• Mary K Gowdy

I haven't made a monthly goals post in a while, partly because I've decided to retire them and partly because I've been busy (*cough* and procrastinating *cough*) updating this blog. I felt that the monthly goals were getting repetitive. And when I haven't been achieving my goals (which has been happening a lot lately), I find that they discourage me more than encourage me. So, this post will be just a short, general life update.

In my February Goals post, I hadn't yet started revising The One and the Other Volume One. Since then, I've revised the first three episodes and am almost done with Ep. 4. There's been a few plot and character elements (like combining scenes, altering character motivations slightly, etc) that have taken quite a bit of revision but nothing too serious. Some scenes have only needed a few line edits which makes me really happy.

I'm proud of how this manuscript is coming out and cannot believe that I'm almost done with this set of revisions. I planning on finishing them by early June. Afterwards, I might reach out to get some more feedback and revise a little later. Then, I'll re-read for line edits and proofreading errors, but after that, I'll be done. It's crazy. I'm so close (Granted, I've been saying "I'm so close to finishing my first novel" for a while, but this time I'm really close).

I haven't touched my Chervaux novel or poetry in the last month though I had wanted to work on them as side projects. I've found that I am not good at things. I can only seem to work on one project at a time because when I'm working on one, it's all I want to work on. Same with reading and writing. When I'm reading a lot, I'm not writing as much as I should and vice versa. I don't know when I will return to Chervaux, but I do plan on writing poetry during the summer once I'm done with TOATO1 revisions.

I haven't uploaded YouTube videos like I had hoped too. I haven't had much time or privacy to devote to it. However, my video "How to Write a Poem -- Tips for Beginners" has taken off in terms of number of views. It's close to 2000! And despite not posting regularly, my subscriber count is growing too. I'm so happy and thankful to everyone that has subscribed. It gives me even more motivation to post.

I am going to continue posting but I don't promise any consistency. It's just not feasible at this point in my life now. I've accepted that I will post when I have the chance and not feel bad for not being consistent. I want to make sure my content is good, so if it takes longer, so be it.

That's all for now. I hope to give you another update soon!

#writing #update

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  • Mary K Gowdy

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Video Transcript:

When I tell other writers that I write poetry, one of the responses I get the most is that they themselves have tried to write poetry once but it came out cliché or sounding like Dr. Seuss so they never attempted it again. They might understand rhyme and meter and whatnot—they have the tools—but they don’t understand how to avoid the pitfalls of bad poetry.

This post will cover the 6 common mistakes new poets tend to make.

1. Cliché

In case you don’t know, clichés are overused phrases. All idioms are clichés but not all clichés are idioms. Idioms are fixed phrases that don’t have a literal meaning but are used a lot in everyday speech [like “a rolling stone gathers no moss” or “cat got your tongue”]. Some examples of clichés that aren’t idioms would be: “my love’s lips are as red as rose” or “my heart’s one fire” or “gut-wrenching pain”.

The main reason you want to avoid using clichés is because they’re unoriginal. Your job as a poet is to paint your subject in a new light. You can’t do that if you’re using language that is so commonly used everyone knows it. Also, if a word or a phrase is used over and over again, it starts to lose its punch. Take for example, the word “awesome”. It used to mean that something made you full of awe of it, but now that it’s been used so much, it just means that something’s “cool”. Clichés are the exact same way. People use them in so many different situations that they don’t mean much anymore.

There’s always a new way of writing about something. It just takes a lot more thought and creativity. But that’s your job as a poet.

Before you point out that some clichés appear in older poet’s work, let me explain that they were the first to use those phrases originally. When their poems became popular, everyone started copycatting them. They made those phrases the clichés of today.

2. Melodrama

If you find yourself comparing your electric love to the scope of the universe and the brilliance of the stars or if you describe your sadness as a bottomless pit of grief that overflows with your tears because no one understands you, you’ve fallen into the trap of melodrama.

I get it. Poetry is supposed to super emotional, and we’re poets—so of course we have strong emotions—and the only way to get other people to know what we’re feeling is to hit them over the head with the board of our passion, right?

