How Not to Submit Poems

Actual examples of submissions:

  • Omit the cover letter and just attach poems to a blank email.
  • Include lengthy descriptions of the inspiration for the poems.
  • Using illegible fonts or coloured type on a coloured background where there isn’t enough contrast so the poems are difficult/impossible to read.
  • Printing poems on images
  • Sending images with poems when the magazine does not include artwork
  • Sending images with no clarification as to whether they accompany the poetry submission or are separate, especially if it’s unclear as to image copyright ownership.
  • Send poems as an image file.
  • Send attachments when asked to send poems in the body of an email.
  • Send poems that are too long.
  • Attachments in the wrong format or in a format the editor can’t open.
  • Send a manuscript worth of poems and suggest the editor selects the ones they like.
  • Use the wrong email address or use FB messenger.
  • Addressing an editor who also happens to be a woman as ‘Dear Sir…’
  • Chasing for a response within hours of sending. Some magazines do respond within 24 hours, but they are the exception.
  • Sending simultaneous submissions when requested not to and often enough to suggest this isn’t an occasional mistake.
  • If asked for a writer’s biography either sending a complete CV/resume or one that’s over the requested length.
  • Responding to a rejection to ask why a poem was rejected.
  • Responding to a rejection to say the rejected poem accepted elsewhere.

Why these approaches are wrong:

  • It may seem obvious to the submitter that the poems attached to a blank email are a poetry submission, but to an editor it’s discourteous and potentially spam. Your email only need say “Please find attached my poems [a list of titles is helpful] for consideration for publication in [magazine name]”.
  • Editors don’t have time to read about what inspired your poems. Instead of wasting their time, save this for a future blog article or response to an interview.
  • Editors need to be able to read your poems so a standard black font on white background is fine. Coloured type or paper or a distinctive font is just distraction and if they render your poems illegible, they’ll be rejected unread. Don’t stand out for the wrong reasons.
  • Similarly using an image as a background makes the poem difficult to read and easy to reject.
  • If a magazine doesn’t include artwork, why are you sending images? If you’re unsure, read the magazine or assume poems only.
  • If you send images, include a note to explain who owns the copyright. Artists and photographers own the copyright on their images just as you own copyright of your poems so if you don’t clarify copyright ownership, an editor will assume the images are not for use.
  • Avoid insisting your image accompanies your poem. Your poem should be able to stand alone and an editor may not be able to find enough space to publish both.
  • Don’t send text (a poem) as an image file only. If you have a concrete poem, send both a text copy and an image copy so the editor can see your intention and can decide whether to treat your poem as text or image. If you’re following normal poem layout conventions, send text so the editor can copy and paste and doesn’t have to retype your poem to use it.
  • If an editor asks for poems to be in the body of an email, any attachments are likely to be deleted unread.
  • Likewise attachments in the wrong format may be deleted because the editor can’t open them.
  • Conventional print magazines like poems of 40 lines because generally they fit on one side of a page, which is how the standard 40 line limit came about. Online magazines may not be tied to the 40 line limit but may still impose a line limit so that 180 line epics don’t appear alongside a haiku. If an editor’s set a limit, they are not going to make an exception no matter how exceptional you believe your poem to be.
  • An editor gets more poems in a week then they can publish in a year so sending a manuscript worth of poems and asking an editor to select one or two is arrogance. Read the guidelines, read the magazine and do the selection for the editor.
  • Editors request submitters use a specific email address so they can be certain that emails to that address are for the magazine only. This may be because they allocate specific times to work on the magazine or so they can separate personal from business emails. Using an editor’s personal address instead of the magazine’s address causes administrative headaches, makes you look like a queue-jumper and invites rejection. Using FB messenger, twitter or similar channels to try and get an editor’s attention won’t get a positive reaction.
  • Most magazines have a website/facebook page/twitter account/publish their editor’s name in the magazine. It’s not difficult to find an editor’s name. If you’re not sure ‘Dear Editor’ is better than ‘Dear Sir’.
  • No matter how tempting it is to chase a response, don’t because the easiest response is a rejection and time taken to respond to queries takes time that is better spend reading submissions. Give it six months and query if you must.
  • Avoid simultaneous submissions: generally editors don’t like them and it makes your admin and record keeping easier.
  • Check the guidelines on whether magazines want a writer’s biography or not and note the word limit. Editors don’t have time to whittle down your CV/resumé and it’s easier to exclude it.
  • Most of the time rejections aren’t about the quality of a poem, but about pressures of space and the fact your cat poem was the 15th one to land on the editor’s desk this month and, much as editor loves cat poems, 15 is too many. The editor may have rejected your cat poem because she accepted them on a first come first served basis and yours was the last, because she loves tortoiseshells and yours was about a tabby, because in this particular issue she decided not to include any cat poems, because she thought the poem was OK but the last stanza needed a final edit or because she hated your poem. She doesn’t have time to tell you and may be wary of telling you in case you start a lengthy correspondence about her rejection of your cat poem. Accept an editor has the right to say no as well as yes and send your cat poem elsewhere.
  • Don’t tell the editor when your cat poem is accepted elsewhere: that the editor of elsewhere accepted it is not a reflection on the original editor’s competence. Sometimes editors do reject poems they like. Sometimes elsewhere is just a better fit.

