My close writer friends and those who may have read previous posts on this blog will know the sort of dilemmas I have been going through over the last few years with my YA novel, Street Racer.

After hearing Ellen Hopkins talk at the  SCBWI NSW conference in 2008 I decided I wanted to write a verse novel. And not too many months later, Street Racer arrived in my head. I won’t go into detail but it’s about a guy who is street racing for the first time and one split second mistake changes his life forever.

It’s a fast paced story with lots of internal reflection by the main characters as they deal with the consequences of the accident.

It was one of those books that just flowed right from the start. I knew who my characters were and I knew their story.

After a number of drafts I submitted it to my publisher who decided not to publish it for a number of reasons – one being that it was a verse novel.

I love the story so much that I decided to try and rewrite it in prose. Five drafts and a number of years later and it still didn’t seem right.

When I attended the SCBWI LA conference recently I decided to attend Ellen Hopkins‘ intensive workshop on Writing Novels in Verse (which by the way was fantastic). Apart from loving her books, I was drawn to the fact that the intensive was designed to  help you decide if your novel should be written in verse, and how best to rise to that challenge.”

It seemed as if this intensive was designed just for me – and I think it was:)

I have come back from LA totally inspired. In fact every spare moment has been spent reworking my novel.

Thanks to Ellen’s encouragement and support and my own soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I just have to follow my heart and if the character came to me telling his story in verse then I have to be guided by that.

I have to tell this story in my own way, from my heart, in verse – whether it’s a format that publishers find appealing or not.

I’d love to hear your stories about writing the story that’s true to you.

Happy writing:)


P.S. If you want to know more about Street Racer, the lovely and creative Svetlana from Moondog Design has made me an amazing book trailer featuring music by my talented friend, Michael Langley .  I’d love to know what you think so feel free to leave your comments here or on Youtube.

30 thoughts on “FOLLOW YOUR HEART

  1. Dee, I have a novel like that. I loved the characters and worked hard on it, yet no publisher in Australia wanted it. I’m over the moon that Kane Miller are publishing it – next week! “Dying to Tell Me” is the title. Fingers crossed for it – it’s already had a good Kirkus review. So yes, write where your heart takes you.

  2. Wow, what a great trailer. Definitely makes me want to read your book, Dee. I hope you find a publisher who is happy to take on a verse novel, it sounds like a fantastic story. Don’t give up!

  3. Hey Dee

    So glad to hear you are inspired and ‘in love’ with that novel again, and rewriting it as verse.

    It always seems that everyone else knows what a story wants and needs to be better/to get published/to ‘make it – but you are right – the only one who really knows how to write it and deliver it, is you. Deep in your heart if its calling verse – write it in verse. Perhaps it just hasn’t landed on the right publishers desk yet…

    So glad to hear you enjoyed Ellen’s talk – and it settled your mind, and helped you. There are always a few presenters who stand out in from conferences attended, and I guess she is one of those awesome ones who’s words remain with us – long after the conference is over.

    Can’t wait to see Street Racer in print!!!

    Bye 4 now

  4. Thanks, Sherryl,

    Congratulations on Dying to Tell Me. Will we be able to buy it here? I’d really love to read it. Great that you’ve had a good review already.

    I really appreciate your words of support. You always inspire me:)


  5. Thanks, Tina,

    It was kind of one of those moments. I’d been counting my pennies and wondering if I could afford LA and when I saw that Ellen Hopkins was doing an intensive to “help you decide whether your novel should be written in verse”, I just had to go:) It was definitely worth the trip.

    I am feeling so inspired about Street Racer now (as you can probably tell:). I have gone back to the verse novel which was complete, but I’m adding some of the extra plot development from the narrative version. It’s all coming together really well and I’m loving being back in verse:)

    Sorry I spent all my money in LA and can’t make it to CYA this year but it sounds like it’s going to be a fabulous conference.


  6. Thanks, Ellen,

    I really appreciate your support and encouragement. You inspired me to write Street Racer in verse in the first place and now you have inspired me to go back to it:) And this time I’m sticking with it:)

    It was also great to look at and rewrite those individual scenes in your intensive. They helped clarify a few things for me about my characters.


