. . . her passion is writing young adult novels, and her occupation is marketing communications. She hopes someday to combine these two skills and market her own fiction. She lives in Oregon with her husband and daughter. You can pay a virtual visit to Michele at her blog.
. . . writes YA, keeps chickens, goats, three young kids, a Walking Encyclopedia and a tenuous hold on her sanity on a small farm in the Pacific Northwest. Visit her at her website or drop by her blog.
The novel in verse is not a new form for fiction yet our departure from it in literature makes it feel a little more obscure and fanciful than your typical prose piece.
When I mention to people that I am writing a fantasy novel in verse, eyebrows go up. Even the few editors and agents I've talked it over with look to be in equal parts fascinated and somewhat appalled.
The decision to write a YA fantasy novel in verse is one I've thought through quite carefully. We have a magical history in literature of what would now be classified as "fantasy in verse" and we as modern writers have lost touch with this form completely (please feel free to argue with me and send the names of current fantasy in verse because I'd love to read them).
This history dates back to some of our most well known and influential literature: Dante's Divine Comedy, Boccaccio's Decameron, Sir Gawain and and The Green Knight, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
In particular, the Decameron is a fantastic example of an apocalyptic fantasy novel with the travelers gathered at an inn, fleeing from the Bubonic Plague, telling their fantastic tales and ruminating on the hand of Lady Fortune in their lives. It serves as both an allegory and an excellent depiction of the effects of the plague on the populace.
The novel in verse was the form of choice for Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer and others yet it is a form that has been virtually abandoned in our literature and become a rare phenomenon in children's literature. Obviously, there are many excellent and popular works in verse out right now, but fantasy or allegory in verse are essentially non existent.
So how does one go about writing a novel in verse and how is it different from a novel in prose? The first question is a complex one and the latter deserves a flip answer: write poems instead of prose.
But how do you create a coherent work completely in verse? Much like any other manuscript, you begin with an outline, but I believe, you reduce the scope of the work significantly. Transitions are used in a completely different way and the pacing is exceptionally different from a novel in prose. The "action" happens in great brevity and the character development must come quickly. First person seems to lend a hand in creating a sense of immediacy and moving the verse along. Voice is everything.
When I write in verse, I think more of the novel as a series of scenes rather than a collection of chapters. Each scene (or poem) must grow into the next and form a set of roots for the entire novel. Yet, while each poem must remain related, they don't necessarily have to contain the same kind of exposition you find in a novel in prose . . . the form can handle more abrupt changes in time and place.
The novel in verse is also highly dependent on metaphor and simile in order to keep it firmly placed in the realm of poetry and keep it from reading like a traditional novel that's been broken into disparate parts. There is a delicate balance between action, movement, and language.
Carefully planning the pace of a novel in verse is also a difficult operation. The form of poetry is an oral tradition and the sound of the words, spoken aloud, is a factor in both the pacing and even the more minute details of line and stanza endings. A novel in verse is not meant to be read quickly and I find that the right pacing can create an equally full experience for the reader despite the huge difference in word count between a traditional novel and a novel in verse. If I can, as a writer, give the reader the sense that they've just read a 350 page fantasy poem that feels as full as a 350 page prose novel then I have created a complete story that holds similar depth.
The time involved in writing a novel in verse seems equal to that of a novel in prose. Each poem is so dense and each word must hold the weight of an entire prose sentence that the writing is far slower than pounding out a 1,000 words in a sitting. Imagine that . . . each word must be chosen as if it takes up the same space as a sentence.
Is it more challenging to write? If you're not a poet by practice, then I would venture to guess it is far more difficult. But if you find yourself thinking and writing in verse and concentrating as much on language - the taste and feel of the words on your tongue, the rhythm of the language and you're the type of person that finds unusual metaphors exciting, then you might find the novel in verse the right outlet for that sense of story telling. I know I have.