Tag: creative process

Improper Words

Today’s writing exercise is a mind workout. It’s a simple process, that for me really opens my mind to new word choice possibilities.

Here we go:

  • First grab a dictionary.
  • Flip to any page you want.
  • Randomly choose a word from the page.
  • Now, use the word in a sentence, but change the part of speech it normally is to another one. So, if the word is a noun, use it as an adjective, or a preposition.
  • Do any part of speech, but try to maintain a similar meaning or at least a meaning you would expect that word to have in the new form.

Colors are a good example. You hear about a leaf greening, or a face yellowing, what would be oranging?

How about the sun oranging the street?

What about the word corolla – a noun meaning the petals of a flower?

What if a building had no windows on the first floor, but the higher up you looked the more windows there were and the tighter together they were built? What if they seemed to curve together and make up the whole top of the building. Could the windows be corolla windows?

Not only is it a word that evokes specific imagery but the vowels smooth over from one word to another. Corolla windows.

Words are limitless.

I always joke with Justin that my English degree certifies me to change the language at my will.

The truth is (I love this topic, if you can’t tell) language changes by anyone’s will.

Obviously, I think there is importance in the proper way of writing and using the language -proper spelling, grammar and all that, but I think about how fun it is to manipulate the language as well and really-how important it is too. Creatively changing the language to meet the needs of a writer wanting to express a very specific idea makes using words in uncommon ways important, as an exercise of the creative mind and a practice for writers pushing envelopes like e.e. Cummings and Shakespeare.

What are some of your favorite uncommon, improper uses of words?


Also, check out a review for my poetry collection by Michelle Proulx! A big thank you goes out to her for reading and letting people know about it.

The Importance of Being Edited

When I first started saying aloud that I wanted to self-publish, I received quite a bit of advice from others. One friend in particular, who has traveled the self-publishing path very successfully, was able to steer me in the directions I wanted to go. I was able to navigate the sites I wanted to use much easier with her advice. Among that advice she gave me was the edit, edit, edit rule. Which is basically edit your work yourself, have a friend edit or, and the best, hire an editor. I decided to edit myself. I know the importance of editing, I know how crucial it is to scan and re-scan writing for all the many errors that can be so easily overlooked. I based my reasoning for editing myself on the fact that my book was a collection of poetry, not a novel. I knew that if it were a novel I would hire an editor, but I did not realize how many mistakes I would overlook in poetry.

I have words like “th” or “thr” instead of “the” and “though” instead of “through” and every mistake further strips the readers confidence that I am a good writer. I knew that, but for some reason didn’t follow not only my friends advice, but my own rules as a writer as well. I think for the most part I edit my own work fairly well, so what went wrong?

Excitement. Anticipation. The readiness to publish and the unintended too brief scanning before clicking submit.

So, my advice, stifle your excitement of publishing (I know it’s hard) and thoroughly review your work, not just once, but several times over, especially if you do not hire an editor (which for anything novel length is the only way to go). I still stand behind editing yourself or with friend for poetry (or any similar works -maybe cookbooks or short stories). Maybe schedule a weekend or two to simply edit, so it’s marked on the calendar and you have made a commitment to your work and yourself.

One silver lining I have is I am able to re-submit my book with no interruptions to selling and no need to pull it off sites, and once the resubmitted version is accepted and uploaded it transfers over seamlessly -making only the initial copies typo-ed. Ah, the world of print on demand!

I feel ashamed in myself for allowing the mistakes to run by me unnoticed and I hope by reading this you, any of you future self-publishers heed the warnings of my experience the way I should have heeded my friends.

With every experience we gain a better insight in which to venture into our next experience. Although I am shammed by my mistakes, I am proud of how much I’ve grown and look forward to all my future endeavors, welcoming the inevitable future mistakes.

We grow, we learn, we grow more.

