However, I felt that this post could potentially become very long and confusing.
So, I’m experimenting here with the idea of being more specific in a post, about which particular type of writing quotes. This should make it easier for visitors to find the precise quotes to meet their needs.
The aim of this post is to share a few tips to help you get started.
Read poetry: That’s my first piece of advice.
It does sound obvious, but so many people out there write poetry, having actually read very little themselves. Read – and re-read – a wide range of poems.
And ensure that you select at least some contemporary poetry, so that you won’t end up writing poems that sound like a bad attempt to imitate Shakespeare. Not good.
There’s so much poetry online that you might not know where to begin, so I would recommend starting out with your local library. I might be old-fashioned, but I don’t think you can beat the experience of reading poetry in a physical book. It’s somehow a much more intimate experience.
Experiment with different forms.
Is rhyme or free verse better? In my opinion, they’re both awesome – and the ideal is to at least try your hand at both.
It’s beneficial to explore specific types of poetry, such as the sonnet, villanelle, kyrielle, and haiku forms. Providing information about these is beyond the scope of this post, but I do encourage you to learn about any or all of these forms, if you think they might be of interest.
I highly recommend Sophie Hannah’s excellent collections, published through Carcanet. I personally learnt so much from reading her poems.
If you do write rhyming poetry, avoid “obvious rhymes”, such as “moon/June”, or “love/glove”, which have been ridiculously overused.
Yes, Madonna got away with using the latter in “True Blue”, but Madonna is Madonna. Also, pop songs aren’t poems, and have different requirements.
If you’re stuck for a specific rhyme, try making alphabetical lists of all possible rhymes for a particular end sound. That method has often solved the problem for me.
Of course, your “why” is important.
You should consider your reason for writing poetry, in the first place.
If you’re writing for therapy, for example, you may or may not intend to share your poetry. With survivors’ poetry, it’s more important to simply get started, and to work through the issues. Whether or not your poetry is technically great, will be of less importance than whether you’re able to express the emotions that you’re trying to process.
Ultimately, my advice for anyone, hoping to get started with poetry is to do just that: Make a start.
It’s possible that your poems will benefit from revisions, at a later stage. I would say that, initially, you do just need to begin. Don’t be afraid to “write rubbish”. Just keep writing and reading poetry. Over time, you will learn the skills and techniques that will help you to improve, and take your work to the next level. Write. Keep writing. And write from the heart. Oh, and enjoy it.
I write to survive. At times, that is literally true. If it wasn’t for my writing, I truly believe that I might not be alive today.
I struggle with various mental and physical health issues.
These multiply, over the years. That’s the nature of chronic illness, unfortunately.
I have always struggled with dyspraxia, depression and anxiety, and these conditions have had a huge impact upon my life.
And writing has helped me.
It has saved me.
It has been the splash of colour on the dark canvas of my existence. And yes, life has often felt like mere existence.
It’s not a question of being unable to appreciate the beauty the surrounds me daily. In fact, I would say that the ability to value life’s seemingly most simple gifts has been greatly enhanced.
But yet, there are moments when the darkness takes over, and I wish for nothing but release from the unendurable pain.
And, even though writing has helped me, it has also been a source of stress.
I struggle with stamina, and with concentration, and find it painfully hard to complete long-term projects, such as the novel, on which I am currently – very sporadically – working.
I dislike not being able to write blog posts in one session, and run the risk of abandoning them altogether, because of this. I’m learning to return to posts, but still find it difficult psychologically.
Self-criticism is also challenging.
It’s hard not to give up, when the voices in your mind are telling you constantly how useless you are, and to delete your writing and blog, and close down all the social media accounts you’ve put so much effort into building.
And, of course, there is the external discouragement, on top of this. There are those who are supportive, but not everyone is, and many are the reverse. For me, that includes most family members, and many “friends”.
So how do I keep going?
Because I ultimately want and need to.
Because sometimes, I do receive positive feedback, that clearly comes from the heart.
Knowing and feeling that I am actually making a positive difference – that maybe someone feels less alone, after reading one of my poems, or even just being told that a writing technique, mentioned in one of my blog posts, has been useful to someone.
Encouragement like this truly can, and does, make all the difference.
