Monday, July 30, 2012

Writing a Mosaic

I've been working on writing my middle grade verse novel while my contemporary YA is out with one of my fabulous critique partners (thank you, Kristin!).

Writing a verse novel, after writing mostly prose, is scary. It's a completely different type of challenge.
If I were an artist, I might compare it to working in oils one day and switching to mosaics the next.

Verse novels consist of bite-sized bits that you have to piece together perfectly in order to tell a larger story.

But each of those bits has to stand alone as a work of art.

So yeah, although I'm at a little over 13,000 words and will probably wrap up the entire novel in another 1000 words, it's tough. My hammer-it-out and get-the-first-draft-over-with approach isn't serving me so well.

I worry about each poem's placement.

I worry I've missed some vital piece of information, because I'm working so hard on brevity.

I worry about my audience. Am I being too vague? Am I using too many symbols for this age group? Is anyone going to understand any of this?

Part of writing a verse novel is reading lots of verse novels, and I've been trying to do that. Here are a few titles I've been devouring lately:

LOVE & LEFTOVERS is a YA and I LOVED the voice. Such a beautifully written story and so totally YA at the same time. I was impressed by this author and would like to read more from her.

In this MG verse novel, the main character struggles with a learning disability that makes reading difficult. Easy read with some moments of truly beautiful writing. I also adore the cover. MG novel covers can be such works of art!

I wasn't as crazy about this verse novel. The subject was heart-wrenching and I did enjoy learning more about this aspect of history, but unfortunately I felt most of the story was telling, which meant I didn't connect with the main character. The premise was excellent, however: a deaf girl  has to flee the Nazis during WWII and falls in love with a gypsy disguised as a homeless man.

I loved this book. Beautifully written and such an interesting premise: the main character must flee Vietnam with her family after the fall of Saigon. There are themes of culture shock and finding your identity in a new land. INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN deserved those awards on the cover (and what a beautiful cover it is, too!).

I haven't started this one yet, but it's on my night stand calling my name. Karen Hesse's OUT OF THE DUST is my favorite novel of all time (yes, I'm serious), so I'm really excited to read WITNESS.

Have you read anything captivating lately? If you're a writer do you usually read within your "writing-genre" or do you branch out?

And, in a completely unrelated vein, are you following the Olympics? (Of course you are!) Which is your favorite event? Mine is gymnastics. I'm always in awe of how those athletes can defy gravity. Incredible!


  1. I've read a few YA verse books lately that I've enjoyed. Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams and Exposed by Kimberly Marcus.

    So what is the word count range for novels in verse? And since yours is middle grade, is that less than YA?

    Haven't watched the olympics yet. Not really interested.

  2. Oooh sounds like great reads!

    I read within my genre but do branch out every once in a while to clear the mind. LOL

    Love the gymanstics and swimming!

  3. Great analogy with the mosaics--makes total sense.
    I think it's important to branch out in what we read, as well as to read plenty in our genre. If all you read is one style, it makes it that much harder to clarify your own voice.

  4. I really should read verse books. I've heard so many good things about them. Thanks for the kick in the booty to do so ;) These sound great!

  5. I tried to talk the kids into a variety of YA books at the book store last week. OK, so maybe it was because I am trying not to buy myself anything new until I make more progress on the pile of books I have. Speaking of verses, any chance of the Teenage life blog hop coming around again? :)

  6. I love gymnastics!

    I haven't read any of those, but I think I'll pick up the MG ones with the lovely covers. Thanks for featuring them.

    And good luck with finishing up!

  7. Poetry is the hardest of all for me, and although I write short poems, I doubt I would ever attempt a novel in verse. Only if my life depended on it!

    Karen Hesse is one of my favorites, so you will love Witness.

  8. Oh, another book you might enjoy is Spoon River Anthology. It's nothing less than brilliant.

  9. Out of the Dust is the only one I've read. I love that you're writing an MG verse novel!! Just based on how much I love the writing in your posts, I think you'd be really good at it!

    As for the Olympics, I'm such a swimming junkie - I love it. ;)

  10. Writing in verse is a whole other way of thinking, plotting, everything! I have a verse novel coming out next year and no one is more surprised than me. See my new blog on the verse novel

  11. T4 and Inside Out and Back Again sound like they'd be right up my alley, since I live and breathe 20th century historical, and those are two of my favorite eras. I've probably read a book in verse, but I can't remember the name of such a book I might've read.

    I generally read what I write, historical, literary, classic world lit, and some sci-fi. Once in awhile I may try something different, like a police procedural or a contemporary, but I always come back to what's familiar and most beloved.

  12. Wow. I can't even imagine trying to write a whole novel in verse. Hat's off to you, girl! :D

    Good luck with your mosaic. I imagine it's gorgeous~ <3

  13. Hi Amy I stopped over from Kimberly's interview. New follower! I haven't tried to write a novel in verse but I also love OUT OF THE DUST. Again I am so impressed that you are working your butt off to write a novel in verse. Hard stuff! I also recommend MAY B. (it is a MG/upper YA novel in verse that just came out I think this year). Good luck!

  14. I recently read I heart you, You haunt me. And I loved loved loved it! I love verse novels and have written a kids verse novel.... That I'm still working on.
    I branch out and read reasonably widely.

  15. Inside Out and Back Again has such a beautiful cover! I need to read it.

    And Karen Hesse awed me with Out of the Dust. I am certain she is a genius. Complete master of words.

    Amy, I love that you push yourself to branch out and try new things. You are my hero.

  16. Since I am attempting to write a (lower) MG book I have been focusing on that genre right now, and am totally falling in love with it. Such great books out there in that age range! Compared to about 40 MG books in the past 5 months I have read only 5 YA and 1 adult!

    I did enjoy Inside Out & Back Again but am not eager to run and grab another verse novel.