Introducing the Book Cover

Oh! I am so excited to post this! Here it is, the cover art for my collection of poetry, A Sense of Light or Darkness. With major help from my boyfriend, I think it came out really well. But my opinion is not what I need, I need yours! Let me know what you think. Does it grab your attention, Out of all the thumbnails floating by the screen, would you take a second glance at this one? Would does it make you think about?

Thanks for taking the time to comment and give your feedback. I look forward to taking your comments into consideration and further editing and finalizing this book. If all goes well, I will be publishing very soon.

Poetry Collection Coming Along

I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all some information on my poetry collection, it is definitely coming along well. I have about seven more poems to write before I reach the number of poems I would like to have in the collection and I have started one that might be the center of the book as it is much longer and more complex than the rest. It also shares the central ideas I want to focus on in the book. The title of my collection seems to fit it more perfectly each day. I have also begun work on the cover art. If you have read anything about self-publishing, every source advises against creating your own book cover. As scared as I am to attempt it, I think I just might. I have started a draft of the cover art and I love the idea. But, I will say this decision to go against every self-publishers advice is not without a ton of research and some experience in graphic design. Although I certainly do not know graphic design as well as many others, I did take courses in website design and art. I think with as much research as I do and between my comfort level and my boyfriends talent with design programs like Photoshop I will be able to create a cover that is striking to potential readers.

One issue I think I might have is simply that I am writing poetry rather than a novel. Everyone gives advice for writing a novel, the book covers for certain demographics are all very similar. Take Twilight for example, (though probably not the first to have the design) the book began selling so well that many other books in the realm of young adult fantasy follow a very similar cover design. The dark cover, a flash of color, a short title seems to catch the readers eye, or at least clue the reader into what type of book the cover belongs to. With poetry however, the covers differ a bit more. I looked up the current top 100 poetry books and the covers seemed to range from a picture of the author, a landscape image, or an urban image or a blank cover with the title. Each seemed to be grounded in neutral (nature) colors and  smaller font. Researching the top selling poetry books helps me determine what is working in the genre, what seems to grab a readers attention, but because poetry is the genre rather than divided by the subject, it is important to portray the subject or the tone through the cover. It seems it may be harder for readers to distinguish between collections of poetry, unless the cover is absolute in it’s portrayal of the contents.

Here’s to charging ahead 🙂

What’s in a Name?

One of the more significant differences between writing poetry and prose is the use of names. In my poems I seldom reference the name of a person and when I do, that name must fit perfectly. When writing prose I feel my inner poet reaching out yelling that name does not fit the character and needs a new one. So, I find myself researching names for the millionth time and I’ve discovered 2 things: my favorite websites for researching names, their origins, variations and meanings and I need a new notebook.

There are two sites I frequent when researching names. First is Behind the Name. I find this site easy to navigate, search for specifics and narrow down choices. For most names it gives the meaning and if applicable the history, which is great because I like to know what kind of weight I’m adding to character by choosing a certain name. Did you know that Evelyn was in the top 25 of 2011 most popular girls names in the United States? Or that Nevaeh was 35th? I might have thought (if I was inclined to use those names) that I would be giving semi uncommon, or fairly rare in the latter case, names to my characters. The second site I often refer to when researching names is Baby Names World. My friend, Dana suggested this site to me and it is really handy. Easy to navigate and you can save names to your “My Names” list. Convenient for any mother to be or in my case, writer.

After researching names I noticed I tend to grab the nearest paper and start jotting down all the ones I like. I easily fill it and start writing in the margins. So it seems, this weekend I will be starting a new notebook (and possibly a word spreadsheet to organize by origin or meaning) to collect my list of names I’ve fallen in love with. A few going in the notebook immediately will be Dagny, Cardea and Alphaeus. All three of these are the possible names of characters in the book I started. I love the idea that Dagny, as a girls name meaning “new day,” can be shortened to Dag. Who wouldn’t love a girl named Dag? Cardea and Alphaeus both mean changing and the characters I have outlined for them will certainly be undergoing some “changing.”