And because of my characters – because they cannot exist without me and, in that way, are my children.
They are a part of me, and need me, as I do them. And that may not make sense to everyone, but to many other fiction writers, it will.
I’m going to close now, but might return to this subject, in the future. Keep believing.
That was actually a slightly revised version of a much older post, first published in 2012, on my, long since abandoned Neon and Rainbows blog. If you haven’t yet read my last post, I would suggest doing so, before continuing with this one, as it will make more sense that way.
For readers who are wondering whether I intend to return to the subject of fiction writing, in the near future – yes, absolutely.
This blog will always be focused primarily on fiction, so bear with me.
So, some alternatives that I have found to either writing autobiographical poems, or the type of character poems that I was mainly discussing, in that other post.
One is to draw upon mythological and folk stories.
This is powerful, and an approach, which has long been popular with poets. You can blur the lines between fact and fiction, by drawing upon autobiographical aspects, but using the traditional tales, as a framework and starting point. Even without the inclusion of specific autobiographical details, the emotions, upon which you draw, will often be very real.
In the case of my two Lucy Lightfoot poems – these are based upon a story, which could be viewed as a legend.
It would appear, in reality, that it was more likely to be a fictional account, invented by a vicar in the 1960s. Google it, if you want to know more. You will soon discover that there are many contradictions, as with many of these stories. Even Lucy’s hair colour changes from “the colour of corn” to black. The fact is that such inconsistencies are unimportant, compared to the magical aspects of the story, the mystery and romance – the intense emotions that can be explored and accessed, via Lucy’s tale.
Poetry is amazing, and both writing and reading it can benefit you, as a writer.
Even if you prefer some other form of writing, such as fiction, I would recommend giving poetry a try, as it will help you to develop your skills, particularly in the area of language usage.
This post, which has been slightly revised, was first published in 2012, on my blog, Neon and Rainbows, which I no longer update.
This is a subject which has come up for me before, and I recently discussed this with a friend, via Facebook.
I felt that it deserved more attention, in the form of a blog post.
We all understand that novels contain fictional characters and events, but yet may contain many autobiographical elements.
Why, then, do so many people find it difficult to appreciate that fictional characters can also be used in poetry?
I do write mainly autobiographical poems, increasingly so – and these are gradually becoming more personal/confessional, as I find it impossible to “hold back” – but I still write what I call “character poems”.
They don’t have to be about me – or someone else I know, or even a celebrity or historical figure. This doesn’t make the poems “less real”, as the emotions, and aspects of the characters – as in prose fiction – will often be very real. It’s a different approach to writing, and an alternative way in which to explore various issues, emotions, and questions. Poetry is full of metaphors. Why not the occasional fictional, or even semi-fictional – or semi-autobiographical/semi-biographical – character?
I wouldn’t write only in rhyme – or exclusively in free verse, either.
I’m inspired by using a variety of poetic styles and techniques. I also write prose fiction – novel in, very slow, progress. In fact, I originally wrote stories, and wasn’t particularly interested in poetry, which perhaps goes some way to explaining why it would feel so natural for me to create fictional characters. Why wouldn’t such characters find their way into my poetry, from time to time?
I can only say that I try to ensure that all of my writing is authentic, but sometimes I can and do use “poetic licence”, in order to achieve this.
Truth is not merely factual. Truth is something much deeper, and more fascinating.
Next question: Does the reader need to know which of my own, or anyone else’s, poems are based upon fact, and which contain fictional elements?
Doesn’t knowing exactly what a writer is talking about actually shatter the illusion on occasions? Taking music as an example: Ever been disappointed to discover that those lyrics, to which you related on a particularly deep level, were about a completely different subject to the you had assumed? Possibly something quite mundane.
Sometimes writers don’t even know what they mean by a particular phrase, but it just comes to them, and they can’t explain why or where from.
Sometimes we start out thinking that we’re writing about one subject, but feel, on reviewing our own work, that we’ve actually written about something completely different. Do we need to explain all of this, for each poem? Does it help to do so, or does it destroy some of the magic?
There is a whole creative process at work, when we are writing poetry.
Although I don’t deny that it is sometimes interesting to know what inspired someone to write a particular piece, I still believe that poems should “speak for themselves”, most of the time.
