Laying the words down on the page

Excitement of sorts – not because of an acceptance (I’d be making MUCH more noise!) but because of a milestone achieved – another manuscript ‘finished’ and away. Finished is such a funny word – because you finish a manuscript many times before it is a book. But in this instance it means that it has been completed, polished, settled, tweaked and finally, FINISHED and ready for submission. Hence the celebration – and possibilities are… exciting!

The reason this finished manuscript rates a mention is because it is my first verse novel – and it tells a story that’s close to my heart.

Any country kid who has ever travelled to school on a bus will know that bullying is an ugly but undeniable fact of life. The younger you are, the worse it is! It’s a scenario I’ve experienced. It’s been a reality for my children. The stories I could tell about the bully on the bus…

Leroy’s story started three years ago as a short chapter book. Late 2009 I did a rigorous rewrite, developing my main character (Leroy) and strengthening his young voice.

I felt the story was showing great potential when I took it to a google wave critique session with Susan Stephenson and Karen Collum – and suddenly I was back to the drawing board again. NOT because they thought it was weak or pathetic, but because they could see the potential for so much more than a chapter book.

I have an alternative to consider. I know it’s not a picture book, but maybe it’s a hybrid, and this is how I saw it written on the page, almost as a poem, giving emphasis to those nasty stabbing movements.

She hurts me with her hands.






Ouch! I wriggle… and squirm. I move away
but sly fingers follow. They don’t stop.

And suddenly that’s how we all saw it – as a verse novel.

As a chapter book, the story was always quite sparse. Not wallowing in the darkness of bullying, but giving enough that children could relate to the experiences of Leroy – and share his victory. When it evolved into a verse novel, the story was stripped to bare bones. Even just changing the format of words on the page made a phenomenal difference to the strength of each word – the power of the story. Superflous words were glaringly obvious. Cut them! But it worked the other way too, identifying areas that needed flesh and development.

Reworking this story into a verse novel was an exciting experience. The crazy thing is, I had been tempted to try a verse novel – had even made a faltering attempt midway through 2009… But almost without realising it, with a completely different story, I had done it.

I hope to have more news about this story. Meanwhile, I’m zipping and zinging inside, because in truth, I am just a little bit excited.



  1. Kat – I think the verse approach is perfect for this story! Wish I’d thought to suggest it! good luck with it,
    Trudie x


  2. More lovely ladies – and great critters.

    Dee – I too hope it has a home soon. Besides in my heart…

    Trudie – It’s amazing how everything fell into place when Susan posted that comment, aligned as it was. I’m so excited by its potential.


  3. Pingback: On Verse Novels and Bullies – and Wonderful Wins… « Kathryn Apel

  4. Pingback: A New Book Contract | Kathryn Apel

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