Useful advice from writers and editors.
For those of you who have just arrived, this is an advice blog. I use it to help young and confused writers with everything from writing a cover letter and submitting to magazines to protecting their work from copyright theft and dealing with rejection. However, I’m not the only one out there who wants to help you guys with your writing, reading and publishing… so I’ve been scouring books, magazines, blogs and sites to find the best advice from poets, writers and industry insiders. Check it out!
On writing and publishing:
“More often than not in poetry I find difficulty to be gratuitous and show-offy and camouflaging, experimental to a kind of insane degree—a difficulty which really ignores the possibility of having a sensible reader.” - Billy Collins
“The impulse to write has to do with making something, with capturing, recording, preserving, honouring, saving…” - Sharon Olds
“I wish I was better at ignoring praise and criticism in equal measure. I’d be a better poet.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.
“The first draft of anything is shit” - Ernest Hemingway.
“Follow the submission guidelines. To the letter.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.
“Keep resending! I had one poem accepted on the 15th attempt.” - Tim Love
“Today there are thousands of poetry blogs – ranging from the completely serious to the completely not. It provides for a more effective & diverse way for poets to discuss matters of direct interest to one another without going through the funneling influence of an academic review process… This is really an absolute necessity.” - Ron Silliman
“Sooner or later, if you don’t give up and you have some measurable amount of ability or talent or luck, you get published.” - Neil Gaiman
“Be ambitious for your poems. Aim to make them better and better and better. As good as you can get them in a lifetime.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.
“Poems are not easy to start, and they’re not easy to finish… But I’d say the hardest part is not writing.” - Billy Collins
“f I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.” - Lillian Hellman
“There’s little point sending to [major book publishers] unless you have won some major competitions and/or have appeared in some major magazines. Even then, it may well be better to try a smaller publisher first.” - Tim Love
“Don’t give up hope. If you believe in your writing, keep on reading and developing your skills. Keep on building your profile. Spread your enthusiasm.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing.
“Once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes… When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” - Neil Gaiman
On poetry readings:
“Turn up at writers events. Be seen. There are quite a few free or reasonable events. Be seen buying books!” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland.
“[Poetry readings provide] companionship. And pleasure: musical pleasure, in hearing it… And recognition: ‘Someone else has felt what I’ve felt.’ And surprise: ‘I never thought of that.’” - Sharon Olds
“At a poetry reading you get one shot at it and it’s never enough.” - Jim Murdoch
“I hate when poets over-read [at poetry readings]. Anyone can time themselves reading (including intros and asides). It does them no good as the audience become first bored then annoyed. Better to leave them wanting a little more.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.
“It’s an unnatural act, getting up in front of a crowd of people. It’s what a lot of nightmares are made of, whether your pants have fallen down or not.” - Billy Collins
“In the States they have a term, Poetry Sluts. These are people who leave after they’ve read their own poems and aren’t polite enough to stay for the others [at the reading].” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.
On dealing with your fellow poets:
“It’s hard to give out negative comments…without generating a lot of ad hominen tsouris [without sounding prejudicial and causing upset] in return. There are so many good books of poetry, that I see very little need…to focus on the negative.” - Ron Silliman
“Don’t give loudly critical opinions of other poets. It’s not possible to be objective, as we’re all competitors in some respect. And it sets you up for a helping of the same.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.
“The world of poetry can be a bear pit, and like any industry it is competitive and has moments of confrontation and even dirty tricks. Be prepared to take some knocks along the way.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing
“Never write ill of anyone. It will come home to roost.” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland
“The writer’s job is not to judge, but to seek to understand.” - Ernest Hemingway
“Courtesy gets your name remembered. You want your name to be remembered. You want to be a person, not just print on a page.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.
“It’s so easy to sneer, so easy… [but] much better to just get on and DO something, WRITE something.” - Rachel Fox
Find more advice from Ernest Hemingway at The Positivity Blog.
There are more words of wisdom from Ron Silliman here, and on his brilliant blog.
Billy Collins offers up more poetry know-how here and here.