The Blog of John Hewitt

Maintaining your Novel’s Pace-Time Continuum

Hours, days, months or years While it is possible to write one, I have never personally read a novel in which the events took place in a matter of minutes, but I have read novels in which the action took place over several hours or a couple of days. Franny and Zoey, the novella by J.D. Salinger, is comprised of two events that happen over the course of a few hours. Bright…

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Questions you should ask yourself when you are describing things for a story

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you are describing things for a story. You don’t need to describe every element of a story to a minute level of detail, but you should consider what will make your descriptions better, and what can send you off course. What would the characters notice? Describing a place in detail can be very good, but only if the descriptions would matter…

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Six quick ways to jump start a stalled novel

Introduce a new character Solve a problem Create a new problem Jump forward or backward in the timeline Let the larger world play a role (Natural disaster, political turmoil, conflict between strangers, etc.) Have a character change their mind about something important

Six Quick Tips for Writing Descriptions

Close your eyes and try to recreate the image in your head. Remember that people have five senses. Don’t just rely on visual description. Adjectives should describe, not evaluate. Describing skin as smooth or tan is better than describing it as pretty or perfect. Don’t over-describe things. A description should enhance the story, not drag it to a stop. Don’t describe things that don’t matter. If you spend a paragraph…

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Six Quick Tips For Starting Your Story

Start with the scene you’ve been visualizing the most. Get to the action. Don’t worry about introducing your characters. You can always go back and do that later when you’ve been working with them for a while. Accept the fact that you aren’t going to get everything right the first time. Keep moving forward. If you can’t think of a first sentence, start by stating a character’s problem. Billy hated bats.…

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There is no right way to write a novel

The first, best, and most important thing to learn about writing a novel is that there is no one way to do it. Novels have been written in a thousand different ways. One person’s style and approach can be radically different than another person’s and yet still produce a good novel. There are people who plot out every detail before they start writing. Some novelists start with an outline that…

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Deciding on a Narrative Voice

There are many ways to tell a story and you will need to choose which one will work best for your novel. Here is a quick rundown of the basic narrative points-of-view. Third Person A third person narrative tells the story from a perspective outside of any one particular character. It discusses the events from a slightly removed position. “Billy went to the store to get beer.” Some of the…

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How to Write a 50,000 Word Novel in a Month

Nanowrimo is a project that requires speed. There are certainly slow and deliberate ways to write a novel but they won’t help you if you need to produce one in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a thirty-day month is no easy task, and it is made even harder by the difficulties of a novel, which has pitfalls such as writing yourself into a corner or deciding along the way…

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Developing an idea into a novel

What’s the Big Idea? The Big Idea is the initial spark for the novel. For me the spark was based on a situation and a character. I live in a relatively new subdivision almost twenty miles outside of Tucson, Arizona. When my wife and I bought our house, we initially toured the model homes. There were thirteen model homes in all, occupying a gently curved street. As we visited the…

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Don’t include any word with a single “A” in it, but do include at least one word with two “A”s in it

All Good Things Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. Groucho Marx I want to thank everyone who has participated in this project. The Facebook group has been phenomenally active, and a lot of great poetry got written. I definitely want to do this again sometime, if I can manage 30 or so more posts about poetry. The people who have chosen to write their poems and to…

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Four Ways to Publish Your Poetry

There are four general options for publishing a collection of poetry: Web Publishing Subsidized Publishing Self Publishing Traditional Publishing Each method has its own shortcomings and benefits. For example, web publishing is the least pricey and has the lowest reputation, but surprisingly it is capable or reaching a much wider audience than most other methods. My site, such as it is, reaches over 30,000 unique visitors a month. Option 1:…

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Write a poem about completing something

We are near the end of our 31 days. Tomorrow will be the final post. Many of the people I have talked to over the course of this project have planned to turn their 31 poems into a book, or at least use the poems toward a book. I am very hopeful that this happens, and I hope people drop me a line and let me know if they publish…

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Write the final line of your poem first, then figure out a way to get there

Six Quick Tips We are almost to the end of our 31 day journey through the world of poetry. I still have several poems left to write and I am determined to do it, so I am not going to delve too deep tonight. Instead I am going to leave you with six quick tips to take forward with you. Nobody said writing poetry was easy. If they did, they…

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Write a poem that includes one or more descriptions of sounds – 31p31d

Day 28 of 31 Poems in 31 Days Choose Your Words Some poets write what they feel and spend very little time thinking about which word to use. They rely on instinct. Other poets spend a considerable amount of time trying to choose exactly the right words. They analyze and consider every word. I’m not going to advocate one method over the other. In my opinion, it is up to…

