Self-Editing Your Poetry
Poetry is tough to create. There are so many diverse styles we can choose from to express our thoughts, emotions, and visions. Word choice is perhaps the single most important variable we must consider when planning our poems, yet we often hurry to “get it all down” before we really consider the tone and structure we want to convey. Often, after we have bled our ink upon the parchment, we look back and unsatisfied, we destroy the fragile emotion we’ve worked so hard to present. It can madden us mere mortal poets.
One of the tips I have incorporated into my own poetry writing process is to read the piece aloud. I then ask myself, “Does it flow? Do the word choices fit the mood, the “story”, the rhythm?” If I can’t readily answer “Yes!” then I know I have more work to do. Asking yourself these questions will help you identify where your piece is stronger – and where it is weaker. Of course, if you have someone whom you trust read and critique your mechanics, you’ll have the benefit of “fresh eyes” to help you, but it is important that to remember that far too often, other people will try to encourage and compliment your writing- at the cost of a smidgeon of honesty. You will be your best and most honest reviewer. All of that said, don’t be so tough on your work that you become afraid to take chances and push the boundaries of what is commonly accepted. Poetry should be a wonderful way of expressing your thoughts, ideas, and emotions in a novel and unique format! There is a kind of implicit balance between the “norm” and the “novel”- and only practice and “trial and error” will help you determine what the perfect balance for your piece is.
Please indulge me as I share this next part. On a very rudimentary level, most poetry is either freestyle (free verse) or rhyming. One of my pet peeves is reading a piece that seemingly cannot decide if it wants to rhyme or not. Please, make it clear for your reader whether your piece wants to rhyme or not! When a poem starts out rhyming, and then suddenly becomes free-verse, (or vice-versa) your reader is thrown for an unhappy loop- and you will have lost the momentum you’ve built in the piece. As for most things in life, consistency is a key for success!
Most word processing programs have a “spell check” option available. Please use it. Even if you were the Tri-State area spelling champ for 12 years running, you’re only human; and therefore, are subject to mistakes and typos. Common spelling mistakes detract from your credibility and reputation as a writer because allowing them to remain in a piece you’ve submitted for publication shows (whether justified or not) that you don’t take your work seriously- or care enough to make it the best you possibly can. Remember, your writing represents you. Your poetry convey a lot of information about your life, your thoughts, your ideas and emotions. Your writing career’s success is largely dependent on how your readers perceive your abilities when they see your name on a piece. Take a few extra minutes and self-edit. Both you and your publisher will be glad you did.
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