15 points to Editing Success…

12 May

Debris here. Over the past 8 years, I have worked with some amazing writers; Jacob Sam-La Rose, Roger Robinson, Caroline Bird, Jean Binta-Breeze, Peter Kahn … the list is endless! I feel so thankful for the advice these people have given me and I have folder upon folder of editing advice from them in my house!

Here are 15 consolidated points from all these amazing writers + me! 

Editing Advice & Questions Worth Asking…


The following advice is to create a dynamic and effective piece. The rules can be broken, but not just because ‘you want to’, you must have a reason and believe me I will want a good one.


  1. What is this poem about & What do you want this poem to make your audience feel? Answer these questions, and then use the rest of these points to help you refine your poem to achieve this OR to help you work out what they are.
  2. Does your first line grab the audience’s attention? (If not, what’s to stop them thinking about dinner?)
  1. Have you used any clichés or unoriginal language/imagery?
    • Do you mind using chewing gum that has been chewed 50 times before you, because that is what a cliché is!
  2. Have you used any metaphors or similes? If not why not? Can you change any of your similes to metaphors? These are often stronger.
  3. Remove any unnecessary repetition. If you have used repetition, why? Is there a purpose to it?
  4. Are you SHOWING (action, and concrete imagery) or TELLING (abstract nouns and statements). Showing is usually stronger. E.g. “She was dying” (telling) could be “He was wearing a Big Bird costume in ASDA” (showing).
  5. What tense is your piece in? What person is your piece in? Could changing  either/both make it more interesting or effective?
  6. SPECIFICITY!!! Have you been specific enough? What further details could you add?
  7. How many abstract nouns have you used (things you cannot touch e.g. sadness, justice and politics)? Could you employ more concrete nouns instead (things you can touch, see and smell like a desk or a daisy)?
  8. POEMS DON’T HAVE TO RHYME. So if a rhyme is not working don’t force it.
  9. What has changed by the end of your piece? Has an epiphany or revelation been reached? Has a perspective been changed? The audience will want to feel some sort of accomplishment from your piece by experiencing a journey which finishes somewhere different from its starting point. This could be subtle or big, literal or metaphorical – it is up to you, using an image to represent this change can often be effective.
  10. Are the verbs strong enough? Verbs push the action in a poem, how do you want that action to happen? Running, screaming, fighting are all relatively vague, used verbs – try using a thesaurus to find ones more suited to what you are trying to describe e.g. barrelling, caterwauling and scuffling. Likewise are the nouns strong enough? Nouns ground the people and places in your poem, use a thesaurus to make sure you are using the right ones from all your options.
  11. Have you used redundancies? (What are redundancies? https://mouthypoets.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/3-editing-exercises-for-stronger-poetry-2/)
  12. Lastly, try playing with line breaks and form – put the in as many different types as you can to see which suits your purpose the best? I suggest starting simple; 3 or 4 line stanza’s with an equal line length. Each stanza should carry a unit of action or meaning. You can also play with more structured forms, research; Sestina’s, Sonnets, Villanelle’s etc. it could be what your piece is destined to become! More importantly…
  13. you won’t know, if you don’t try. 

4 Responses to “15 points to Editing Success…”

  1. Andy Szpuk May 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    A great list, and feels really dynamic in its delivery, wasn’t sure about the fella in the big bird suit in ASDA though.

    • mouthypoets May 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      Thank you! Hahaha, I have wanted to get that image into some of my teaching sheets for ages. Does it not work?


      • Andy Szpuk May 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

        Probably an age thing . . .

  2. auroraangel15 May 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on Born in the change.

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