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Use an inspiration tool

The Search for Inspiration   Sometimes I get stuck for ideas to write about. It is easy to get stuck in a rut as a poet. Staring at a blank page or a blank screen can be intimidating. Here are a few ways, presented in the tried and true list style, which can help you get started. Call a friend and talk about old times Collaborate with another poet Exercise…

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Write the first draft of your poem in paragraph form and then change it into a free verse poem

Trading Safety for Freedom I’ve touched on the subject of free verse before, most notably in the article about the pros and cons of meter. Free verse is poetry that does not use a regular meter or rhyme. While poetry without rhyme dates back many centuries, the practice of using neither meter nor rhyme was a poetic movement that began in French and Europe during the 1800s. The first popular…

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Write a poem that begins and ends with the same word

You May Already be a Winner There is nothing wrong with entering poetry contests. It is one way of taking part in the larger world of poetry. It also gives you the motivation to write well and to keep writing. If you win a legitimate contest, it is a great honor. Unfortunately, many contests are not legitimate. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. There is no…

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Include a verb in every line of your poem – 31p31d

Day 24 of 31 poems in 31 days Let the Reader Decide On October 15th, 1995, when the Internet was first getting noticed, I sat down and wrote a list of tips for poets. This was long before poewar.com, when I had a little spot on a newspaper’s server and dial up access that went out whenever it rained. I don’t quite know what made me think I was qualified to give…

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Write a poem that discusses a real moment in your life without discussing its larger meaning

The Personal Postmodernist The current era of poetry is commonly referred to as the Postmodern Era. Postmodern thought is a complex series of philosophical and literary responses to the post World War II changes in world view and the acceleration of society. It isn’t the sort of thing you can explain in a blog post. I’ve taken entire classes on postmodern thought and I still can’t really explain it. The…

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Break the rules – 31p31d

Day 22 of 31 Poems in 31 Days Doing What You Can’t “Can’t” is a word that should rarely be applied to poetry. There is very little that “can’t” be done in a poem. The beauty of poetry is that the risks are so low. While it would be stupid of me to say that you “can’t” get on the bestseller’s list with a book of poetry, I can tell…

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Write a three stanza poem that shows a progression with each stanza

On the Move Poetry, unlike prose, is not reliant on plot. While it is possible to create a poem with a plot, a plot is by no means a requirement for a successful poem. It is merely one option out of many. Progression, however, occurs whether a poem has a plot or not. There should always be a reason why one line appears before or after another. There should be…

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Write a poem that begins a negative and ends with a positive – 31p31d

Day 20 of 31 Poems in 31 Days The Other Kind of Stress Poets can be a sensitive lot. In a way, that’s what poets are known for. Unfortunately, it can be a poet’s undoing. Writer’s block, in most cases, is simply a lack of confidence. A person gets so wrapped up in negative self talk, that no matter what they put on the page, it never seems good enough.…

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Write a poem that has a variable line length rather than a set meter

Day 19 of 31 poems in 31 days Get in Line The first and most recognizable difference between poetry and prose is the line. Poetry is written with line breaks and prose is not. While it is possible to write “prose poetry” without line breaks the reason it is called prose poetry is because it is written in a prose style. All other types of poetry rely on the line.…

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Include the words “formal” and “casual” at some point in your poem

Take your Place One of the great things about this poetry project so far is that we have started to develop a community. We have regular contributors, occasional contributors and readers. A sense of community is important in poetry. Because the market for poetry is so small compared to the fiction market, it needs constant support to keep going. There are many benefits to joining or creating a poetry community.…

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Write a poem using a random source – 31p31d

Day 17 of 31 poems in 31 days Wild Assignments Towards the end of my undergraduate education, I stumbled into Peter Wild’s poetry class. I hadn’t actually intended to take a poetry class that semester. I had signed up for Literature in Film and I had even attended the first session of that class, but then the University made a mistake (not that they would admit it) and dropped me from all…

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Write a new poem an old subject – 31p31d

Where you came from Reviewing your old poems is an important way to grow as a poet. Because I am not always the most organized of people, I keep finding more poems that I have scribbled down somewhere or saved in inappropriate places. At one point in my life, I had a file cabinet full of poems, but after a dozen moves over the past fifteen years, it has long…

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Write a poem that follows the three rules of the imagists – 31p31d

Day 15 of 31 poems in 31 days The Imagism Movement For the past week or so we have been discussing meter and rhythm as a framework for creating poetry. Today I want to move in another direction. The use of the image as the primary driving force behind your poem. Image driven poetry began with the Imagism movement in the early twentieth century. The movement began with poets such…

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Write a poem that uses at least two different forms of repetition – 31p31d

