If there is one thing that reflects a poet’s style, it is their usage (or non-usage) of line breaks. It may seem like a small factor, but line breaks can greatly influence the effectiveness and meaning of a poem. Which is why I found this discussion of line breaks over at Frontier Poetry thought-provoking. It discusses the three types of breaks and what goes into crafting a line of poetry. It is an interesting read.
Happy Shakespeare Day! In celebration of the 402nd anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death, Invaluable created a Shakespearean insult generator. The tool rounds up over 70 of Shakespeare’s top insults from his most famous works, like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whether you wish to insult a friend, colleague, or your greatest enemy, we’ve got you covered. What better way is there to celebrate Shakespeare than to use his insults when you need them? Below are six sample insults that I liked (click the right edge to see the next image):
Check out the generator for yourself at this link: https://www.invaluable.com/blog/shakespearean-insults/.
I recently stumbled on an old but interesting article on the Grammarly Blog about the Oxford comma and why its use (or non-use) gets folks fired up. For much of my life I was blissfully unaware there was a debate over this tiny bit of punctuation. My elementary school taught the gospel of the Oxford comma, so I’ve used it religiously even since. It wasn’t until recent years while editing reports at my day job that I noticed many others don’t use it.
Use of the Oxford comma is stylistic. Some style guides call for its use while others don’t. I personally don't see what the controversy is. The Oxford comma makes things clear and it also establishes a visual pattern as part of that clarity.
Like style in clothing, I recognize why others have a personal style that differs from mine…but I know my style is right for me. So I’m a black leather jacket, Oxford comma kind of guy, I guess. No apologies.
When done right, poetry teaches you without forcing you to learn.
A great poem doesn't try to attach a bridle to the reader and lead them through a desert like a cowboy would his horse. A great poem invites a reader to ride alongside the writer, to travel with them, allows a reader to learn from their insight and see their world via metaphor and musicality.
So…what do you find fascinating about poetry?
So let’s say you’ve been diligent in writing every day. Now you have a huge pile of poems, stories, and essays that you’re ready to show the world. But how do you take your creative works from your hard drive and get them onto the pages of a literary journal?
One place to start is by reading Nausheen Eusuf’s “Where to Submit Your Work” on the Submittable blog. It provides an awesome list of places where you can find journals to submit all your brilliant stuff. Good luck in finding homes for your literary darlings!
Save the introduction for last. This tactic helps. I don’t write the intro until the rest of the article or blog post is finished. By doing this, I push right into the info readers want, and I don’t waste words on a long intro that’s often expendable anyway.
Focus on what readers want. If a piece is supposed to provide “5 ways to do X”, the bulk of the text must be about those 5 ways. Don’t spend too long on your intro or explanations. Drill down on what readers need, and don’t give too much extraneous info.
Formulate an outline. It doesn’t need to be extensive. Often I create a quick-and-dirty one such as:
- What Is X?
- 5 Methods (list each solution)
Research to find support for the meat of your article or blog post, and then list those sources in the outline before you start writing. It will help you write faster by linking the sources to the point they are supporting.
Zingara Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month this April by publishing a poem every day of the month. My poem “Seventeen” was published on 4/2/18 as part of this. I appreciate the chance to contribute to this feature!
April is National Poetry Month, which presents a great opportunity to infuse your poetry writing and reading activities with new energy. In case any of you might be wanting to do that, I present the following sources for poetic inspiration:
National Poetry Month Homepage: https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home
2018 Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-april-pad-challenge-guidelines
30 Days, 30 Poems Challenge: https://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/2018/03/17/30-days-30-poems-challenge-national-poetry-month/
10 New Poetry Collections to Read During National Poetry Month: https://lithub.com/10-new-poetry-collections-to-read-during-national-poetry-month/
NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month): http://www.napowrimo.net/
30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/issues_in_depth/30PoetryIdeas.html
Poetry Super Highway Prompt-A-Day for National Poetry Month: http://poetrysuperhighway.com/psh/ (check the tab for "special projects" and then "a poetry writing prompt a day" to locate the prompts and other info)
Good luck and positive vibes as you celebrate National Poetry Month!
If you’ve ever struggled with establishing a strong methodology for creating content on your blog, then you should check out this awesome post from Jeff Goins’ blog called “4 Essential Elements to Writing a Great Blog Post.”
Goins contends that by establishing a little bit of structure in your blog writing process, you will become more creative within the constraints and be easily able to produce great articles and ideas for your blog, Check it out.
To me, great writers need to be efficient and committed. They force themselves to be productive under time constraints despite the distractions of daily life.
Great writers do good research. Writers often include fictitious details in the tales they create, but they do enough research to make their work believable. They gather enough knowledge to sketch an authentic picture in readers’ minds.
Great writers possess amazing imaginations, They can do exercises to bolster their imaginative prowess, but having the preexisting talent to imagine & invent is a huge benefit.
Finally, great writers have confidence. Putting your creative vision out there for others to criticize can be scary. But writers must be brave and willing to take risks in order for their work be distinctive enough to make a mark.
