KEEP IT SIMPLE
I recently watched a programme that had been given a good write up. It starred several popular actors, including the very talented Mark Benton. The programme however, failed to deliver. It certainly didn’t have us rolling around with laughter as forecast in the television guide. So in spite of a good cast of actors something was missing. Yet a producer thought it good enough to occupy top slot on a Friday evening.
We hear amazing tales of best sellers being discovered in the slush pile, talented actors being plucked from obscurity and the face of some miraculous cosmetics being represented by a girl who was working on the checkout in Tesco’s. These tales should inspire struggling writers.
Some writers can reel out poem upon poem without a great deal of effort; others struggle to write a couple of stanzas. Rhyme is almost frowned upon in some circles, and yet is somewhat more difficult to achieve than free verse.
But ask any member of the general public which they prefer, and I lay you any odds they will say rhyme. Because rhyme is cute but also very clever. The beauty of poetry is truly in the originality of the words; how they can lift something that may seem totally obscure, and give it new life. Many struggle to write something truly memorable, using words that have us reaching for the dictionary and yet some of the best-loved pieces are so simple. One such example is Robert Frost’s :-
STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING.
Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Such simple words and yet we can all see the picture, the horse in the clearing, snorting the cold night air, giving his harness a good shake, wondering why on earth his master has stopped. Surely it must be a mistake. And yes, horses are that intelligent. I love this poem for its simplicity. There is nothing complicated about it and yet it says so much. Perhaps, sometimes we try too hard, to find big words that will bewilder the reader. Complicated doesn’t necessarily mean best.
We have one particular member on the writing site I use, who writes Love Poems with real passion. I hope he finds the courage and wherewithal to get them published, because he really is that good. Even people like Robert Burns self published and yet who could have written with more drama and emotion than the great Bard himself:
MY LOVE IS LIKE A RED, RED ROSE
My love is like a red red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sand o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only love,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
Show me the woman who wouldn’t like those words written for her!
A question we must ask ourselves whether we write poetry, articles or fiction is this. Who are you writing for? Who are you aiming your work at? You must decide your market before you start and not the other way round. And yet I am sure we are all guilty of the latter.
Whatever you write, it is important to write it and leave it for a couple of days. Go back and read it again. Undoubtedly there will be things you will change. Never rush anything. Punctuation, spelling and layout all need thorough checking.
Some of us may post our work on a writing website, in doing so we are inviting the opinions of others. Any constructive advice should be taken on board and considered. That’s not to say that you always need to follow the advice given. But it is a good way of getting feedback.
It is also a good idea to get the opinion of someone totally neutral; someone who doesn’t write poetry, articles or fiction. Sometimes they can pull something out of the bag that hadn’t even crossed your mind. They may even notice something that has escaped your “thorough” edit. And their honesty will be helpful.
Don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to be too smart with big words, or ultra frilly descriptions. Take a leaf out of the books of the people who have stood the test of time.
I am a great fan of Gordon Ramsay, (and not just because he’s Scottish) He speaks a lot of common sense. One of his favourite sayings is “keep it simple”. People want good wholesome food.
Writing is the same. A good basic plot will give you a successful story. A well- researched article will be warmly received, and a poem that flows and is written from the heart, will steal the imagination of all who reads it.
Remember how many times people like Stephen King were turned down by publishers before finally achieving the acclaim they had strived so long for. His book “On Writing” is one of the best publications on the market. It is packed with practical advice and inspiration. Buy it and devour it.
Lastly, believe in yourself, because out there is an editor who is going to like what you write. You won’t please them all, but then neither will anyone else. But just look around you, see what is on the shelves, and on your television screen. I can hear you saying, “I could do better than that”.
Well, why don’t you?