Day 14 of 31 poems in 31 days. Repeating Yourself One of the central concepts of poetry is repetition. As poets we repeat sounds, syllables, words, syntax, meters, lines and stanzas. The use of repetition is one of the qualities of poetry that separates it from prose. In prose, repetition is rare and usually done to either increase clarity or to make a single point. Repetition creates patterns. Whether the…

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Write a poem that doesn’t use your standard process – 31p31d

Day 13 of 31 poems in 31 days The Methods to our Madness We have spent the past few days talking about form and meter. I could use a break from that, so today lets discuss approaches to the act of writing a poem. Some people just sit down and write. They don’t have a plan or even a topic in mind. They simply sit down and start to write.…

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Write a poem using syllabic verse – 31p31d

Day 12 of 31 Poems in 31 days A simple form There are many types of poetic meters and forms. One of the most straightforward is syllabic verse. Syllabic verse sets a specific number of syllables per line or per stanza, but does not focus on stressed or unstressed feet. This type of meter has been more popular in languages with less of a focus on stressed syllables, such as…

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Write a poem in the first person that makes a definitive statement – 31p31d

The big tent In the comments these past few days, I have had a discussion with one of our participants, Rosemary, about poetry in forms and one poet in particular, W. B. Yeats. W.B. Yeats is widely recognized as a master. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, and most believe his best work happened after winning the prize. That said, I don’t particularly care for Yeats. It is easy…

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Write a poem with meter and without meter

Thoughts on Meter I rarely focus on meter when I write poetry. In my college days I took many of my style cues (though not my content cues) from William Carlos Williams, Charles Bukowski and others who wrote in an imagistic style. Meter will always have a place in poetry, but in the 20th century the move was away from forms and meter and towards less structured styles. The beauty…

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Write a poem using a specific meter

I’m no expert on meter, but it makes for a nice diversion from concepts such as voice and social relevance. Here’s a list of terms related to meter. Learn these and you can show off to your friends! Terms You Should Know Poetic Meter: Word choices that create a pattern of sounds, stresses, word lengths, syllables, or beats that are repeated to create a line of poetry. In English the focus…

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Write an Elegy – 31p31d

Day 8 of 31 Poems in 31 Days Because of the sores in his mouth,    the great poet struggles with a dumpling.    His work has enlarged the world    but the world is about to stop including him.    He is the tower the world runs out of.   – From Dean Young’s Elegy on a Toy Piano Writing an Elegy Poetry has, from its beginning days onward, been a tool of remembrance. From…

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Write a list poem that uses a single line for each item on the list – 31p31d

Day 7 of 31 Poems in 31 Days. About Forms When I decided to write this series, I gave some thought to just how much time I wanted to spend writing about poetry forms. Forms are an interesting exercise for poets. Forms such as sonnet, villanelle, sestina, and ghazal are challenging and can really help beginning poet develop skills such as learning to work with meter, rhythm, rhyme and word…

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Meditate and then write a poem

Poetic Voice As you can see from the previous topics, there are many poetic styles to choose from. We have already covered poetry of place, personal poetry, issues oriented poetry and persona poetry. These are all unique approaches to poetry. They have nothing to do with meter, diction, rhythm or form. Once you combine all of those poetic concepts, you can see that there are many diverse approaches to the…

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Write a Persona Poem – 31p31d

Day 5 of 31 poems in 31 days. A New Perspective As we continue to explore different approaches to poetry, today we are going to look at the persona poem. Persona poems are poems written from a perspective other than your own. You use your imagination to enter the world of another character. You can write a persona poem from the perspective of a friend, an enemy, a relative, a…

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Write in a new place – 31p31d

This is day 4 of 31 poems in 31 days. Poetry of Place Now that we have moved from personal poems into poems about the world around us, it is time to explore poetry of place. Poets have memorialized places in verse for about as long as there have been poems. In a place poem, the poet attempts to capture the spirit of a particular place, and perhaps use that…

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Write a poem about something trending – 31p31d

Day 3 of 31 poems 31 days The outside world The first couple days of our poetry project have focused on the personal. Poetry can be therapeutic. It can help you to explore personal issues and to capture the events of your life. If all poets stuck to writing about themselves, however, the world of poetry would be far too narrow. For every poet who writes about the personal, there…

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Write about changing your opinion – 31p31d

Personal Therapy Poetry can be excellent therapy. It allows you to process the events in your life, both good and bad. Some people shy away from writing personal poems because they either don’t think their life is important enough to write about or because they fear opening up those emotions and rehashing painful moments in their lives. Writing about yourself and the things that happen to you can be difficult.…

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