author, creative writing, writers, writing

3 important things writing poetry teaches us about writing novels

April is national poetry month, so it seemed appropriate to write a post about poems. In line with the general theme of my blog, I’m focusing on what writing poetry can teach us about writing novels. Having studied poetry as part of my university course, these are the three important things I found:

Creative metaphor and expressive language
Language is essential in all writing, of course it is, but this is particularly true of poetry. Poetry can teach us a lot about prose and finding our unique creative voice. When writing a poem, you’re forced to truly consider language that expresses your feelings, thoughts and message. It also encourages you to get creative with metaphor, getting your message across in ways that are thought provoking and able to be interpreted in different ways.

Cutting out unimportant words
Poetry is all about being concise, and words become extremely valuable. To ensure your form, pattern and/or beat work, you are restricted by the number of words you can use to get your point across. This is a vital skill in novel writing too, because although it may feel like the word count doesn’t matter, you will actually bore readers if you’re saying too much.

Capturing the essence of a story
Some poems are long. But, typically, they aren’t novel length, and many are very short. Yet they manage to capture a story. Not always a traditional tale with a beginning, middle and end, but a story nonetheless. Poetry teaches you to capture an emotion, a moment, an experience, or a meaningful message, without using thousands of words to do it. And even if you are writing a novel, and do have the luxury of using thousands of words, it’ still vital you capture the essence of the story you’re telling, rather than getting too carried away with backstories and unimportant subplots.

I’m not a huge poetry writer. I’ve written some for uni, and I did go through a phase during the pandemic of writing a lot of poems. Though it’s not my forte, I always enjoy it, and I’m always grateful for anything that teaches me writing skills.

Are you a poet? Have you learned any skills through poetry that you’ve applied to your novel writing? Share your thoughts below!

Until then,
Keep writing,

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20 thoughts on “3 important things writing poetry teaches us about writing novels”

  1. Michelle, I love your Thomas Jefferson quote. Watching the “Hemingway” documentary, he wrote differently from other writers of the day, as Jefferson noted. He was trained as a newspaper writer who preached brevity and he used it in his stories. Maybe that is why his short stories get so much acclaim. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is the point. That is why it is so difficult for me to write a poem based on one of these Japanese verses. I like to babble. 😉 Especially when I come up with more than a few word connections in the English language. Lol
    Thank you for this very important appeal. Have a beautiful week! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No poet, alas, but think the point on concision is especially useful. I have seen poems likened to bouillon cubes, a (relatively) short, minimal, but intense package of words and senses dropped into the waters.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m no poet either, but I like to rhyme. Sadly this isn’t fashionable today.
    But I don’t have a poetic soul, how do I know that my attempts at blank of free verse are poetry and not prose? I get what you mean about brevity though (I edit for my writing group) and ‘capturing the essence’ of a story.
    Likewise, in my stories I am fearful of over-writing, and perhaps I equate free verse with this.
    I have recently discovered the American poet Billy Collins (I did warn you I was no poet – it’s a new interest) who is neither flowery nor pretentious (nor rhyming). I may investigate further.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cathy! I like to rhyme too, and while it isn’t a huge part of ‘todays’ poetry, I think you should always write how you want to – rhymes and all! 🙂 Happy writing

      Liked by 1 person

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