Looking for a way to improve your writing skills? Try writing poetry.
Yes, fiction writers should write poetry, and yes, this means you, especially if you’ve never tried writing poetry before.
I write everything, from journal entries to non-fiction articles, novels, and short stories, but one form of writing I never tried was poetry. Too short, too rhyme-y, too easy for others to poke fun at. Besides, I didn’t know where to start, so I did what I do best. Procrastinated. Avoided. And I was missing out on one of the true joys of writing.
Finally, I signed up for a poetry class for fun and found a treasure—a way to connect to my heart and soul. Once I started writing poetry, my writing skills grew. Exceptional language and phrasing crept into my fiction prose. Meter snuck its way onto the page, giving the writing life. Most important, my writing connected to what was deep inside me—what I was too busy to notice or ignored. Through poetry came that connection and all my other writing came to life and mattered.
That is why you should write poetry—not just to improve your fiction writing skills but to write what matters.
What better reason to write than to get in touch and explore the genuine feeling within you? Poetry can bring you closer to your friends, family, loved ones, and especially yourself. In honor of Poetry Month, here is a quick-start guide. Writing poetry is easier and less intimidating than you think!
Read: And/or listen to poetry. No better way to learn than from the experts and this is the perfect place to start.
Write: Carry note cards and a pen with you at all times. You will be amazed at how often you have a brilliant observation or thought. Jot them all down. Something makes you mad? Sad? Frustrated, happy, inspired? Write it down. Don’t worry about if it’s interesting or good. This is merely the start.
Expand: Choose one of those ideas that strikes a chord with you and expand it. Contemplate your idea on the page. Injustice, loss of a friend or family member, a fear that follows you, a childhood experience, a dream you can’t achieve. Your first friend, the first taste of freedom, the first time you fell in love. You get the idea.
Shape: There are many different structures for poetry, and you can research any and all of these with a book on writing poetry or look them up on the Internet! Then shape your words or don’t and keep it free form. In poetry, you can use rules or not.
Focus: Poetry says so much with a minimal amount of words. Cut, condense, read aloud and cut some more. Choose the best words, the ones that enhance and exemplify your idea.
Practice: Poetry takes practice, so silence your critical voice and write. You will develop your own process of writing poetry and your own approach. The best advice is to just begin. Treat yourself to a poetry class, online or in person. Then carry what you learn into your fiction writing. You won’t be sorry!
Looking for other ideas to inspire your writing and improve your fiction writing skills? Check out my article on expanding your creativity.
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.