 

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Writing characters who aren’t good

Guest Post by Amanda Steel

I’m not sure whether it’s a new trend, or something I failed to notice before. In the past year, I’ve read numerous books where the characters (both main and supporting) are not typically good people; either bad or just extremely flawed in some way.

I co-host a book review podcast, and I struggled to review some of these. The Creative Writing MA I am halfway through made me realise this doesn’t automatically make them bad books. However. In one (I won’t name the specific books I didn’t like) the character whinged the whole way through. To be fair, he was in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and I would whinge a bit too. Do people want to read a book where the character complains and feels sorry for himself though?

Another book I read was about a character who lost his memory. The person who he discovered he was, turned out to be a cheat and a creep. He was a much better person without his memory. The other characters were no better. This left me with nobody to root for. I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to any of them. I knew then, something was missing from the main character. Even as a bad guy, he needed something to make the reader want to carry on reading.

After that, I read a book where the main character was someone I was able to feel for (in part) as she continued to make a series of bad choices – digging herself deeper and deeper into trouble. She was more than a little self-absorbed, which was off putting, but she suffered for the things she had done before getting her happy-for-now ending.

These books all helped me to learn what doesn’t work in a bad or not typically good character. Self-obsession is off putting, unless the character has somehow transformed by the end of the book. She/he doesn’t have to become a saint and can still be a little selfish, but character growth is important.

Using a range of characters with little or no redeeming qualities can be hard to get away with too. I’m not saying it can’t be done in a successful way, but the authors of the books mentioned above haven’t achieved it. Having someone good, or much further down the scale of bad is likely to be helpful in keeping readers, otherwise adding charm or an endearing trait to the character could also help.

The most recent book I read where the character wasn’t good, or at least she didn’t do good things, showed me how this can work. Jane Doe is written by Victoria Helen Stone. The book is about a sociopath who wants revenge, even if that revenge might be murder. She’s prepared to kill if she has to. The character is more complex than just being a potential killer though. She wants revenge for a friend, which at least shows she is capable of caring for another person, even if that leads to actions which many people wouldn’t consider. She’s loyal, determined and funny, even though she doesn’t mean to be humorous. There is a raw charm in her personality. The other characters are not sociopaths, but the author has portrayed them as more twisted and deserving of punishment than Jane. So, Jane was the one I was rooting for and I genuinely wanted to keep reading, as I hoped things would work out for her no matter what she chose to do in the end.

Reading these books has shown me as a writer how to (or how not to) write flawed characters who can hook the reader. This is why writers should also be readers. We can learn from so much from books, even bad ones. That’s why Stephen King says that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.

Amanda Steel is a multi-genre author, sometimes writing under the pen name Aleesha Black. She is the co-host of “Reading in Bed” with her partner, Andy. For more information about Amanda, visit her website. www.amandasteelwriter.com

#ShareYourRejections

I’m not going to share mine. Rejections are boring. I don’t think it’s helpful to hear that a published poet got so many rejections for her first book but kept going because:

  • Success isn’t just about persistence and tenacity
  • The try again and keep going message can give false hope
  • It implies rejections stop when you reach a certain level of success

