Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Using Poetry to Improve Prose, Part 2


I'm Aline Soules, writer, singer, and librarian.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a I choose subjects that move me and I choose my genre according to my subject matter.  My latest chapbook, Evening Sun: A Widow's Journey, emerged from my many years of widowhood and I sought, through poetry, to honor my late husband and speak about the inner journey of widowhood.  I am also working on a novel and I write academic articles and reports as part of my work as a librarian.  Regardless of my writing genre, I benefit the principles of poetry to improve my end result and you can, too.  In part 2 of this blog post, I offer further ideas to polish your work in the areas of sound, time, and submitting.  Use this link to read my earlier blog post on general ideas and grammar, usage, and word play.
·         Listen to the sounds of your words and how those sounds fit together.  Hard? Soft? A mix?  What do you want?  Choose other words to achieve your desired effect.
·         If your work includes dialogue, how do the sounds change from character to character?  This applies not just to novels and stories, but quotations in non-fiction.  Do those quotes reflect the character of the person who gave you the quote?
·         Check rhythm.  Scan, if necessary.  Scansion of iambs, trochees, etc. will give you a sense of how the rhythm of your prose will come across to the reader.
·         Look at rhyme and "slant" rhyme.  Do you want those repetitive sounds or not?
·         Read out loud, read into your computer or tapes and play it back to yourself, ask a friend to read it to you.  Hearing your own work and where there are "stumbles" helps you to know where you need to improve.
·         Give your piece time and try the above check list of ideas again. 
·         Your recording can help with that, too.  Leave your recording for a week or two, then listen to the recording with the text printed in front of you.  Make notes as you listen. 
·         Set a goal to cut "x" number of words from your piece without losing the meaning.  This will tighten your work even further.
·         Have trouble with procrastination?  Write yourself some postcards with dates and deadlines and a stamp.  Then, add a post-it note with the date you want it mailed.  Ask a friend to drop it in the mail for you.  See what you feel when the postcard arrives.
·         Don't send something out until you're confident it's ready to go.
·         Use the "revolving door" trick.  Have a target list of places.  If you receive a rejection with no comment, send it off to the next place before you get depressed.  If you receive a rejection with a comment, be sure to see if that comment makes sense to you and edit your piece accordingly.  Then send it out again.  After a few rejections, go back and review the entire piece again before you send it out.
Aline Soules, Author

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