Every writer knows that they should edit their work, but this last step is not regarded as highly as it should be in the writing process. It is what brings your poem from something that was written on a whim to a professional, publishable written work. Here I will highlight some important things you need to integrate into your editing process:
- Omit spelling errors. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many poems are submitted for publishing in the Coe Review that have spelling errors. Especially in the genre of poetry, this is important, considering how few words are in the work that can be misspelled. Use spell check, but also re-read each work several times with the sole intention of seeking out spelling errors that spell check can miss – such as a similarly spelled word in place of the intended word or an unintentional duplicated word or phrase.
- Omit wordiness. There’s nothing worse than a excessively wordy line without reason in an otherwise excellent poem. If you find an awkward-sounding line in your poem, try omitting connecting words like “of”, “in”, etc. if they are not absolutely necessary. If possible, replace a long phrase with a single word that means the same or a similar thing.
- Check your line breaks. Try deleting all the line breaks in a poem you’re editing so that it looks like prose. If the feeling or meaning of the poem doesn’t change at all, you didn’t have very powerful line breaks. Line breaks should be intentional, not just hitting the ENTER key at random spots to make your writing look more “poetry-like”. End lines on powerful words, use line breaks to create double meaning, and end on powerful words that help the reader feel more.
- Get a second opinion. As another writer to critique your poem. Ask them what they feel upon reading it, and what they think it means. If what they say doesn’t match up with what you were trying to convey, try changing your wording or the shape of the poem and ask someone else.
Next time you have a poem that you want to submit for publishing, try these four tips out – hopefully, it will make your work even better.