To achieve homogeneity of creative voices, a theme is selected to drive the focus of an issue. It’s like a furnace of artistic embers cooking a meal spiced with all sorts of literary condiments. The overarching idea of a literary work is simply its theme. It is the author’s perspective on a subject and intentionally foisted on readers via the evolution of characters, the twisting of plots, realistic dialogue, and neatly woven literary devices.
Interestingly, readers are the judges. Readers are responsible for interpreting the theme of a literary work. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, a literary work’s theme is deciphered through objective lenses, an interpretation that is void of judgments, discrimination, and prejudice.
If you are submitting an entry for an issue, how do you align your content with the theme? And what are the editors looking for?
Compelling stories all share the same traits – they spark curiosity and evoke emotions in the readers. A writer that knows how to move his readers will never be out of business. Words void of emotions will never touch the hearts of readers. But more than harnessing the power of emotions, a writer must find a way to reveal the theme of his work through the feelings of the main character about the main subject. In other words, the writer’s opinion is unravelled subtly through the rumble of feelings and emotional drama of the story’s main character. That’s a way of unpacking and thrusting a theme on an audience.
Furthermore, readers who share similar views with the writer can relate to the emotional struggles or victories of the main character. It’s like inserting a key in the keyhole of a giant door, there is a connection and then an opening for further exploration. Another advantage of emotion is the broad spectrum of its capabilities – comedy to tragedy, rejection to approval, condemnation to praise, guilt to innocence. This shows that writers don’t always have to be the devil’s advocate but have the freedom to see the bright side of things. The way you do this is being deliberate about the evolution of your character’s emotion.
For poets, you tinker with emotions by choosing the appropriate literary devices to convey your opinion.
Dialogue is an exciting tool in the hands of a writer to repeatedly solidify an idea or communicate a stance that eventually morphs into the theme. Through realistic conversations, you can unravel riveting discussions about polarizing issues. It can be used to convey the opinion of the writer vividly.
Based on best practices, a theme should be in the driving seat and dictate the form and content of dialogue that ensues between characters. Conversation unveils the thoughts, beliefs, and ideologies of characters in a story. As the story evolves, the theme takes shape and becomes the significant fibre that binds everything together. The characters are free to pitch a tent anywhere – conservativism, liberalism, and centrist. But of course, the writer has the final say – they are the metaphorical potter with the freedom to mould clay into any shape or form. Check out Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (A Book on Writing) to improve your storytelling skills and most importantly learning how to construct engaging dialogues.
What are Editors Looking for?
Novelty Clichés deserve the attention of no one. When creating content for submissions, pitch your tent far away from hackneyed phrases. You lose readers when you dwell on what they already know; the same is true for editors. Often, inspiring pieces are void of banality but are doorways into new ravines of insights. Can you offer a unique perspective on an age-long subject?
Creative writers know the aesthetic value of injecting novelty in their works and are aware of the mind-numbing vulnerability that comes with it. It takes courage to present literary pieces in an unusual form, but that might be all you need to get the attention of the editor. A creative writer is never afraid to swim in uncharted waters or seek refuge in controversial climes. The works of daring writers jump from pages of text into the editor’s mind, sit in their subconscious and never leave.
Offering Value to the Readers Literary organizations are in the business of content creation and distribution; they have customers craving for value-adding products and services. What’s the value proposition of your piece? What value does this piece add to a reader that is interested in the theme of the issue? What will readers curious about this theme want at a time like this?
The editor’s lens probes an entry and painstakingly establishes the quality of value it will add to the issue. This value can come in various forms: inspirational, educational, entertaining, and provocative. Several factors come into play here – from the editor’s bias to the type of readership that the magazine caters to.
Before You Submit
Check previously published entries in the literary magazine: This will give you valuable insights into the type of content that the editorial board applauds.
Study Literary Styles: Most literary organizations have their published grammatical style guide. Reviewing the guide before writing can steady your ideas along the right path. Check out the submission guidelines, too.
Self-Editing: Use this for the first three levels of polishing the first draft until it shines.