So the next time you are ready to name a character, know the weight that it carries. The history or meaning of a name could help sway you from a bad pairing for the personality of your character, or rekindle a forgotten or disliked name. For a writer creating a whole person, what’s in a name? Well the answer in this case is not so similar to Shakespeare.

Switch to Prose

Here is an update for you guys on my progress for self-publishing. After weeks of fruitful writing for my poetry collection, I’ve finally hit the wall. I could feel it coming over me. One day I was focusing too hard on my theme and tried forcing the words out but everything I put down sounded like a rehashing and felt dull. So, I took a break and decided to do a couple things different: I took walks, I read some different books and articles, googled random things all to no inspirational surge. However, I was thinking about writing something non-poetry, just to keep myself in the habit, and hopefully kickstart my creative juices again. That idea hit me yesterday, and today, on the drive to work I started thinking about the novel I want to publish when I’ve finished my poetry collection. I was able to run a brief outline and on lunch I wrote a solid first chapter. I can feel the surge starting up again. I guess all I needed was a switch to prose for a little while.

Besides, being knee-deep in two projects is a good thing. When I get tired or frustrated or just simply run dry on one, I can change pace and still be working towards a goal. I hope to be back on poetry soon though, because I really would like to get it out there for you all to read. Soon, soon.

Guide to Poetry: Terms and Forms

I probably should have written this article before my villanelle post, but I was excited and exasperated by the villanelle at the time and wanted to share, but, it is due time for me to give you all a poetry run down. I’m sure for some people most of this will be a refresher, however I tried to pick a couple obscure terms that might be new and useful.

Poetic Terms

  • Alliteration- Repetition of initial sound in two or more words within a line
  • Assonance- Repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words within a line
  • Allusion- Reference to something outside of the poem
  • Ambiguity- Suggestion of more than one meaning
  • Anaphora- Repetition of word or phrase at the beginning of lines
  • Animism- Giving animals human characteristics
  • Antithesis- Balance or contrast of one thing against another
  • Apostrophe- Direct address to something/someone not present
  • Blank Verse- Unrhymed, metered (iambic pentameter) verse
  • Caesura- A natural pause within a line
  • Cliché- Overly familiar words, phrases or metaphors
  • Connotation- A word’s figurative, associated and nuanced meanings
  • Consonance- Repetition of consonant sounds within a line
  • Couplet/Tercet/Quatrain/Sestet/Octave- Stanzas consisting of two/three/four/six/eight lines
  • Denotation- Word’s dictionary definition
  • Diction- Word choice
  • End-Stopped Line- Line whose end corresponds with a natural pause (comma or period)
  • Enjambed Line- Line that ends without a natural pause
  • Foot- Unit of meter
  • Free Verse- Unrhymed, unmetered verse
  • Hyperbole- Exaggeration/ Overstatement
  • Image- Representation of a sense through concrete description
  • Internal Rhyme- Rhyme that occurs anywhere within lines
  • Irony- Discrepancy between what is said and what is meant
  • Line- Unit of poetry
  • Line Break- End of a line
  • Litotes- Understatement (often delivered by saying the opposite of what is meant)
  • Masculine Rhyme/Feminine Rhyme/Triple Rhyme- one syllable rhyme/ two syllable rhyme/ three syllable rhyme
  • Metaphor/Simile- Comparison of two unlike things / Simile uses “like” or “as”
  • Meter- Pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Metonymy- Word that substitutes for a thing associated with it. (the crown = the king)
  • Narrative- Including a story
  • Near-rhyme/Off-rhyme/Slant-rhyme- Inexact rhyme
  • Onomatopoeia- Words who imitate their meaning
  • Persona- Fictional, mythical or historic speaker
  • Personification- Giving human qualities to an inanimate object or the abstract
  • Point of View- Perspective of the speaker (first, second or third)
  • Prose Poem- Poetry in block or paragraph form
  • Refrain- Repetition of one or more lines at intervals in a poem
  • Repetition- Reiterating a word or line within a poem
  • Rhyme- Repetition of sounds
  • Rhyme Scheme- Pattern or sequence of rhyme; first sound represented by “a” the second with “b” etc…
  • Rhythm- Pattern made from stresses and pauses and their placement
  • Stanza- Unit of poetry made up of two or more lines, separated by space
  • Symbol- Something that represents another thing
  • Synecdoche- A part that substitutes for the whole
  • Synesthesia- Description of one sense using another
  • Voice- Combination of diction, syntax, images, rhythm and sound

