The Blog of John Hewitt

Write a poem about something you gave away as a child – 31p31d

Entry 1 in 31 poems in 31 days… Where Poetry Came From As long as there has been language, there has been poetry. Most of the earliest surviving texts were written in verse, but the poetic tradition stretches back to before the days of the written word, when stories and history were passed down orally using storytellers who used such devices as meter, rhyme and alliteration to ease the task…

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7 Easy Steps to a More Pretentious Poem

  This lesson works best with an example, so let’s start with one of the simplest and most well known poems of all time. Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you. This a simple poem. It is short, sweet and lacks pretension. Let’s fix it. Step One: Add old time words nobody uses in real life Roses doth be red, Err violets are blue, Sugar…

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Writing Your Way Out of a Wet Paper Sack

Has anyone ever told you that you couldn’t write your way out of a wet paper sack? It really isn’t that difficult. The important thing remember that this is not a job for a computer. You are much better off using a pen or a pencil. You should press down very hard when you write. That will be helpful because, as you remember, the paper sack is wet. You can use…

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10 Ways to Annoy the Hell out of your Writers’ Group

A writers’ group is a collection of writers who get together to discuss each other’s work. Each writer submits a piece to the group and as a group, suggestions are given, issues are discussed and an effort is made to provide guidance to make each piece better. This is the model of most creative writing programs, as well as many independent groups. If everyone works together, it can be a…

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31 Poems in 31 Days is coming this October!

Long-time visitors to this site will remember 2007-2010, when I ran a 30 poems in 30 days event in September of each year… I’m doing it again! I couldn’t quite get my act together for September, so I’ll be doing it in October instead, and making the appropriate change to 31 days. The goal is simple. Write 31 poems in 31 days. I’ll be providing prompts each day, but you…

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Write poetry as often as you can

There are many excuses not to write. Try using writing as an excuse not to do other things. This is a problem faced by all sorts of writers, poets included. There are many people in this world who think that they can be a poet or a writer. After all, learning to write is one of the first things you are taught in school. Most people know that they don’t…

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The challenges of imagery in your poetry

People will remember an image long after they’ve forgotten why it was there. That one perfect line in a thirty line poem may be what makes it all worthwhile, or it may be what makes the rest of the poem bad. Keep an eye on it. These two tips reflect both the power of vivid imagery and the problems images can present. A perfectly formed image can be inspiring, devastating,…

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The poem is in the details

You need more than a big point Many poets choose to write poetry for political, social or philosophical reasons. These poets have a specific point-of-view that they want to express. There is nothing wrong with writing poetry to express a viewpoint, but I have found it often results in poetry I have no interest in reading. I do not want to be told that the genocide in Sudan is deadly…

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Writing the tercet and triad poetic forms

Tercet Stanzas The tercet is a poetry form with Italian roots. One of the most famous examples of the form is Dante’s The Divine Comedy (aff). At heart, this is a stanza form more than a form for a complete poem. In most cases, multiple stanzas are combined to create a single poem. The poem may be be a string of several tercets. In other cases, the tercet is one component…

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Six Tips For Writing Poetry About Difficult Subjects

Every horrible subject you can imagine has already been written about. There’s some brutal, brutal stuff out there. Writing about painful subjects is a great way to deal with that pain. Don’t be embarrassed about having problems or faults, everyone does. Don’t judge the importance of what happened to you by the quality of your poem. Some things are very hard to put into words, especially for the person who…

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Say what you want to say and let your readers decide what it means

Most beginning poets spend too much time thinking about the intentions or themes of their poems. There are many different approaches to writing poetry. Some poets write highly structured poems. Some poets write poems about very specific subjects and have definitive goals about what they want their poem to do. While these approaches can produce great poems, I do not recommend them for beginning poets. Young poets and those writing…

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Read poetry if you write poetry

The more you read, the more you learn. The more you write, the more you develop. The crux of this advice is simple, but far too few potentially good poets follow it. Poetry is a vast art form. In my opinion, it is a far more varied form than painting. Many different types of writing can come under the heading of poetry, from highly structured forms to free-flowing uncontrolled verse.…

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Leave love out of your poem’s title

A poem with Love in the title (or Destiny, Hate, or other HUGE themes) already has two strikes against it (and I like love poems). One reason that people write poetry is because they have strong emotions that they want to release. That is a great reason to write! The problem is that a strong theme like love or hate has already had millions of poems written about it. Millions, in this case, is not an exaggeration. If…

