Last week a young reader emailed to ask me some advice on writing verse novels. Her questions are similar to the ones I’m often asked at events or online, so I thought I’d share my response here.
It’s lovely to hear from you! I’m pleased you’re writing and enjoying the process, especially that you’re experimenting with verse. Outside of that article you found, I’m not sure I have much more to say except these three things:
First, there here is no magic formula / secret answer / magic bullet. I wrote my first verse novel, May B., after reading two verse novels. The conventional rule of thumb is to read at least 100 books in your genre or form before starting your own book in a similar style. I didn’t know what I was doing at all! But I learned from trying, just as you will.
Second, reading truly, truly is the best teacher. When you read, you are constantly learning about how stories work. Dig in and enjoy!
And third, you must find your own way, mistakes and all. If your stories feel like they need to be written as verse, then by all means try them that way! I try not to think of my writing time as “writing.” That feels like I know exactly what I’m doing. Most of the time I don’t. I like to think of writing as experimenting, playing, practicing, tinkering — any word that allows for exploration and trial and error.
So read a lot and be willing to try, even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. There is no magic answer or right way. Be willing to try, even knowing mistakes are out there to make.
Here’s to the good work ahead!