  7. Hey Dee

    You are forgiven because you shared so much of the experience with us, that it was almost like we went too!

    Besides, LA vs CYA, Brisbane , Australia…I would go LA too – the sites, the sounds, the culture….you have done CYA many times, and sure you will again. LA was the choice for you to spread your wings further!

    Bye 4now

  8. You are right Dee, if we don’t tell our story our way we are not being true to our heart. You found that with Letters to Leonadro and you will find that you are right again. This book will find its home. Follow your heart and put it out there again. I love the trailer.

  9. Thanks, Tina,

    It was a tough choice. You know how much I like Brisbane:) Counting the days till I can apply for my next May Gibbs Fellowship:) It was definitely a good year to go to LA, even family wise because Michael had time off work. But I have promised to take my boys next time:)

    Look forward to hearing all about CYA.

    Dee x

  10. Thanks, Elaine,

    I know you’d think I would have learned with Letters to Leonardo, wouldn’t you LOL? Definitely need to follow our heart with our writing don’t we?

    Glad you like the trailer.


  11. Hi Dee

    How lucky you are to have attended a workshop with Ellen Hopkins! I have two of her books and they are brilliant. I’m also writing a verse novel (mentorship with Catherine Bateson starts in Jan). My story began as a picture book MS but insisted to be written as a verse novel so I guess I had the opposite experience to you in that I started in the wrong form and had to find the right one.

    Really like your trailer, esp. the image “I hope”. Good luck!


  12. Thanks, Chris,

    Ellen’s workshop was definitely tailor-made for me and the timing was perfect:)

    You are right about changing trends. I hope your YA finds a home soon.

    Thanks for your support and good wishes:)


  13. Thanks, Marianne,

    Good luck with your mentorship and your verse novel. If a novel is a verse novel in your heart, then that’s what it is:)

    Ellen’s books are brilliant aren’t they?

    Thanks for your comments about the book trailer:)

    Happy verse novel writing.

  14. You know how excited I am that you’ve gone back to verse for this one. I really think some stories arrive in a certain form and try as we might, they won’t be forced into any other way! Sounds like SCBWI LA was perfect timing for you. Can’t wait to see STREET RACER in print one day soon xx

  15. Dee, if we don’t follow our hearts, who will follow them for us?

    So glad to hear that the workshop has inspired you so much. Wish you all the very best with it.

  16. That’s brilliant, Dee! I was just thinking today (again) about how we start off with the germ of an idea that becomes a story and how it can lose its way as we strive to get it perfect.
    We’ve talked about this before – how it’s almost like we reach a stage of pulling back from outside influences to rely on our own instincts for a story. Sometimes, its your first instinct that is the truest.
    Did that make sense, Dee? You know what I mean, I’m sure.

  17. Thanks, Elizabeth,

    I agree that something from the heart needs more percolating time – you can’t rush it – you have to get the depth across – add the layers – get all the threads to connect. Thanks for your good wishes and good luck with your novel.


  18. Thanks, Charmaine for your enthusiastic response to my book trailer.

    I’ve actually presented the book trailer in classrooms and had great responses from boy readers. Am definitely following my heart on this one.


  19. I finally did it, Dee. Got my internet back and got to read your SCBWI2011LA blog posts. Wow. I don’t think we’ll see you for a year, by the time you process and apply all that information/inspiration. Excellent!

    As to the verse novel/prose… I wrote a chapter book – which was pretty tight. Then during a crit session discussion I was shown the potential for it in verse. Rewriting it as a verse novel laid the emotions bare on the page and it because incredibly powerful, as a result. I was amazed at how different (how much better) it was, as a verse novel. This is the post I wrote about it at the time – you might remember it; (Funny – because it’s had even MORE edits since then… :P)

    So very much looking forward to reading Street Racer as a published verse novel. And congratulations on your professionalism and your belief – and your passion!

  20. Thanks, Kat,

    Sorry, they were a bit of an epic weren’t they? Just so much info.

    Thanks for your encouraging words about my verse novel and for posting the link to your post. I’m completely convinced now that Street Racer has to be in verse. Thanks for your support. Don’t worry, you’ll hear my squee from here when I get some good news:)

    Happy writing. Hoping to bowl over the rest of my SR rewrites today.


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