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How to write in the acrostic poetry form

The acrostic poetry form is fun and easy to learn. For this reason it is very popular in elementary and middle school poetry programs. The key to the form is that the first letters of the first words of every line in the poem come together to spell out a word or phrase — generally the overall subject of the poem. For example: Sushi Squid, eel and tuna Upon a…

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Four things poets can learn from George Carlin

If crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? George Carlin George Carlin released his first comedy album in 1967. For forty years he addressed topics that on their surface do not seem funny: obscenity, war, murder, religion, pollution, and natural disasters to name a few. Carlin made it a point to cross boundaries that other comedians (and the public at large) were afraid to…

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Feel free to write a bad poem

One of the most severe problems poets face is perfectionism. Too many poets and aspiring poets feel they have to write a great poem every time they write a poem. They get frustrated when something doesn’t work or they don’t bother to write at all because they just don’t feel “inspired”. This sort of thinking destroys creativity. It stops many poets, and many other writers, from even putting the first…

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How to write an epistle poetry form

Epistle as a Form Epistle (pronounced e-PISS-ul) is a poetic form that dates back to ancient Rome and to the Bible. It is a poem written in the form of a letter. The term epistle comes from the Latin word epistola, which means letter. Epistle was used to express love, philosophy, religion and morality. In many cases, the epistle would go on at great length. Many older epistles were thousands…

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Don’t explain everything in your poem

Don’t treat poetry like prose One of the key differences between poetry and prose is exposition. The nature of prose is expository. The prose writer tells a story. Generally speaking, the story progresses along logical lines as the reader discovers more and more about the subject and the plot. For this to happen, the writer must explain elements of the story so that the reader can follow the action and…

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Developing your writing voice

Your writing voice will be influenced by others Over the years, I have found many poets and writers I wanted to incorporate into my writing. Early on, I was a big fan of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.In college, I grew to admire Ai. I have been a big fan of Charles Bukowski for years and more recently I have been reading Tony Hoagland. On the fiction side, I have moved through the influences of John Irving, Bret Easton Ellis, Anne Tyler, Walker…

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Writing the Cinquain Form

Cinquain History Cinquain is an American poetry form. Despite its French-sounding name it was created by an American, Adelaide Crapsey. Crapsey was influenced by Japanese haiku. He developed it to express brief thoughts. It also serves to make statements. Carl Sandburg and Louis Utermeyer popularized the form. The form is not as popular as haiku, but it has been growing in popularity over the years. Teachers use it to introduce…

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Avoiding Poetry Contest Scams

There are many legitimate poetry contests in the world. Unfortunately, there are probably more scams out there than there are legitimate contests. Poetry contests scams prey on people who want to see their names in print. There are so many people in the world who write poetry, and who want to see their poems published. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be published and recognized, but unfortunately the market for…

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7 Ways to Be the Victim of a Poetry Contest Scam

The number of people who get ripped off by poetry contest scams every year is incredible. These scams predate the Internet by at least a hundred years. Here the ways you make yourself a victim. Don’t do any research about the people holding the contest Most contests that spend more than a little money on advertising are trying to make a profit. Most legitimate poetry contests have small prizes and a…

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Character Bio Sheets

Character bio sheets are not only a simple way to create characters, they are a great way to keep track of the characters you develop. When you write a longer work, such as a novel or screenplay, it is easy to forget minor character details. If you aren’t careful, the blue eyes you described on page five can turn to brown eyes by the end of page eighty. Using a…

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10 days of character building wrap up

Character Bio Sheets A bio sheet is a way of keeping track of a character’s physical description, traits and attributes. This method is familiar to anyone who enjoys role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Using a Bio Sheet gives you an excellent reference point to go back to when you need to remember key information about your character. Defining Characters By Their Roles There are specific roles that…

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Fifteen craft exercises for writers

Writing exercises are a great way to increase your writing skills and generate new ideas. They give you perspective and help you break free from old patterns and crutches. To grow as a writer, you need to sometimes write without the expectation of publication or worry about who will read your work. Don’t fear imperfection. That is what practice is for. Pick ten people you know and write a one-sentence description…

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Autobiographical writing about your childhood

Autobiographical Writing is an excellent way to work on your descriptive skills. When you describe items or memories from your past, you are able to provide details that are often lacking in more purely imaginative exercises. With autobiographical writing you learn how to describe what was rather than what isn’t. Another great benefit of these writing exercises is that they can bring back long-forgotten thoughts about who you were and…