This post was first published in 2012, on a previous blog of mine, Neon and Rainbows, which I have long since abandoned.
Is contemporary poetry too obscure?
“I’m worried that when I show intelligent people a contemporary poem which I think quite simple, they frequently find it baffling. We seem to have lost the art of speaking directly to the reader. Today’s poetry is sophisticated, multi-layered and sometimes brilliant. But, when you are not waving but drowning, whose verses come into your mind?” – Merryn Williams, June 2003 – quotation taken from the editorial of The Interpreter’s House, a small press magazine for poetry and short stories
Interesting words – and certainly not without truth.
Another small press editor once told me that I had some good ideas, but that I needed to bury my meanings under a few more layers, and make the reader dig for them. I can’t remember precisely how he worded it, but the advice was certainly along those general lines. Ironically, when I do write metaphorically, I can have problems with my work being taken too literally – and when I write literally, it’s often assumed that I am being metaphorical.
Misunderstandings aside, however, the question remains: Must poetry be obscure? Is modern poetry, in fact, too obscure, and not accessible to the general reader?
Well, it’s a question of personal tastes. I don’t believe that there’s any lack of accessible poetry out there. Perhaps such poetry is too readily dismissed by critics, however.
Who are poets today writing for: other poets, and those with an academic interest in poetry, exclusively?
In many cases, sadly – yes. There is some middle ground, however. The layers of deeper meaning may well be present in poetry which also offers something on the surface level. Surely, in many respects, this is the ideal?
At the same time, most of us don’t consciously think, “I’m going to be obscure today,” or, “I’m going to write something really accessible.”
Inspiration doesn’t quite work that way – and I do still talk about inspiration, in connection with writing. Whilst self-discipline is undeniably important, inspiration is vital – but probably the inspiration/self-discipline debate would require a blog post, in its own right. I will add it to my mental “must blog about” list, which is growing daily.
However, on balance, I have decided to go ahead, and share it again.
I feel that there is enough here that could potentially be of value, and it doesn’t do any harm, in my opinion, to revisit some of the same subjects, when they are ones that are close to our hearts. So here goes…
I don’t know where to start with the subject, but it’s an important one, so I want to address it.
I know that more people are familiar with my poetry than my fiction, as there isn’t much of the latter “out there”, as yet. The fact is that I deal with dark and controversial subjects throughout all of my writing. I am focusing more upon my fiction here, although much of what I say applies across the board.
Firstly, my fictional characters are not me.
They each contain aspects of myself, to varying degrees, but none are me, as such. That isn’t how fiction works.
Some experiences of certain characters are heavily autobiographical, but there will always be fictionalised aspects, and it shouldn’t be important for a reader to know what is based on my actual life experiences, and what is not.
That’s not to say that readers won’t, or even shouldn’t, be interested – and often, I will be happy to clarify and share my own stories, since I’m a naturally open person.
There is definitely an element of therapy to writing for me, that is essential to my survival – to my sanity, such as it is.
I do write to explore subjects and situations because I’ve been through them myself, or something similar.
Yet, this is not always the case.
I have had, for my writing, to research subjects, including heroin addiction and abortion, and many others, of which I have no direct, personal experience. Is it “depressing”, if you like? Yes, at times. I would say it is deeply painful, and also makes me more compassionate – and, at times, paralysed by my own inability to fully understand, and do justice to the subjects.
The social issues won’t go away by ignoring them.
That said, is it sufficient that many of us attempt to write about them, in our fiction? Isn’t there more that we can and should be doing? Sometimes it isn’t easy to know what to do, but I can’t close my heart or mind to these themes, to which I feel drawn.
I’m so restricted by my own health and circumstances, and I don’t have the answers – only more questions, and they replay, on an endless loop, inside my mind.
I think that the best answer is that I would find it more depressing to ignore the issues, and I don’t know if I will ever achieve what I ideally want to through my work, but I just have to keep going. I hope that this made at least some sense.
As writers, we should be building our online platforms.
In days gone by, there was no internet, let alone social media, and writers still managed to get their work out there. However, it was much more difficult to do so. Not to use social media nowadays, as a writer, would put you at a serious disadvantage.
The question is, where do you start?