No *shakes head*

Melodrama loses its touch with reality that we need in order to connect with a poem. It uses comparisons to such big things out of the realm of experience so much that it becomes meaningless. And it also just makes you sound like an angsty teen who thinks the world’s gonna end because of a minor emergency. And you end up writing some really stupid things when you’re trying to sound dramatic.

I find it useful to think of small, physical details that ground you to the subject. Less is more. Focusing on tiny details can make a big difference. We may not be inclined to notice them but they’re there.

3. Doing Thing To Sound “Poetic”

Using Archaic Language

Like thees and thous and other archaic words. They may appear in the poems you had to study in high school, but the thing is, that was how they spoke. Those poets weren’t trying to sound old, and neither shouldn’t you.

Inverted Syntax

Inverted syntax is when you place adjectives after nouns, objects before verbs, and other things like that. So instead of saying “John caught the ball”, you’d say “John the ball caught”. Now, people weren’t talking with inverted syntax all the time, but around Shakespeare time, English syntax was more free than today for reasons that I won’t get into in this post. Inverted syntax was also a literary convention that was more accepted then than it is now. English syntax is now more rigid, and modern audience tend to dislike inversion. There are some cases where I think it is worth it, but it’s best to avoid it.

Centering Your Poetry

The convention is left-aligning poems. And the reasoning is is that centered poems give off the vibe of “this is a poem. Can’t you tell? I need to look more artistic so you know it’s not prose”. Only amateurs center poetry before they realize that everyone left-aligns them.

Only Writing in Quatrains

This, like everything else in this group, results from a narrow view of what poetry is. There are so many different forms a poem can take. And quatrains are the most boring and overused one of them all. They’re cliché *see above point*.

List Poems

If your teachers dared to make you write poetry in school, they introduced you to either the concrete poem or the list poem. Those are good introductions, but they’re super easy and simple because kids are supposed to be able to do them. You’re more sophisticated than that, I hope.

And another thing about the list poem is beginner poets will often just use a constant stream of participles like running, flying, crying, gleaming, whatever, and have no subject and the idea of the poem is just a blur of images. It gets repetitive, and having just a list of images as your poem is simplistic. While it’s a good start, you need to move past it. Get rid of those training wheels.

So the thing that all the above mistakes:

- archaic language

- inverted syntax

- centering your poetry

- only writing in quatrains

- list poetry

Have in common is that they’re all a byproduct of the poet trying to sound “poetic”. It comes from having a narrow view of what poetry is and trying to make yours fit into the mold.

4. Abusing Figures of Speech like Metaphor and Simile

Every line shouldn’t contain a metaphor or a smile. Everyone needs a vacation including figures of speech—give them a break. There are other characteristics of poetry that you should use like alliteration, assonance, images, etc.

A lot of the time, figures of speech are merely repeating something that has already been said, are cliché, or can be so outlandish they alienate the reader. Like most techniques, these should be used sparingly and alternated with using others.

5. Forcing Rhyme or Meter

First of all, we can always tell when you put that word in just because it rhymed or fit the meter. If you have never used that word in your life, don’t start now just so it makes the poem rhyme. Same goes with meter. Don’t strangle your syntax into incomprehensible sentences so it reads sort of in iambic. Or worse, settle for “Well, since the rest of this poem is in this meter, maybe they’ll just stress this word on the other syllable and it’s not a problem”. Now, there are a few words that this will work for. But they’re the exception not the rule.

If writing a particular poem in a form starts doing more harm to the poem than good, it’s time to either try a new form or go rouge—I mean, free verse.

6. Your Free Verse is Prose With Line Breaks

You can’t just hit enter in the middle of the lines of your prose piece and call that poetry. There’s nothing poetic about it. And I know I might start sounding confusing because several points ago, I told you not to do things just so your poem sounds “poetic” and now I’m telling you that you need stuff to make it sound “poetic”. Within all of this lies the question of what is poetry anyway? And that is a whole post in of itself, so I won’t be diving into it today. But I do believe that there is a healthy middle between not having any poetic devices (besides line breaks) and throwing them in just to have them be present.

