Here’s a simple tip that I live by (or write by, as the case may be):
There’s usually room for improvement. (I used to say “always
room for improvement” but I’ve mellowed with age.)
And sometimes, that improvement can make all the difference. Take a poem I wrote a few years back called, “Taking Out The Trash.”
It was a good poem (she said, modestly). It won an Honorable Mention in a Bylines Poetry contest. Bylines (no longer published) would get quite a slew of entries for their contests, so I felt pretty good about that win.
Time passed, and another poetry contest came along. I pulled out “Taking Out The Trash” and figured I’d send it off. But in reading the poem, I thought the meter was not quite right. I tweaked it, changing a word here, adding a word there, improving it, see? I think it garnered another Honorable Mention.
This year, the North Carolina Poetry Society had a Humorous Verse category in their poetry contest. So back I went to “Taking Out the Trash.” But in reading the poem this time, (the meter was perfect, by the way, she said modestly) I realized that I could make the imagery a bit more vivid. I tweaked it again, trying first one word, then another, working to punch up the humor in the poem.
Did I improve it? Please see the Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Award (she said, modestly).
Every time I read through my YA manuscript, I find a spot that can be improved. Whenever I find a contest where an older work of mine will fit, I almost always find a word, a sentence, perhaps even a paragraph that needs a bit of work. To be honest, I’m usually surprised that I missed that spot, that word or sentence or paragraph the first time. But I think that’s because the harder I work at my craft, the more I improve. I’m able to recognize mistakes that I simply didn’t have the skill and experience to catch the first time, or the second time, or heck, even the 37th time around.
I’m pretty sure that “Taking Out the Trash” has seen its last contest. But then again, a year from now, I might give it another go–and improve that poem yet again.
P.S. I almost forgot my other Tip! You can win a $25.00 Amazon gift card over at Diamonds and Toads, just by answering a simple question. Diamonds and Toads is a sister site to Enchanted Conversation; both sites have wonderful fairy-tale inspired poetry, stories and art. And I’m not just saying that because you’ll find my poetry and stories over there (she said, modestly).