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Sometimes, writing a book is like putting together a puzzle. I don’t always write from beginning to end, and often I will get a little idea of something my character would do or say and I’ll write it out without having a place to put it.
All of these pieces and parts get saved on my computer in a big document (like in old good times when I was writing term papers for sale) and then when the time is right, I print the document and get to work with scissors. I cut out all the poems that don’t have an exact place in the manuscript and I make a pile. Then I print out what I have of the manuscript and spread every page across my living room floor.
I put markers in one pocket and scotch tape in another, and I pace back and forth, hunched over, reading my floor. Each plot thread gets a color and I mark them as I pace. Soon, my manuscript is like a rainbow across my living room. I can see if I mention something too many times in the beginning and not enough in the ending. I can see if characters accidentally disappear. I can also see the perfect places where my floating poems might fit. So I whip out the tape and stick them where they need to go.
After several hours (sometimes days), I scoop up all the pages and set to work revising my newly constructed manuscript. It’s a messy way to do it, and my kids (and dog) are not always thrilled with me, but as a visual person I have to see my work to really get to know it. Sitting still behind a desk and visualizing a complete manuscript is very difficult for me, but spreading everything all over the floor? Suddenly, it all comes together.
Kari Anne Holt is the author of several middle grade novels in verse including House Arrest, (Chronicle, 2015) and Rhyme Schemer (Chronicle, 2014), an Amazon Best Book for Kids and Teens, and a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. Her novel in haiku, Brains for Lunch, received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly and was highlighted on the Texas Library Association’s Annotated Lone Star Reading List for 2011. She is also the author of the forthcoming space western, Red Moon Rising, and Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, a nominee for the 2014 Connecticut Library Association Nutmeg Book Award and the 2013 Maud Hart Lovelace Award. Kari has recently contributed to the anthology, Dear Teen Me: authors write letters to their teen selves. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband and three malevolently charming children.