BUILDING BLOCKS: Drafting the poetry novel.
Keep in mind that due to time constraints, we are going to just touch on some basic building blocks to get you started. I welcome more in depth comments from our readers. Now:
1. Start with the basics: You will need all the various things you would need with any novel: An idea, a character or two, a setting, a problem, an obstacle and a goal, something at stake....things like that. You know the drill.
2. You can then outline and then start crafting scenes, and no, they do not need to be in order!
Wait, did I say outline? Not everyone outlines. No worries. If you are one of those non-outliners, you can still jump into drafting. Get your basics figured out as much as you can.....your problem, and the bare bones of your character. If that's all you've got, that's fine. We can still get started.
3. For the non-outliners: Begin drafting poems to find your character's voice. Pick a situation that calls to you, or one that puts your character in the hot seat. Start writing.
Example: When I began SHARK GIRL, I didn't know what exactly the story was going to be. I just had a premise, and knew the book would involve a struggle for Jane to rebuild her life after losing her right arm.
So what did I do. I began drafting poems from Jane's head as she lay in her hospital bed. I drafted many, many poems this way. This process began to get me in touch with her pain, with the depth of her feelings, and her personality. It also allowed me to begin to see with Jane's eyes, including the characters surrounding her. There was her mother. There was her brother. A helpful nurse, a bossy friend, a boy, a kind psychiatrist....they all begin to show themselves as I drafted. In time, with much drafting, those characters began to take on their own dimensions.
Later I wanted to write poems that really put Jane in the hot seat. So I drafted a zillion poems about the first time she went out in public after losing her arm. Did I use all zillion of them in the final product? Nope. But the multiple drafting allowed me to walk around in her shoes and see what she saw, feel what she felt, and from there, create details and story points that I could build upon.
And that was what it was all about for me. Building upon. And building and building. I felt every time I drafted a poem, I created another blob of clay to pile on my growing mountain of clay, and the more clay I had, the more I could shape and create and end up with something satisfying.
So try that. Try picking some moments from your story that you know will exist, even if the details are awfully rough or vague right now. And start drafting. Don't settle for your first attempt. Write and write and write. Draft and build. And build some more.
Don't edit. Don't worry. Just remember this about your drafts: They will be long. They may feel dangerously un-poetry like. BUT: This is drafting and it's okay. You will fix it later. For now, just write. Create that clay.