Okay, I know.
I’m a novelist. And believe you me, I’ll be getting into some hard-core, novel-in-a-month advice the next couple weeks, but until then….let’s talk about poetry.
(BECAUSE I KNOW YOU’RE ALL PREPARING SOME AWESOME POEMS TO SEND MY WAY TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE 2019-2020 ANTHOLOGY, RIGHT? STOP SHIFTING UNCOMFORTABLY AND SEND ME THOSE VERSES. I’m really quite lovely and so excited to read your stuff. I’m a big, snuggly, softy posing as a hard-nosed writer.)
Long before I wrote novels, I was a poet. In retrospect, I’m kinda amazed at how easily I could fill a page with stanza after stanza. It took time to develop, but the poems progressed from what would rhyme to what would bleed just the right color. My poetry led to some hurtful, terrible and cathartic things on the page. Words were raw and emotional in ways I never knew they could be.
Each one of those poems pulls me back to the time and events that they were borne from. I remember the exact person that inspired each. I can sometimes even remember the exact night they were written. That’s powerful stuff.
Words, in their inherent singularity, are powerful. One word can command meaning, history, and intention just by its existence on the page. Words can change and shape how we experience our human existence throughout time.
Knee-deep in a novel, it becomes a challenge to capture the same essence I once had in writing poetry. I’m too used to telling a story in pages, not lines. Heavy worded and filled with the need to explore each step of a character’s journey, I can sometimes lose the contrite honesty of being a woman of few words.
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, novels or short stories, practicing poetry is an excellent skill for all writers. It will improve the preciseness of your writing.
How do you say the most with the fewest?
Here are some exercises (that’s right you beautiful, wordy bastards, I’m giving you homework) to help you boil the most important elements of an idea down into its thickest, richest concentration.
Throw some words down from this exact moment of your existence and make each one count.
Do it fearlessly, because there’s no judgment between you and the page.
Send it to me, or don’t but keep it and use it to understand your skill and how you can grow even further in your art.
*Describe the chair you’re sitting in in six words. Try four. How about two?
*Describe the person in your chair (yes that’s you—maybe it’s two of you—I don’t judge) in six words. Try four. How about two?
*Describe the best day of your life in six words or less:
*Describe the worst: