In other words, he is humble, smart, and flexible; even wise, and that is not a word I use lightly. He seems to find the balance between allowing students their own style and self-expression while correcting everything that needs to be corrected. Finally, I really appreciated in Jack his sense of humor, which is subtle and compassionate. His way of constructing a class and giving feedback allows students to feel encouraged and supported even when he is busy with correcting our text and way of working so we may become better writers. He just kept on making suggestions patiently on where and how I could use an image to help my scene, so that without even noticing, I acquired a good habit and will never again NOT think of using more visuals with descriptions. Same goes for using action instead of telling, or avoiding clichés. I hope you will use Jack for more classes in the future, he is truly a gifted teacher....
Thank you for creating and leading the best online writing website I have tried (and I have tried several). Marcella Agh
I enjoyed [the novella class]. I also really enjoyed the suggested reading. I realized the first week I wasn’t quite prepared. Jack’s suggestion to beef up my outline was the best advice I could have received. It wasn’t easy writing those 3000 words a week, but at least I didn’t have to think “what” I needed to write about. With the outline, it came fairly easy... As for Jack ... I thought he was personable, but with just the right amount of “removed” to make a good reviewer. In my case, he pointed out things I didn’t even think about and he was very supportive. He focused mostly on concept, and in a first draft, I believe this is critical. I have recommended you to other people. I am glad you are there for me. Anne Jennings
I found the lessons and the assignments to be inspiring and challenging.Jack gave helpful and encouraging feedback. He is a well read and accomplished writer, so his critique and input was astute. I think your offerings are fantastic. There is something for everyone, IMO. As a beginning writer, it's also nice that the classes all seem to be geared towards all levels. I can already see that you get what you put in with the classes, and that's ideal. I would definitely recommend your classes. I immediately enrolled in another class, so yes, I will probably keep taking classes with your site! Debra Barclay
[Jack] consistently provided detailed, thoughtful and helpful feedback. I’ve taken many courses with Writers.com so my repeated presence says more than any words I can add. Shawn Montgomery
Jack is excellent at gently pointing out how what you've written might not work or might not come across as authentic. His comments and suggestions are clear and very helpful. Reading other students writing and comments on their work gives depth to the whole experience. I really learned a lot from his guidance to me and to the other students. The additional reading materials Jack provided are excellent. Louise Aiello
I was very pleased with the class. Jack gave me great feedback. I think I made real progress on my novel and hope to take this class again in March. Jack is able to point out areas where you need more development as well as compliment your writing when he feels it is good. His feedback was invaluable to me. I've already recommended this course to my writing friends. It was so practical in helping me push through the writing of a novel and it's made me believe that I will actually complete it! Julia Gentile