how to write poetry

The Three Most Important Tips for Writing Your Poetry Book

I’ve had my book out for a little while now and I feel like this is the first month I’ve been able to breath. I mean really take a breath and enjoy myself. Writing a book of poetry was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I couldn’t be more proud of the way it all came out.

Anyone that has ever written a book deserves a big congratulations. You are amazing. We are amazing. Anyone just starting the journey, I think it is one of the most rewarding and harrowing experiences, so good luck.

A book is a big process. We think of it as one product, but it is the culmination of several art forms. The design/layout of the book was in itself a massive undertaking, not to mention the writing, rewriting and endless editing. After the book is created you have distribution and marketing. When my book was released, I did two reading events (one in San Antonio and one in Houston), an interview with Nuestra Palabra (Which I am so grateful for Tony Diaz and the staff for having me), an online store I maintain and in-store distribution, and that is just the beginning of the release journey.

There are some things I really excel at in this process, some I am new at and still have a lot of room to improve on, but now I have travelled from coming up with the idea, to getting it out into the world. There isn’t a single point of the book making process that I didn’t get my hands in. (I have levels more appreciation for the written word and all the wonderful books on my shelf). And I want to share some of the things I’ve learned with you.

A quick note: “When Love Ends, Be The Water,” itself came out beautifully. Featuring gorgeous illustrations by Rikkianne Van Kirk. (I’m so touched by the delicacy of her work. I think I’ll write a separate post about that. You can click on the link and check out her amazing work). I will always be my own harshest critic, but all that self-loathing and anger paid off: I MADE A BOOK! And a good one too, if I may. I am offering a few pieces of advice for anyone thinking of writing an independent book (this wont apply if you sign a deal with a company cause they will do things their own way and that’s cool). So for those of you crazy enough to try this, here are a couple of tips:

  1. Good isn’t good enough: Everything matters. Just like in a poem. Every word. Every space. Every detail counts. The same goes for the book. Every font. Every layout choice. Every decision you make is an opportunity to deepen your connection with the audience. Make sure that all of those details are saying what you want it to say. Not everyone will agree with every decision you make and that is ok. But if you have solid, thoughtful reasons for making those choices, then it simply a matter of taste and not error. You never want error to be the dividing force between you and your audience.

  2. Learn what you can, get help for the rest: If you don’t know how to edit, layout, illustrate, distribute, promote, or whatever. You have 2 choices. Spend time learning the craft (all of these are dedicated careers you can spend lifetimes learning btw) or you can hire it out. Neglecting a necessary item, isn’t helpful and doing it poorly… well, see tip #1. There are lots of helpful resources for finding the right people, and lots of helpful places where you can learn what you need. I went to my library and did a whole lot of research on fonts, design, and layout to get the book where I wanted it to be. I have no idea how to illustrate, and I am terrible with drawing but I had the help of a wonderful artist and she took my book to a whole new level.

  3. A book is a marathon, not a sprint: This ties in with the first two tips, because you there will be so many times when you are fed up. When you think: Do I really need to do another edit? Another design? It’s probably good enough! But you have to push those things aside and try to look at your book with at least the attempt of objectivity. You have to ask: Is this the best I can do or am I just exhausted? Timelines will fall apart. Deadlines will get pushed back. Draft numbers will pile up. If you feel like you need help, see tip 2! If you want to just rush it out, see tip 1!

You can read a whole bunch of tips for writing a book, but no one will know who to write your book better than you. I think if you keep these 3 tips in mind, every other tip is just falls in line. Like, don’t have typos corresponds to tip 1. Same with knowing your audience, stay on topic, start with a bang, or whatever standard hints people like to pitch.

I believe this experience should be available to all writers. It is 2019. The gatekeepers have fallen. Writing is democratized. Publishing is easier and cheaper than ever. The internet/libraries are a wealth of unlimited knowledge. You can do it! No one can tell you no.

So one final bonus tip: Don’t let anyone (including yourself) stop you. I guess this goes back to Tip #3, but there are always going to be low moments. People who don’t get you or what you are trying to do. Moments where you will question your sanity. That is normal. Criticism is great for building your ideas. The thing to remember is, you are writing YOUR book. Especially for poetry, it should be for you and reflect who you are. I write because I love writing. I am not going to turn the one thing I love doing into some nightmare for me just to please somebody else. I wrote the book I wanted to write. I made it the absolute best I could. If I needed help, I researched, and if I still couldn’t, I asked for help. And finally I went slow. It took me a long time to get here (2 years) and now it is nothing but a celebration.

till next time

-rene

PS: Originally I wanted to blog the process of writing my book (which I still might do), and then I had wanted to start doing reviews of other poetry books that I read (which I also might do. Maybe you can help me decide?) but things got so crazy just trying to make it through this thing alive that all those ideas had to be stored away.

I think I’m ready for a fresh idea. I’m just going to put this out there with a big, Thank You to you all and the Universe. Let me know what you would like me to do and of course, if you haven’t read it yet, my book is available here and on Amazon.