Hello and welcome to KSP's new blog series, Top Tip Tuesdays, designed to inspire your writing habits - or just distract you for a few moments! - during lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic.
These top tips have been retrieved from the KSP archives. They will be published fortnightly on Tuesdays and come to you courtesy of past Writers and Fellows in Residence.
Top Ten Tips
By Ron Pretty, KSP's 2015 Established Writer-in-Residence:
1. Write regularly. Timetable regular times for writing and stick to it. Knowing that you’re going to write at set times allows you to prepare subconsciously for the moment when you sit down at your desk.
2. For the first draft, keep the editor off your shoulder. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or writing perfect English; concentrate on letting your thoughts flow.
3. Allow the poem to find its own best form, don’t try to impose a pre-conceived form on it. If you listen to the poem carefully, it will show you what form it needs to take.
4. Remember that drafting is an essential part of the creative process. As you write, consider all aspects of the poem: its sounds, implications, line breaks, stanza patterns etc etc.
5. Don’t expect everything you write to be a masterpiece. Allowing yourself to fail is a liberating experience. Regard failed attempts positively, as essential practice.
6. Poetry is fiction. Even if you are writing from memory, or from published material, allow your imagination full reign. If it makes a stronger poem to alter details, do it.
7. Read widely, not just in poetry, but in fiction and non-fiction, and read like a writer; that is, take note of what this writer is doing it and how s/he is doing it.
8. Keep a notebook, because by doing so, you become more observant; and also because it enables you to jot down random thoughts and observations that might, at some later stage, become the starting point for poems and/or stories.
9. Be careful not to plagiarise. If in doubt, use Google. Don’t send out as a new piece, work that has been previously published or shortlisted unless that is specifically permitted (ie., for an anthology.)
10. Be professional when sending to editors. Ensure that your work is professionally presented, with a typeface of at least 11 points, and that all spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct. Make sure the publisher or magazine is open to receive submissions. Keep a copy of when and where you have submitted your work. Don’t send to more than one place at a time unless there is a clear indication that multiple submissions are acceptable.
Ron Pretty has been a leading figure in the Australian poetry scene for decades. During the twenty year period he ran Five Islands Press he published 230 books of poetry and mentored an entire generation of the best Australian poets.
For a number of years he edited the magazines Scarp:New Arts and Writing and Blue Dog:Australian Poetry. He has taught writing in the Universities of Wollongong and Melbourne as well as in schools, colleges and a broad variety of community organisations.
Ron Pretty was instrumental in establishing the Poetry Australia Foundation which has now become the national peak body Australian Poetry. He was awarded the NSW Premier’s Award for Poetry and an AM for services to Australian literature.