There are so many social media networks now. Do you need to be on them all? I would say, definitely not. In fact, there are so many alternatives that it’s hard to imagine anyone, who wasn’t a celebrity, with a huge following already, being successful on every platform. And someone in that position would, almost certainly, have dedicated teams to manage their various social media channels. Hardly comparable to the position that most of us are in, when we’re just starting out.
Most of us will find our personal favourites, by trial and error.
The networks that you actually enjoy are probably, on the whole, the ones to go with. There are, however, some that do tend to be more useful for connecting with other writers, or people from particular target audiences, so it’s worth keeping those factors in mind. I’m still in the early stages, when it comes to building my own platform, but am definitely starting to discover which platforms work for me.
Although, in this post, I’m primarily discussing social media, I should mention that it’s important to have a home base.
By this, I mean a website or blog – an online space, to direct your online traffic to, other than social media. And, no – an Amazon sales page alone isn’t sufficient. Aim to include as much evergreen content as possible, on your website or blog.
It’s definitely one of the best for writers, especially from the point of view of connecting with other writers. Post regular, quality content: a combination of links, writing and inspirational quotes, videos, and so on. Ideally, post a mixture of your own content, and that of others, in your niche, or related areas.
Definitely, make use of scheduling, as consistency is key with Twitter, but do also ensure that you make time to engage with others on the platform.
Checking in daily, or at least most days, will help, although it doesn’t matter, if you can’t always keep this up, as long as you remain active, via scheduled posts – and make the effort to engage, when you do go on.
And use hashtags. 1 to 3 per post is the general recommendation.
I currently stick with 2. 4 is borderline, but more than that, and your posts will tend to be regarded as “spammy”. But don’t miss out by omitting them altogether, as they help significantly with reach. I recommend using #amwriting or/and #writerslife, on most writing related posts. Others that I regularly use are: #writing, #writingforever, #writetip, and #poetry.
Then, of course, there’s Facebook.
With even more forthcoming changes, that will impact upon the, already limited, reach of our Facebook pages, many people feel that it’s no longer a viable channel. I personally believe that it’s advisable for writers to have Facebook pages, but not to rely upon them as a primary traffic source. That is, unless you’re in a position to run paid ads.
Facebook groups, on the other hand, are a different matter, and probably the way forward, for writers who want to remain active on the site.
They are certainly time-consuming but, as long as you love using Facebook, can provide that ideal space, in which to build a community. If you don’t fancy starting up your own group, it might be a good idea to join a few existing ones, and participate in those. My own group, Writing Forever, at the time of writing, is comparatively new, and welcomes new members.
Tumblr, a very visual site, has a strong writing community.
Poetry, and writing and inspirational quotes, are popular. Tumblr drives very little traffic to my blog, but I find the site inspiring and enjoyable to use, and have received positive feedback on my posts.
Hashtags are effective on here, but not exactly the same ones as on other sites, such as Twitter.
Try #writing, #lit, #prose, and #poetry. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I’ve heard that only the first 5 tags register on Tumblr’s search facilities. Beyond that, they only function to search within your own Tumblr page. I tend to use 2-4 tags on Tumblr. I do also find the queueing system – mentioned in my social media scheduling post – invaluable.
In general, people tend to dismiss it, but actually, I really like it, and think that it’s worth taking just a little time to investigate this network. If nothing else, because it’s part of Google, and being active on here does appear to help somewhat with SEO.
If you have a Google account – which anyone who has a You Tube channel, or Blogger site, does – you automatically have a Google Plus page.
It doesn’t take much effort to update it, now and again.
Hashtags do work on Google Plus, but this platform tends towards descriptive, “does what it says on the tin” tags.
Many popular Twitter tags don’t work at all. #Writing, #fiction and #poetry will get you further than #MotivationalMonday. Sometimes I do end up using Twitter hashtags, simply because I send a percentage of posts via Buffer to Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, simultaneously. However, when I post specifically on Google Plus, I opt for more generalised tags.
My main advice for using Google Plus successfully is to set up Collections, on topics of interest.
These are similar, in a sense, to Pinterest boards – and I’ll talk about Pinterest, in a moment. Collections are shown to other Google Plus users, and you can potentially end up with additional subscribers to individual Collections, who may not even follow your account, as a whole. They’re probably one of the best ways to get your posts seen on the site, and so easy to set up.