These are the main problems I see in aspiring poet’s work.

A lot involved in improving your writing skill comes with practice. Keep these 6 tips in mind, write some more, get feedback from others, revise, and keep writing.

Thanks for reading!

#poetry #writing

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  • Mary K Gowdy

Hey all! Hope you're having a good start to your year.

My year's been pretty good so far, though it's also been slow on the writing front. I haven't gotten as much done as I had hoped. Though I did a year resolution post, I didn't go over my past monthly goals or set new ones. For this post, I'm going to review the ones I made in December (and technically in that post, I didn't say if these were December or January goals).

Also, a year ago this month I did my first monthly goals post. I can't believe it!

December (and kind of January) Goals:

1. Finish Re-Outlining My NaNo novel (Chervaux)

Accomplished! It was a lot of fun, and I'm happy with how the new outline has turned out. Though,I haven't done anything else with Chervaux, I want to return to it sometime soon. I've done some research to help with the world-building. The next step will be to re-read the first draft, and after that, I'll start re-writing it into the actually usable second draft.

2. Re-read The One and the Other Volume 1

I didn't finish this till some time in January, but it's done as I'm writing this post so I call that accomplished!

I marked the book up as I re-read. I mostly found instances where I need to cut unnecessary words or places where I told and didn't show. There's also scenes I want to rework some, but those types of revisions are getting less and less in number with each draft.

3. Post 4 YouTube Videos

I did post 4 videos in December and January. I'm not calling this goal accomplished though because I didn't upload as many as I had hoped. The big reason for this being because I got a cough over my Christmas break, so I chose to rest my voice instead of making videos. Not to mention it's difficult getting time alone to film during the holiday and back to school season.

I feel like I haven't been focusing on my writing as much, and I'm dying to get back to it. But I'm also trying to balance what I can realistically do so I don't get burnt out.

Either way I love doing these monthly goal posts, and I do believe they help increase my productivity.

February Goals

1. Send out the first of my monthly newsletter

I meant to start this last month, but oh well. It's going out early February. As soon as I can write the newsletter. It's next on my to-do list after this.

In my new years resolution posts, I made sending out a monthly newsletter one of my goals. My newsletter will include a summary of all that I've been working on on my blog and my YouTube channel, and it will also have updates on my writing projects and the occasional sneak peak--whether it be a never-before-seen poem or some insider info about my novel.

It's not too late to sign-up and get the first one!

2. Get 5 reviews of Sensuality.

This goal is a small step towards a bigger one of promoting my chapbook Sensuality.. I released it into the world last year without much fanfare, but now it's time to start making some noise about it. I have plans to reach out to some booktubers and book bloggers to see if they're interested in reviewing Sensuality. in exchange for a free copy. Speaking of, if you're interested in doing this, feel free to contact me.

3. Finish analyzing my beta reader feedback and make a revision game plan for TOATO Volume One

I feel like this has been on my goals list for forever though this is the first I've made it explicitly a monthly goal (it was a year goal for 2018. Spoiler Alert: I didn't accomplish it.)

I almost done with it. Most of the feedback I still have to deal with is my own from when I re-read my book. I use Scrivener, and I'm adding all of the comments from my betas and myself into a Scrivener document so it's all in one place.

After I finish, I need to figure out how I'm going to talk this. I thought of color-coding the comments based on which ones I like, which ones I'm not sure about, and which ones I don't like. I've also considered making a list of big--or more abstract--things I want to address. I'll edit the manuscript from the beginning to the end again because revising that way makes the most sense to me.

4. Post a YouTube video once a week

I know I sound like a broken record at this point. I'll stop including this goal every month once it becomes a habit.

5. Write 2 poems

It's not my focus at the moment so that's why it's only two. But two's better than none. Revisions of old poems also counts towards this goal.

Those are my goals for February. Hopefully I'll be able to manage them. Most of them are fairly small.

Do you have any goals for February? What have you been working on lately?

#writinggoals #amwriting

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