Persistence and Tenacity

  • Some editors simply don’t like your poems. It’s possible to appreciate the craft and technical skills in a poem but not actually like it. Don’t give up at the first rejection, but if a magazine invariably rejects your work, move on and find an editor that likes your work.
  • Sometimes poets send out their poems too early which is why it’s worth finding a beta reader, workshop or writers’ group so you can get feedback on your work before you send it out to editors.
  • Editors don’t have time to give feedback on poems. It’s frustrating not knowing why you’ve been rejected but it’s more likely to be that your poems weren’t the right fit or too similar to work already accepted or the editor gets more poems in a week than she can publish in a year.
  • Do your research: find magazines that you like reading and that publish poems by poets you like and try them first. Check you’re not sending your traditional sonnets to a magazine that prefers prose poems. Continually sending prose poems to a magazine that only publishes villanelles wastes your time and irritates the magazine editor.
  • Don’t compare your failures with others’ successes. You don’t know how many times that poem was rejected before it was accepted. You don’t know how many rejections they got that week they posted about an acceptance on social media.
  • There are more poets than places to get published.

The False Hope of Try Again and Keep Going

  • It’s worth trying again if you’ve only had one rejection from a magazine and if you’ve done your research and think your poems are a good fit for the magazine.
  • It’s not worth trying again if there’s a mismatch between your poetry style and the magazine’s poetry style. Don’t get trapped into thinking you’re not a poet if you’ve not been published by The New Yorker or Poetry Review.
  • When you get a rejection, always re-read the poems that have been rejected. A fresh look might help you notice the awkward phrase in the second stanza or that the last line isn’t necessary. Edit and submit to another magazine.
  • If an editor doesn’t like your poems, they aren’t going to change their mind on the twentieth submission. Try another magazine.
  • If you’re getting good feedback when you perform your work but get rejected by magazines, chances are your performance is bringing something to your poems that’s absent on the page. Consider how to represent the missing element or consider recording your performances instead.
  • One rejection of a poem doesn’t imply there’s anything wrong with the poem. Multiple rejections of the same poem imply that it might be unfinished. Consider an edit or seek feedback before trying again.
  • Are you really a prose writer who wants to be a poet? Someone with amusia will never be a successful singer no matter how much they want to be, how many times they try, how frequently they change vocal style in the hope that their failure at opera will turn to success in pop, their failure at pop will turn to success in punk, how many hours of practice they do, how adept they get at using auto tune on their vocals or if they stalk the record label owner. However, there’s nothing to stop them becoming a successful drummer. You don’t have to stop writing poems just because your stories are more successful, but, when it comes to getting published, focus on where your talent actually lies.

Rejections Don’t Stop

Most of the magazines that accepted my poems in my first years of trying to get published no longer exist. The publishing landscape is forever changing: existing magazines change editors or fold and new magazines start. Being a published writer means being alert and open to new opportunities and that means potential rejection. Rejection can be minimised by doing your research, only submitting to markets where you know your work’s a good fit and knowing that you’re sending off the best versions of your poems, but it can’t be entirely eliminated.

Does Your Writing Environment Impact your Poems?

Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

Mary Oliver

Virginia Woolf famously wanted her own room, Mary Oliver prefers solitude and J K Rowling wrote in cafes while her very young daughter napped (although I’m guessing now she has a home office.) Some writers take over the kitchen table after other residents have gone to work or school. Others have an office, some at home, some in a separate building so they have to leave home to go to work. Some write directly onto a computer. Others insist on writing out first drafts by hand.

How much does environment impact on writing?

The last six pieces I wrote – reviews and five poems – were all written in different places under different circumstances:

  • I wrote my reviews in the lounge of a rented apartment, computer on my lap, TV in the background because the person I was with wanted to watch it.
  • One poem was drafted by hand in a notebook while I sat in a parked car, background noise supplied by the breeze and birdsong. The person I was with was playing a game on their phone.
  • Another poem was written by hand in a notebook whilst I was sitting on a public bench overlooking the sea, background noise a combination of lapping waves and seagulls.
  • Another poem was written by hand in a notebook in a noisy café.
  • Another poem was written straight onto a laptop at home. This was probably the only uninterrupted draft.
  • Another poem drafted in the notepad app on my phone during lunch break in a noisy office where the radio leaks from the neighbouring warehouse.

The reviews have been accepted. One of the poems has been accepted, the others are still being worked on and aren’t ready for submission yet. The accepted poem was the one written in a noisy office.

If I needed privacy, a place of my own or insisted I could only write drafts on my laptop or in a specific notebook, I wouldn’t get much writing done. Habit has made the ideal writing environment redundant.

