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Story behind the Tips for Better Writing

Once upon a time, many years ago (about 2001, if you want to be precise) there was a poet who was participating in many critiques with friends. This poet also happened to be a data modeler, process modeler, computer programmer, systems analyst, business analyst, and quality management practitioner. With the skills he had gained with these professions and with the mindset he had built, he thought it would be a good idea to start recording the suggestions made in critiques. This way, he could go through the list of ideas and suggestions while writing his poems, making later critiques easier on his ego. (Good theory, anyway.)

Now, this poet, being also heavily involved in computers was totally geeky. He was also slightly evil. He knew that not many poets made money as poets and by selling books of poetry. While buying a book about writing poetry, this fellow hit upon a wonderful brainwave. While the market for buying poetry is small, the market for buying books on how to write better poetry is humongous! Everybody thinks he or she is a poet! If one percent buy a book on how to write better poetry, it’s a million seller. Whoopee! There are all of these poets out there, and while so many of them do not obviously read anyone else’s poetry, they do read books about writing. So, he set out to exploit this. He would write books about poetry that had his poems as examples. That way, he could publish books of poetry that other poets would buy, a much larger market than poetry readers. (Insert evil cackle here.)

The first idea he had was that he could gather all of these tips from critiques and repackage them as a book. Obviously, he needed 101 of these tips in order to have a full book. Nobody buys a book of 98 tips. So, he started gathering tips. Not only did he get them out of his critiques of other poets’ works and of their critiques of his work, but he also started interviewing poets and songwriters he knew. He gathered more than 230 tips within a relatively short space of time. So, he was diligently working away at writing poems to go with each tip. He was expanding and expounding on the tips. He was finding quotes to use on the tips. He was still adding more tips.

Did I mention that this poet was kind of geeky? Well, one of the hallmarks of a geek is to learn a subject exhaustively. Sure, there are computer geeks. But there are also toenail fungus geeks. They learn everything there is to know about toenail fungus, and then they spring tidbits or dissertations on unsuspecting friends and acquaintances. The problem is that being a geek is not necessarily of practical value. You not only have to learn stuff to make money off it, you have to apply that knowledge. For instance, if one is writing a book, one must finish the book before one can sell a single copy.

So, our protagonist finally realized this flaw in his plan. He had to stop. Pick out the 101 best (or most nearly complete) tips, and finish writing those entries to complete the book. So, he was going through his tips, and came across a suggestion to study the forms of poetry: villanelles, triolets, sonnets and other structures. He figured it would be good to have a comprehensive list in the tip, so people would know what structures to study. Little did he realize that there are literally hundreds of poetic structural forms. Nor did he realize what a mess the world of poetic forms was. After all, people were calling all kinds of thing poetic forms. Being a real poetry geek by this point, he became totally entranced with the idea of the various forms poetry could take and the rules governing these forms and the sub-categories of forms. He also noticed that all of the books about form were incomplete and flawed. So, being a total geek, he started trying to compile a list of forms and decided to write a book covering that subject. That way, when he published the book of tips, in the forms tip he could just refer to his book of forms. Two years later... Well, let’s just say that this is how Poetry Renewal wound up with a large list of forms on the site.

At this rate, there could be another book hiding in half the tips he has listed for his book. So, instead of waiting to have a book of tips together, he figured he’d provide the tips as he has them here on Poetry Renewal. He can refine them for the book later.

So, this is the stub for where the tips menu will be very soon, we hope. Over the next few months, expect to see the tips start appearing.


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