All of these devices are common in poetry, however the point in creative writing is to be creative and use common things in new and unique ways. So, if you don’t write poetry, experiment using these devices in your own way. Maybe, in a short story alliteration in a particular part will extenuate the ambiance.

I hope to delve a little further into some of these terms and deffinetly more forms of poetry in future posts. Until then, if you have any questions, suggestions, or if you have a specific topic you would like me to expand on let me know -leave a comment, or email me- and I will be glad to post it.


The “Villain”elle

Okay, so it’s called the villanelle… without the villain, but I wanted to discuss this form of poetry because it can feel like a villain. I find this form hard to write and I have a lot of respect for anyone who is able to write one that works. I have written several villanelles, but I think only one of them was a success. What makes this form so difficult to write is the rhyme scheme is interwoven with refrains (and yes plural… REFRAINS). This creates a complexity that the writer pursues in 19 lines. Comprised of 5 tercets and a concluding quatrain, the refrains alternately repeat as the last line of each stanza, and together as the last 2 lines of the final stanza. By having 8 lines of your poem comprised of the same 2 lines creates a unique challenge. The writer should strive to have those lines read both fresh and reminiscent. The repetition is a great device, if it succeeds.

Villanelle Form

1 Refrain 1 (A1)
2 (B)
3 Refrain 2 (A2)

4 (A)
5 (B)
6 Refrain 1 (A1)

7 (A)
8 (B)
9 Refrain 2 (A2)

10 (A)
11 (B)
12 Refrain 1 (A1)

13 (A)
14 (B)
15 Refrain 2 (A2)

16 (A)
17 (B)
18 Refrain 1 (A1)
19 Refrain 2 (A2)

The Line number is signified by the numbers on the left, 19 total. Each break represents a new stanza: the first 5 stanzas are tercets (meaning comprised of 3 lines each) and the last stanza is a quatrain (comprised of 4 lines). The “A’s” and “B’s” throughout the poem represent where there should be rhymes. All “A” lines rhyme with “A” lines and all “B” lines rhyme with “B” lines. While dissecting poems, in order to discover the rhyme scheme you may use as many letters to signify new rhymes as you need, here there are only 2. The last detail for the villanelle is that there are 2 refrains: Refrain 1 (A1) and Refrain 2 (A2). These full lines repeat where shown. Notice that the refrain titles include “A” which signifies that both refrains should rhyme not only with each other but with all other “A” lines as well.

An Example

Below is a famous villanelle, Do not go gentle into that good night, by Dylan Thomas. Notice the form and the rhyme scheme as well as the refrains.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The first refrain, “Do not go gentle into that good night” seems like a command whenever it is repeated, however, the writer is able to change that between lines 5 and 6 where instead of a command it becomes an action. The “they” from line 5 carries down to the refrain (line 6) and makes it so it reads “they/Do not go gentle in that good night.” This a great example of servicing the lines both fresh and reminiscent.

If you are brave, try one for yourself. They are difficult but rewarding, even if unsuccessful. 🙂

Tools for the Writer

Many, many, MANY resources are out there for a writers advantage. Each tool helps spark ideas, regain momentum while writing or unblocks the dreaded writers block. Generally, I keep (on my bookshelf, in a cabinet or on the computer) a bunch of resources that I find work particularly well; some common among writers, others not quite so common.