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Glossary of writing careers

The list of jobs a writer can hold will never be complete. You’ll find writers who are programmers, stock traders and business executives. Below is a list of some of the most likely and probably most satisfying careers for people who love to write. Acquisitions Editor Most often associated with book publishers, an acquisitions editor supervises the process of finding potential writers to write for their publisher. They often are…

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Writing persona poems

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 pet, a celebrity, a historical figure, a character…

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How to write a query letter

Query letters are a much-debated practice in the writing community. Many writers swear by them, but others feel they are a waste of time. Formal query letters were the accepted practice in the magazine and book market, but submissions have become much more casual in the age of blogs and other web-based publications. There are many successful writers who stick to sending completed manuscripts or informal, ultra-brief queries. Here are…

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Poetry prompts

Here are poetry Prompts from four years worth of 30 Poems in 30 Days. Use the word Pattern in the first line and/or the last line of your poem. Write a poem that begins with you waking up. Write a poem that begins with a proclamation. If you need a phrase to get your juices going, try “I will”. Write the final line to your poem first, and then write…

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Poetry writing tips

Listen to criticism and try to learn from it, but don’t live or die by it. When I was in college, I would always take my best reviewed poem from the previous class and submit it to the professor for the next class. Invariably, the next professor hated the poem, and could provide good reasons why it failed. When you write a good poem, one you really like, immediately write…

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Creating a believable world

By Sharon Caseburg One of the greatest difficulties Speculative Fiction authors experience when writing stories in this genre is in their ability to provide a believable environment for their readers. Any kind of speculative fiction, whether it be hard-core Science Fiction, Time Travel, Horror, or Fantasy requires readers to put aside the conventions they have become accustomed to in the “real world” for the world the author presents in the…

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How to Choose a Major and Minor for a Career in Writing

Choosing a college major can be difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult for people who want to write for a living. In many ways, your choices are between art and commerce. The more a degree focuses on literary pursuits, the less likely it is to lead to a job straight out of college.  The more a major focuses on job skills, the less fulfilling it can be for…

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Dialogue (Dialog) Exercises for Writers

Dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of writing to master. There are many pitfalls to avoid. Stilted Language This is dialogue that does not sound like natural speech. Filler Dialogue This is dialogue that does not advance the scene or your understanding of the characters. Expository Dialogue This is dialogue in which the character explains the plot. It can also be dialogue in which the character repeats information…

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Formatting a short story for submission to a potential publisher

These are the guidelines for formatting a short story for submission to a possible publisher. As stated, these are guidelines and are not an absolute industry standard. There is no absolute standard. Different publications have different submission requirements. Always check the submission guidelines of any publication you submit to because they may vary from these guidelines in important ways. If the publication does not give conflicting information, however, fall back on these…

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How to Express Yourself Through Writing

Most people who write poetry or fiction do so because they want to express themselves. Self-expression takes many forms, but poetry and fiction are two of the purest forms. What you write will always be an expression of your inner self. Still, expression is not always a simple task. Anyone who has sat down to write knows how hard it is to find the words to say exactly what they…

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Can you make money writing novels?

Can anyone write novels? There are no educational or social requirements to becoming a novelist. Education helps you develop writing skills and get involved in the community of writing, but it is not a requirement for success. The main requirement is that you write a novel. The better written and more marketable your novel is, the better your chances. In the end, the elements that lead to the successful marketing…

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Creating a role-playing character biography

The point of writing a back story for a role playing character is to enrich your experience in the game. The biography of the character helps define that character’s actions and attitude. When it comes to adversity, the character’s life doesn’t have to be miserable, but it should include some moments that give the character motivation. Let’s say I decide to play a bard (I don’t want to taint your…

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Average Salaries for Writers and Editors

This is a list of the average salaries for a number of writing and editing professions. The figures represent typical scales for a mid-sized metropolitan area in the United States. Larger markets tend to pay more and smaller markets tend to pay less. Remember that these are typical salaries for people who are employed by other companies. There is a much greater income variation among people who freelance or own…

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What is a short story?

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A SHORT STORY? I define a short story as a brief, focused fictional piece that contains at minimum the following key elements: plot, setting, characterization and some sort of resolution. HOW LONG SHOULD A SHORT STORY BE? In my opinion, the optimal length for a short story is between ten and fifty double-spaced pages of text. To me, anything longer than this is a novella…

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