I tend to do a lot of drafting in my head before committing words to paper or screen. I have a reasonable memory and experience has taught me that if an idea is good enough, it won’t get forgotten. It will haunt you until you write it. However, it may start in the form of a rough pottery urn but then may shatter and the shards regroup into an elegant china coffee pot and then it may decide that a coffee pot isn’t much use without cups and a milk jug so will reach out and link to those shapes too, bringing them together on a graceful tray. At this point, I’ll pour the coffee and start writing, wherever and whenever I happen to be. I’m not fussed about drafting by hand or on screen.

Ideally, I’d be able to sit at my desk at home with a familiar keyboard and screen. Reviewing has disciplined me into reading from a screen just as I would read from a printed page so I don’t fall into the lazy habit of skim reading from a screen, although I will skim read a boring article in an online journal just as I would speed reading a boring article in a print newspaper. Ideally, I’d have something close to silence (inevitably nature will intrude, the fridge will hum, the computer itself is not always silence). I can filter out predictable noise such as a radio or background chatter, but it’s hard work and makes the writing process more tiring. I have never been able to filter out someone else humming, whistling or tapping in the background whilst I write a poem, particularly if the humming/whistling/tapping is arrhythmic or I don’t recognise the song and can’t make the distraction predictable.

Habit has taught me to seize the moment and write with the environment and tools available. If I wait until I can get home and sit at my desk with minimal distraction, it would only give me a narrow window of opportunity to write and, of the last six pieces, only one was written at home. I would lose a lot of poems if I waited for the ideal environment or indulged in the luxury of only using a certain type or notebook or pen or downloading apps or switching off the internet hub to make me focus on word processing instead of social media.

For most of us, the best writing environment is the one we create with the place we happen to be in and the tools at hand. Worrying about the ideal environment or creating the right set of circumstances is just like waiting for the muse to strike: procrastination.

 


Leicester University’s Centre for New Writing is undertaking a three year collaborative project, Colonial Countryside, which will mobilise child historians to develop new audiences for cutting-edge research about British country houses’ Caribbean and East India connections. Peepal Tree Press will publish and resource new writing. To kick-start this project, a pilot event will be held with Colmore Junior School in Birmingham and Kenwood and Harewood Houses. A crowdfunder has been opened to pay for 20 children to visit country houses and related archives along with a historian and a writer to support the children in creating a podcast about their experiences.

The JustGiving page for the project is available here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/uniofleicester/colonial-countryside


 

Writing Genres – an indicator of Writing Talent?

Genres are useful to readers. A reader interested in thrillers is likely to be delighted in finding new thriller writers. A reader that likes experimental poetry is unlikely to be interested in an anthology of poems about nature inspired by Wordsworth. A reader that likes poet A may like poet B who writes in a similar style or on similar topics. A reader who likes a poetry book from a certain publisher would do well to explore the either books from that publisher since poetry publishers are either sole proprietors or a small team of editors with similar tastes. That won’t hold true for someone buying a novel from Penguin Random House. Categorising writing by genre is a useful signpost for readers who want to browse a book shop without checking every book on the (virtual) shelves.

Genres work less well when the categorisation is done by the writer, not the writing. A reader interested in one women writer won’t necessarily like all women writers. A reader interested in books set in South Africa won’t want to restrict themselves to reading only books set in South Africa written by South African writers since that would exclude books by writers set in South Africa who don’t identify as South African but may be living there and/or writing from extensive knowledge and research.

It can also trap writers into writing what’s expected of them or feeling straitjacketed into a specific genre. Some writers don’t want to experiment with genre, just like a pop princess isn’t going to write a death metal classic. But others do and it isn’t always sensible or practical to invent another identity just because book 2 is in a different genre to book 1. Sometimes what initially looked like a great idea for a romance turns into a psychological thriller on execution. It’s not a failure to admit your latest sonnet actually works better as a sestina or that your habit of writing free verse occasionally gets interrupted by a villanelle.

Genres stop being useful when they stop guiding readers to books they will enjoy and become a way of restricting writers. It’s even less useful to pretend there is a hierarchy of genres, as if writing in one genre is more difficult to achieve than writing in another or one genre is superior to another. This pretence of superiority allows writers to be sidelined because writers whose books are not considered literary fiction are assumed to be inferior. It allows poets to be asked when they are going to write a “proper book”, i.e. a novel. This hierarchy dismisses readers who don’t want their next choice of a book to be a challenging read but want to be entertained, terrified, swept away, taken to new worlds or discover a great new poet from the safety of their beach holiday.

