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C. G. Moore on writing in verse

C. G. Moore on writing in verse

I get asked a lot whether I prefer writing in verse or prose and I give the same answer every time: it depends entirely on the story. Some stories can only be told in verse and for me, these stories are the personal ones that reflect my own experiences of mental health, chronic illness and sexual assault.

When I was diagnosed with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis – a genetic illness where wart-like lumps grow in the colon and rectum and start to turn cancerous – I was eleven. The doctors were talking to me in medical terms that I struggled to grasp. When friends asked about my illness, I found it hard to convey it not just because of medical jargon, but also how to get across the physical, mental and emotional consequences treatment and the aftermath would have for me. Friends expected me to be able to sum up my illness in a line which wasn’t possible.

When you think about conditions like diabetes, there’s a basic understanding of what it is. In my second book, Gut Feelings, I was trying to get readers to understand what I had been through and exposing them to something that they were unlikely to have heard of. Verse felt like the right vehicle to get this across. I was able to use fewer words and create a layered meaning through individual moments that made people think about my illness, but also the ways it affected me both during and after treatment.

It was never my intention to write another verse novel. I originally tried writing it in prose and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that it wasn’t working. Getting the first fifteen pages down on paper felt an impossible task and I wasn’t enjoying the process. We were still unsure what was happening with systematic lockdowns and my mind was elsewhere. I filed it away and when I did, I thought about what I was trying to achieve. What did I want the reader to take away? How much of my own experiences would I draw from and how much of it would be fiction?

Once I knew what I was doing and had my outline, I wrote my new book, Trigger, incredibly quickly. Verse allowed me to interweave some of the darker moments with those warmer moments where protagonist – Jay – is able to find some comfort with family and friends. The economic use of words throughout allowed me to think about how every poem was contributing to the larger narrative, weighing up each word and creating moments that would resonate with the reader and (hopefully) stay with them after they finish reading Jay’s story. Verse isn’t without its challenges but it’s an accessible form that allows me to play with narrative and add layers to the story in a way that isn’t always possible in prose.

About C. G. Moore: I am a published author of two books – Fall Out and Gut Feelings. Gut Feelings is a verse novel exploring my own experiences with chronic illness and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal for Writing 2022 and won the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award (possibly the longest award title in the book world!). My third book, Trigger, is out now via Little Island Books. For my fourth book, Damn Straight, I wanted to secure an agent as it frees up my time to focus on my writing.

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