Remember it's humor – of course, I would NEVER look menacingly at a coworker...
Let’s be real - writers are an interesting breed. Creatives are often a little weird. And most of us revel in our own personal version of eccentricity…whatever that may be. I encourage you to accept the quirky preferences you have when you write. Relish them, embrace them, nurture them. Just make sure you keep writing!
Jack Milgram developed an entertaining infographic about 20 famous writers and their most bizarre habits. I think you’ll find it interesting. You can check it out and other infographics by Jack at Custom Writing.
Everyone has something “different” they do when they create. Or maybe it’s something they don’t do. Some oddity that defines their process and influences their art. So…what are your quirky writing habits?
To get short stories or poems published, a good cover letter is important. It’s the first part of your submittal that an editor sees, and therefore can make the difference between a great first impression or getting lost in the slush pile.
As an editor at 2 Elizabeths, Elise Holland has seen countless cover letters - some good, while others could use improvement. Check out Elise’s guide on how to develop a simple, yet effective cover letter here.
Writing is a process that goes through many stages. Revision is the catalyst that helps it progress from stage to stage. It’s not just changing a few words, adding a sentence here or there, or deleting material that’s unnecessary. Revision is a chance for a writer to actually re-vision a piece…in other words, to see a piece with new eyes and visualize it in a different way, all with the hope of seeing improvement.
There’s a short list of questions I ask myself when I’m writing and editing, whether it’s poetry, fiction, essay, or other. These questions help guide me towards clarity.
What is it that I’m really trying to say?
What words will express my thoughts without ambiguity?
What analogy, metaphor, or simile might make this concept clearer?
Are the images vivid & fresh enough to have an impact with readers?
Can I say all of this more concisely?
Am I using big fancy words just to use them?
Have I said anything that’s offensive? If so, can I eliminate it or soften it and still get my point across.
It’s not a perfect list, but I believe maintaining the habit of going through these questions improves each piece of my writing.
My motivation comes from acknowledging my writing has value, making a commitment to write, and making sure I find time to do it. This has culminated in me building good habits that help me write consistently, whether I feel a surge of inspiration or not.
It’s easy to blab about writing you’re going to do someday. I’m guilty of talking about a novel I claim I want to write, but doesn’t exist even in outline form. But if you’re always yapping about writing and never actually doing it, then your goals will never get accomplished. You must sit down and write consistently to build a habit.
Some experts say you need to write daily. That’s a good idea and one that makes it harder to forget to write, but it isn’t easy. Other habits can also work. Choose to write every other day, on a half day on a weekend, for thirty minutes of weekday nights after everyone else is in bed, or as part of a lunch break at work.
It’s not about following someone else’s concept of when and how much you should write. It’s more about building a routine that works for you and keeps you writing consistently. Once you build this habit, writing gets easier, and you’ll fall into a productive mode more quickly and easily – which is a beautiful thing.
At times motivation arrives with fanfare and magical forces guide my pen or keystrokes. But those times are fleeting and rare. If I waited around for that blessed inspiration, I’d never produce new material or content. My advice is to develop an ongoing habit as a substitute for an emotional flurry, then take advantage of your uber-motivated moments when they do happen. Developing a consistent routine is a practical form of motivation that pays dividends.
To me, the most important step is finding your own original voice.
I went for years following the guidance of teachers, blatantly mimicking the cadence of writers I admired, trying to be the next [insert name of cool author or poet]. And don’t get me wrong - studying the work of others and incorporating parts of their style into yours is good for growth. But it cannot replace the spark that happens when you find your own voice as a writer.
Voice in writing blends several factors: word choice, formality, sentence length, the proportion of dialogue versus description. It involves every aspect of writing. These choices all mix together to create both pizazz and substance.
So developing a writer’s voice - in general and for individual characters - can be a struggle. One thing that helps is reading as much as you can from varied authors. Check out a variety of strong voices - like sampling a bunch of ice cream flavors from a tiny spoon. Identify voices you like, try to reverse engineer their essence, and then sprinkle in your own peculiarities.
Once you have fine-tuned your own voice, you are no longer pretending. You will be confident, free, and authentic. To find your voice, you must shed any fears being different. You want to be different, to be more than another creative writing clone. The literary world needs originals. Originals who dare to produce value. Originals who bring out our better nature. Originals who connect us with something larger than ourselves through the conduit of their wordplay.
Some folks find their voice right away. For others, it takes years of hammering away at their craft. But once you discover your creative voice, you will have taken a huge step towards becoming the writer you’ve always wanted to be.
Searching for inspiration? Take a look at these fresh writing prompts posted over at the Submittable blog. These prompts could provide you with a great starting point to spark your creative endeavors, and towards the end of the post, they provide a useful link to other prompts they’ve provided in the past. Check them out, find one that grabs your attention, and get to writing!
I am happy to announce that I’m one of 110 up-and-coming poets who have been included in this anthology of Minnesota’s Best Emerging Poets compiled by Z Publishing. Maybe one day I’ll stop being emerging and finally become established. That's the goal, at least.