What makes writing talent is a combination of two things: gift and craft. An innate love of words and desire to communicate stories will get you started but will only get you so far. A writer needs to learn their craft: how to shape a story or poem and how to develop their writing skills. A singer may have perfect pitch but they still need to learn the lyrics, how to regulate their breathing so they don’t run out of breath mid-way through a song and project their voice. The gift needs to be supported by technical ability. Craft is about cutting superfluity, honing the story or poem back to its essentials, allowing poem or story to find its form, creating fully dimensional characters and keeping a reader hooked. It is possible to write a technically perfect poem or story that’s boring to read because it’s too predictable or it tells us what we already know. A person who wants to write can learn the mechanics of writing but without the talent to explore divergent ways of thinking will fail to give their writing the spark to hook and keep a reader’s interest. Just as the best figure skaters combine artistic impression and technical merit, the best writers combine talent and craft.

No one genre is superior to another. Different genres have different purposes and place different demands on writers, but readers don’t read books for the same reason. Some want the writer to focus on the story and don’t care too much about the elegance of the prose. Some want the writer to focus on the scientific details and don’t care too much about the characters. Some want elegant, experimental prose and don’t care too much about the story. Some only want to see poems written in traditional forms and will reject anything that doesn’t rhyme.

Dismissing one genre as inferior to another is like dismissing someone else’s choice of an apple instead of an orange. Maybe they don’t like oranges. Maybe they’ll choose an orange tomorrow. If you plant an orange seed alongside an apple seed outdoors in the English climate, only one will grow. That doesn’t mean the orange seed lacked the potential to grow. It means that the conditions weren’t right for the orange seed. The conditions of a genre may suit one writer but not another, that does not indicate a lack of talent.

Questions and Answers from “Ghosts in the Desert” Launch

These were some of the questions (which may be paraphrased – I wasn’t taking notes when being asked) I was asked after my book launch for “Ghosts in the Desert” on 4 July. I have expanded on some of the answers below.

How do you know when a poem is finished or is there always another edit?

I think a poem is finished when the edits I’m making are not beneficial to the poem. For instance if I change a word and end up going back to the word I had previously or take out a comma only to put it back in again, when I feel as if I’m tinkering rather than achieving anything. It’s always possible to edit further but there’s also a point when editing looks suspiciously like procrastination.

How do you collect poems around a theme and does that theme inform new work?

Putting a collection together, for me, is a retrospective act. When I can collect together around 80 poems, I start to look for a common theme or anything that suggests the poems are interlinked and can form a body of work. If I can find sufficient poems I will start thinking of them as a collection rather than individual poems. If I can find a substantial number of poems but not enough for a collection, then I simply don’t have a collection. I don’t set myself the task of writing new poems on the theme because I find such new poems are often derivative or repetitive, saying what I’ve already said in a different format.

It’s fair to say, though, that common themes do tend to emerge in writing poems. So, whilst I wouldn’t consciously decide I’m going to write poems on theme x, I may well find that of the last dozen poems I’ve written, eight will be about theme x.

How did you start writing or have you always been writing?

I have always told stories. Even before I could pick up a pen, I used to build houses from play bricks and create stories for the people who might have lived there. At some point stories gave way to poems.

Which poets influenced you or got you into writing?

At school, we only studied male poets. I didn’t believe that female poets didn’t write poems that weren’t worth studying, but figured out I wasn’t going to find them through school or in book stores that seemed to concentrate on dead, white, male poets or anthologies. A friend sent me a copy of the Ted Hughes poem “You Hated Spain” and I identified with the “you” of the poem. That “you” was Sylvia Plath and through her, and her contemporaries such as Anne Sexton and Anne Stevenson, I found female poets worth reading and studying.

More recently I’ve enjoyed reading: Carrie Etter – I loved “Imagined Sons”, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Helen Ivory, D A Prince, Kei Miller, Daniel Sluman, Sheenagh Pugh, Ros Barber’s “The Marlowe Papers”, and I’m looking forward to the publication of Lydia Towsey’s “The Venus Papers” due from Hearing Eye. I enjoyed reviewing Mandy Kahn’s debut.

How do you define your style or poetic voice?

That’s a tricky question to answer without dropping into vague phrases or sounding horribly pretentious. Defining a poet’s style is often best done by others. A voice emerges when you’ve tried writing like other poets or tried writing on themes other poets have written about and you’ve found an approach and vocabulary you’ve comfort with and confident in. Voice comes when others read a poem and identify it as yours or conclude that no one else could have written that particular poem.