Common Tools for the Writer 

The basic tools a writer should have close at hand, ones you think of first and probably already own, yet no matter how many times you back to them they still prove just as useful as the last time.

  • Dictionary– Of course, I must list the dictionary first as one of the most obvious tools used to look up words as a writer needs when unsure of the meaning. However, dictionaries are a great way to spur random words just by flipping to pages each day at random and selecting a word. One practice that maybe useful (if you have not yet tried it) is each time you sit down to write, before you start, randomly select a word and at some point during your writing attempt to use it in the work.
  • Thesaurus– The great tool to help find exactly the right words when yours are not quite accomplishing what you want. However, it can lead to a writer overusing synonyms and losing the meaning or sincerity in the writing. Try not to rely heavily on a thesaurus. One way I edit is I go through my poem and circle all the words that seem to not fit well. Then I use a thesaurus to see if I missed something that works better. Typically, I only circle one or two words and when I read the thesaurus I do no necessarily use anything I find, but just throwing around different words helps me think in different directions.
  • Books of Inspiration– Everyone should keep books that inspire them nearby while writing, whether they are writing exercise workbooks, journals, you own personal diary, photograph collections or novels that just inspired you when you read them. I have already mentioned Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood, a wonderful source of writing encouragement, but this is just one of several books of inspiration I keep on my bookshelf. Another noteworthy workbook I keep handy, In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop, by Steve Kowit, is especially good if you are wanting to experiment with styles of poetry. Each chapter gives the reader the chance to write 3 different poems based on the topics of the chapter. For a dedicated writer this could lead to a whole new notebook full of poems. Beyond workbooks, I have several collections of poetry, I have already read through, that I keep close by to flip through and analyze what works, what doesn’t and why to keep my brain working right. (I think it’s important to read bad poetry as well as good). One of my favorites is The Pocket Book of Verse: Great English and American Poems, because it is simply about 100 poems from well known poets, but what I love most, is I really enjoy some of the poetry, while others I dislike greatly.

Uncommon Tools for the Writer  

While painting you can use absolutely anything around you as a brush, your hand -a Q-tip, a spoon, a hot-wheels car- everything creates a different effect and should probably be experimented with at some point. Like painting a writer can use any source as a tool. I greatly enjoy and probably reap the most fruitful work when using unconventional writing tools. Here are just a few of my favorites, but remember that any source can be a resource.

  • Lists, Lists, Lists– Not only are lists categorized, but they are completely adaptable. You can continue adding and organizing the content however you wish to suit your needs. I keep lists on any major theme I have in my poems; flowers, trees, types of clouds, rocks, fragrances, foods, spices and seasonings, cities, and interesting objects. I continue to add, change or create new lists. My flowers list is organized several different ways like by color, scent (how strong or musky), how interesting they look, and simply alphabetical. So when I look for a white flower that starts with “C” I find camellia and carnation. By keeping lists on the computer, through a word processor, you can add pictures, links and organize the several ways with minimal effort.
  • Notebook of Words- This almost falls into the category with lists… almost. A notebook of words would seem like just a huge list (which it basically is) but it functions a little differently. While with the organization that lists give help you grab that very particular thing you need, a notebook of words is not organized and instead helps generate ideas or a different thought process. Fill a notebook with words that catch your attention, words you love the meaning or sound of, or words that make you gnash your teeth, and suddenly you are developing a stronger vocabulary for your own unique voice.
  • Medical Books– Now this one I highly recommend. Medical books are a great source of terms usually not used in poetry as well as a great resource to examine the body. It may be helpful to explain an emotion by using very specific part of the body that is affected or have available illnesses or reactions that would be descriptive in new and interesting way. Just looking at the muscle form or the nervous system can get you thinking in different ways. Phrases like “my heart skips a beat” become fresh and renewed with words like arythmia.


I hope this post gives you ideas for using different tools while writing, or common tools in new ways. If you have any unique tools or want to share ideas (or just have something to say) – leave a comment 🙂