ABCs for editing your poetry

After setting aside your new poems for a while, come back with a pencil and encircle, underline, or make a checkmark beside any evidence of the following ABC’s. Then edit or revise your work accordingly.

A
Abstract words with general concepts that cannot be pictured unless accompanied by a metaphor or symbol or other means of illustrating and “showing” exactly what you mean

B
Boring, dull, uninteresting, monotonous, or stale lines that will probably need only a little more time and thought to sharpen into something clear, accurate, interesting, and visual or sensory

C
Clichés, once clever and fresh, now overused as trite expressions or sayings that other people have said — again and again — but also those clichéd, narrow assumptions about a broad subject that typically result in flat stereotypes of people, places, or cultures

D
Dialects ranging from regional expressions most people will not understand to teen lingo to in-house language or terminology closed to anyone outside the immediate group

E
Expectations, ranging from expecting readers to care about an unfamiliar subject (without enticing them to care!) to expecting editors to say that you alone have permission to break the rules they’ve carefully established as guidelines for the type of manuscripts they really hope to receive and publish

F
Fake, phony, false statements or fibs, whether intended or not, based on assumptions instead of opening up a dictionary or doing a word search on the Internet to find out

G
Glittery words or garbled ideas that look pretty or sound witty and clever but don’t add much to the poem except to say “Look at me! Look at me!”

H
Had enough for now? One more….

I
I promise. I can Include Insights and other Individuals, especially readers.

Most poetry editors, poetry readers, and poets have their own alphabet of dislikes that they do not like to see in a poem, and you probably do too. If so, great! Make a list of poetic preferences you notice as you read poems by other poets, and let those ABC’s guide the edits and revisions of your poetry.

~~

© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved. If you keep on circling and circling your poems but feel like they’re going nowhere, visit her website for more information and the reasonable fees for professional feedback that will help you to get your poetry going in a publishable direction.

~~

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