Do you find reviews of your work useful?

Yes. Sometimes you know instinctively that something is working but you don’t always analyse why and a review can provide that analysis. Reviews can also confirm that you were communicating what you wanted to communicate with the reader because the reviewer has interpreted the poem the way you intended it to be. Bad reviews can be helpful too: they either suggest the interpretation you intended wasn’t communicated fully so the poem needs another edit or a lazy reviewer’s interpretation is so far off the mark that it reinforces the intention of the poem.

Ghosts in the Desert is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing

Ghosts in the Desert book launch

Is there a Poem in it? Telling a Personal Story

We learn far more from stories than instructions, whether from the Bible, fables or the latest celebrity interview. Instructions are very much a one-off template to get a job done, whereas a story gives readers characters, a narrative arc and sub plots to think about and the best stories offer credible characters who solve their own problems and allow to reader to think about what they would have done in that situation or what their reaction would have been if the same thing had happened to them.

We’re quick to share stories too: the toddler telling their parents about their day (regardless of whether the parent was there or not), strangers finding themselves next to each other on a train, in a waiting room, telling friends or family about an event, updating our status on social media or retweeting an article we came across. Reading books may be falling in popularity but we still watch films, TV dramas, follow a narrative in a computer game, listen to chat shows. The popularity of the ‘triumph over adversity’ story is undiminishable and who doesn’t enjoy gloating when hearing about someone who’s behaved badly getting a just punishment?

This desire to share stories is one of the main motivations for writers to write. But writing personal or “confessional” poems comes with pitfalls which are not just about writing technique. Writing about a personal experience isn’t just about deciding on the best approach and whittling out the irrelevant details to get to the heart of the story. There’s a difference between writing about something in a personal journal or sharing it with a friend, and putting that poem out in the public domain by seeking to get it published or performing it.

  • Is it worth sharing?
  • Have you got to the true heart of your story or are you too focused on making it true to life?
  • Can you be objective?
  • Are you ready for unscripted reactions?

Sharing a Story in a Poem

A story doesn’t have to be hugely dramatic to share, but it needs to be communicable. If your story needs a long preamble to explain the situation or the characters, it’s probably best to keep it to share with people who know the people involved. Telling a reader “you had to be there,” is insulting and unhelpful.

Can you show the reader why you or your narrating character took the course of action they did? If you need to dictate your conclusion to the reader rather than allowing them to take their own view, it’s probably not a shareable story.

Telling the Truth

The truth isn’t necessarily what happened. It’s about illustrating the heart of your story. A good writer strips out extraneous detail, no matter how interesting, and beings the story into sharp focus. It can be hard to separate detail from story when you have a strong emotional involvement, so it may be better to wait until you have that emotional distance before deciding to try and get your poem published.

It may be necessary to alter the telling of what happened to make a better poem. We do this a lot in real life, little embellishments or omissions, the little white lies to make something sound better. In a poem, you might want to make a ten minute wait a half-hour one or skip parts of the story to keep the momentum going and keep the reader engaged.

There’s a reason that workshop tutors’ hearts sink whenever a participant says “that’s how it happened.” Real life is messy, inconvenient and boring. There isn’t space for that in a poem.

Can you be Objective?

Can you read back your draft and edit it as if you are reading it for the first time? Can you let go of that stanza focused on the description something that isn’t key to the story and ought to be cut? It may be you have the draft of what could be a brilliant poem, but if you can’t read it with an editor’s eyes, keep it in the notebook to come back to later.

Are you ready for unscripted reactions?

It’s your story: you know how you reacted. But could you cope with someone else playing devil’s advocate and taking an opposing view? Could you bear someone laughing at your tragedy? Could you bear your joke falling flat? Could you cope with an editor suggesting you need to swap stanzas four and five and lose two lines from stanza six?

If your answer is “no,” you’re not yet ready to publish. This isn’t a reflection on the standard of your poem. You can guess how a reasonable person would react, but not everyone is reasonable. Once you decide to submit your poem for publication, you can’t rely on readers taking into consideration it’s personal when they comment on it. If you are going to read your poem to an audience, it’s not fair to ask them to excuse you for getting tearful at the end of the first stanza. The audience wants to hear the poem, not your personal reaction to it.