Communities may also help, but these are equivalent to Facebook groups, and potentially more time-consuming.
I don’t really have enough experience to comment upon their benefits or otherwise, but they may be worth exploring.
09/10/2018 update: I was sad to learn that Google Plus is apparently closing next year, as a consumer website.
I more or less ignored Pinterest for years, but lately, I’ve become obsessed.
I’m building my Pinterest boards, and learning more about the platform via various blog posts and You Tube videos. And yes, You Tube is awesome, and coming next on my list.
As for Pinterest – well, I’m exploring it, and loving it, but am very much in the early stages.
It’s more of a visual search engine, rather than a conventional social media site, and I’ve heard amazing things about Pinterest, for driving website traffic. That said, I’m not using any sort of scheduling, Boardboaster or Tailwind, and haven’t got into group boards either, so can’t advise on any of that. August 2018 update: I still pin manually, but should point out that Boardboaster has recently closed down. I do now have some experience with group boards. My Pinterest post elaborates.
I watch many You Tube videos. I comment on a decent number. What I don’t do is to make them myself. Well, I did upload a couple, towards the end of 2017. Short clips of our pet cockatiels. But honestly, if you’re confident enough to make writing videos on You Tube, go for it. You Tube also, in common with Pinterest, has the bonus of being a powerful search engine. It’s a great platform for writers – probably one of the best. It’s also an excellent resource for research.
So, how about Instagram?
Or Linked In, Snapchat, Reddit, Stumble Upon – and all the others I’ve missed? Basically, yes – you can use any of them, as a writer. I simply can’t advise on them, because I lack experience on the platforms. That said, I’m becoming more active on Instagram right now. Oh, and I’m also on Flickr – although not on my original account, which I’ve unfortunately been unable to access, in recent years.
July 2018 update: See my recent Instagram for Writers post, as I do now regularly use Instagram, as part of my author platform.
Before I could physically write, I was already, in a sense, a writer.
I invented people, worlds, and situations. I daydreamed, and also “played games”, assigning roles to my brother and friends. I talked to myself, as well. Past tense…? Well, not entirely – because I’m a writer, and writers are weird. That’s my excuse, anyway.
When I was five or six, and able to go beyond the formation of individual sentences, I wrote my first stories.
I was that child who loved writing stories at school, so much that I wrote my own, out of choice.
I found Maths boring and difficult.
I have the co-ordination disorder dyspraxia – which, at the time, was undiagnosed – and was, therefore, useless at the so-called “fun” activities. This covered pretty much every sport, basically. Yes, that’s right – not a fan of PE.
I was bullied relentlessly, right through school, and struggled with depression and anxiety, from a very young age.
I never fitted in, and longed to, but if I had, then maybe I would have been happy but ordinary, and not a writer. It was the one thing that I was able to do better than average, and I focused on that.
I do have periods of writers’ block, for want of a better term.
I also have long reading slumps.
I don’t write every day. I would like to say that I do, but I don’t. That’s just the truth.
I have also been let down many times, by people I thought I could rely upon – family members, who have been less than supportive, to put it mildly – and so-called “friends”, who have hurt me deeply.
Poetry, although not my original passion, has often helped me through.
I will probably write a post specifically about my poetry journey, at some point.
I do also have a novel that I’m working on, sporadically – an old project, which I revived in recent years.
I’m making slow progress, but getting there. It’s a project that means so much to me, more than I can express – and yet, I’m terrified of failure. Sometimes, the fear leaves me paralysed, and I don’t get anything done at all.
However, I believe in what I’m doing, with all my heart, and know that I have to finish my book.
I did finish another, and shelved the first draft, without revising, which I am okay with. I felt, and still do, that finishing was enough, in that instance. January 2021 note: The novel referred to in this post, entitled Distorted Perceptions, was published in 2020. See the post announcing the book’s publication.
This post was originally published on my previous blog, and I simply made a few minor adjustments.
Since then, I have developed more of an interest in blogging. I plan to focus much more on this aspect of my writing in 2018 – and do also hope to make more progress on my novel, than I have in previous years.