Request for Critiques: Allow trusted writing mentors or colleagues to offer you constructive criticisms about your work. This can be a way to embrace new perspectives that will further enhance the quality of your entry. Mastery of any skill is impossible without feedback.
Early Submissions: Submit on time and follow all the submission guidelines.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samuel Osho is an award-winning writer, a public speaker, and a professional mechanical engineer. You can find some of his works on TheCable, Sahara Reporters, YNaija, ScoopNG, The Manitoban, WRRNG amongst many others. Asides writing, his creative side expresses itself via photography and website designs. Osho has a personal blog where he frequently shares his thoughts on writing, life, creative work, and personal development. Find him on social media via @iamsamosho.
She saw the new pair of trainers in the cupboard, fine white things wrapped in a transparent bag. Only, the size was smaller. She knew Dami jogged every morning because she had been waking up beside him these days.
Dami was a quiet guy, in a way any hermit would covet. He smiled gently and walked as if his heels avoided the ground. Nobody knew what he did save that he jogged every morning.
‘Maybe you should jog to Lagos one of these days,’ she said to him when he returned from one of his jogging adventures in the morning, while she gave him a glass of water. As he gulped the liquid his eyes fell on her belly whose bulge, which he expected to see, was not showing. ‘I would,’ he answered.
She kept a journal since she moved in with him because she knew her life had changed. She had fallen in love with him and now was out of school because of the baby. She had to write down the things noteworthy of this change, like the uncanniness of her lover whom she knew only a pinch of; the man she’d spend the rest of her life with, maybe.
There was little conversation that went on between the two of them. With someone like Dami, it was hard to start one. When she’d left her father’s house for his place, she’d expected to meet him very unsettled, but he wasn’t. He’d simply asked, ‘You’re pregnant?’ looking at the luggage she carried. ‘Yes,’ she had nodded.
‘How do you feel’ he asked. ‘Fine. Okay.’ He sat on the arm of a cushion, perspiration all over him. A collection of poetry was on the table. ‘You’re reading poetry?’ he asked. ‘Yes, I found it.’ She didn’t want him to take her up on it. Before now she’d only known poetry as a form of art, especially inspired by love. ‘You know, there’re some poems marked there. There’s this particular one.’
She met him at an art exhibition. She’d seen the flyer for the exhibition on Instagram. The venue was close to her house. She was more curious than interested; art had nothing on her. The only thing she knew closest to art was her little brother’s pencil drawings.
‘It’s called abstract painting,’ he had said to her when he noticed the painting’s magnetic effect on her.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ she had responded, turning to the voice that had interrupted her sudden affinity to colours on canvas. And something had buckled inside her. He was saying something about the painting, how the kind was done to make humans see beyond the ordinary …
‘It’s transcendent,’ she finally said.
They both shook hands and talked for a while. She had wanted the painting but couldn’t afford it. ‘You can have it,’ he’d said to her.
‘Thank you,’ she said, repeatedly, till the moment the painting was packaged and given to her. Even as she collected it, she curtsied still saying, ‘Thank you.’
The following days it was the word ‘transcendent’, and not her gratitude, that Dami remembered like the tune of a naughty song you kept humming because you woke up with it on your lips.
‘… ‘The Good Morrow’. Have you read it?’ he continued. ‘No,’ she said. ‘You should,’ he said, too. She was quiet as she sat on another cushion. The conversation had yielded things to write down in her diary. The room was big, deliberately so. It was both bedroom and living room without demarcation. There was a bed at the far end by the windows. There was the wardrobe. Everything in its place. Small stools, a study corner with a table lamp, a miniature shelf (he wasn’t a heavy reader), and other hardware. ‘It’s a big compound . . . Where is everybody?’ she asked. He started joltingly, then recollected himself. She hadn’t seen it, he thought. ‘In Canada.’ It wasn’t enough. Her brows went up. So, he continued. “My father used to, well, still works with this manufacturer. He had a big promotion. He took everybody…’ ‘Except you,’ she finished. ‘I was in the Navy. I could have followed them then, but I had other plans.’ ‘What plans?’ she asked. ‘Well, I calculated. After ten years I could resign from the Navy with a pension, and I would have the house. Just me. Alone.’ Then, she wondered if she had intruded on his aloneness. Her eyes were focused on a point on the wall. She followed his conversation, but his voice came to her from the point on the wall. ‘Did you see it?’ he asked. ‘The trainers?’ she thought, saying.
They walked past the area in front of the porch of the house. The front door to the house was locked. And she commented, ‘I was looking around. It’s like every other part of the house is locked.’ ‘I think so,’ he replied. The ground of the compound was filled with gravel, strands of grass shot up from the pores. The coat of paint on the walls nearer to the ground had turned to flakes, revealing cracks that resembled the boundaries on a map, some part of it, fallen off. Spirogyra fried by the sun coated the walls, too. They passed an overhead water tank, inhaling the rust on the metal architecture that supported the tank, their feet making crunching sounds against the gravel. They were now at the backyard. He produced a key and inserted into a lock to a door that was hidden in dried vines. It opened into a void. Blankness. They couldn’t see anything; just shafts of light from windows high up the walls of the interior that shaped into a hangar sort of. A sound was heard – the click of a light switch – and the space was flooded with fluorescent lights. She said nothing. She just stood and took in the sight. On the night of that day, as she lay on the bed before slumber came to borrow her consciousness, her eyes were wet. There wasn’t much to know about her lover than she would know, but she knew he was the man God had sent to her. ‘I’m an artist. I paint, but I don’t like people knowing about it,’ he’d told her when they both stood at that door gazing into the plethora of easels and canvases and paintbrushes and colours and brightness.
It began drizzling in the early hours when Dami presented the new pair of trainers to her to try on. It was a bit funny to her, but she did. ‘I want us to jog today,’ he said. ‘Today? It’s raining, my pregnancy . . .’ she said. ‘You’ve never jogged in the rain before. It’s sweet. You’ll see.’ So, she went out with him, that morning, in the rain, initiated into his ritual. It was sweet as he had said. Tiny droplets of rain fell softly against her skin. The cold weather was kind, mildly so. They held each other’s hands as their trainers touched the earth and leapt making wet-soil noises. She felt the blood warm in her body even as her heart pulsed. And since that day, mornings when it rained inspired a feeling in her: Something transcendent.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carl Terver, b. July ’91, loves to listen to Bob Marley’s ‘Who The Cap Fits’, is a Nigerian writer and poet who have been published in Brittle Paper, Praxis magazine, Expound, and The Kalahari Review, and forthcoming in TheOffing. He is working on a book of poetry criticism, Dead Images Don’t Walk. He is a comma disciple and fan of Adam Gopnik. His forthcoming poetry chapbook is For Girl at Rubicon. He is an in-house writer and the assistant digital Editor at Praxis magazine.
This post probably came to you as a search result. You have been checking the internet for tips on writing great poems; you are here now. I cannot give you THE tips, you can only have your attention called to some important things. Good writing is a product of effort and practice. Dedication.
Read good writing, reading will expose you to possibilities. Read across generations.
Hear what Ted Kooser has to say:
“We teach ourselves to write the kinds of poems we like to read .The more poems you read, and the more models you learn from and imitate, the better your writing will get.”
You have to write. No one writes a poem by merely thinking about it. Start: a good verse here, another there, and you are steps closer to that great poem. Fold that thought or idea into words. What do you intend to achieve with this poem? Pay attention to imagery. Engage the reader’s senses. Consider your diction. Make every word count.
Write and Rewrite
This great poem doesn’t have room for everything. Ease the burden, remove whatever is not working. Read the poem aloud to yourself. Have you stayed true to your purpose? Rewrite every problematic line. Ask questions.
4. Let the poem speak back to you.
5. Keep writing!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
‘Gbenga Adeoba studied Communication and language arts at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is the Associate Poetry Editor at Kreative Diadem. His works have appeared in Sankofa Mag, Elsewhere lit, Juked, Connotations Press, and others. He is interested in popular culture and post-colonial literature. He lives in Ilorin, Nigeria.