The AVBOB Poetry Competition | 8 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Entering Poetry Competitions

8 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Entering Poetry Competitions

So, you have decided to put pen to paper and finally participate in those poetry competitions you told yourself you would eventually get around to entering. For amateur writers, the process may be somewhat intimidating. After all, it is improbable that your first piece will land you the fame of esteemed writers like Maya Angelou or William Butler Yeats. Relinquishing this desire for first-time perfection, however, is key to becoming a fearless writer.

While you do not want to be bogged down by fear, you do not want your piece to seem disjointed or confused, either. To help our budding writers out in this department, we have compiled a list of a few mistakes to avoid while refining their writing skill.

1. Forgetting About the Guidelines

The first mistake to avoid has to do with the guidelines that most poetry competitions have in place. These guidelines often pertain to the theme, format, length, and due dates. Ignoring the guidelines set out by poetry competitions means your piece might be overlooked or altogether disqualified. Ensure before you enter that you read through the rules and guidelines a few times and understand each one.

2. Not Planning Your Piece

Everyone’s planning process looks different. Some writers merely sit and ponder on a topic for days, while others instantly start writing to see where it goes before refining the piece. Whether you need to draw a mind map or jot down a few research notes before you write, planning for your piece is essential. A planned piece flows better for your audience, as the end result is more cohesive and purposeful.

3. Littering Your Piece with Clichés

Before you feel tempted to generously sprinkle your poem with clichés, such as “time heals all wounds” or “from the bottom of my heart”, consider whether these phrases bring anything new and exciting to the reader’s eyes. When it comes to poetry competitions, judges often spend hours sifting through poems from entrants and continually scour these pieces for something fresh that stands out. Your paper is a blank canvas, and it is here that you can choose to creatively engage your readers with profound metaphors, novel ideas, or an uncommon perspective – not overused clichés.

4. Writing from an Empty Place

Writing for the sake of writing means your piece will be neither inspired nor impactful. Entering as many poetry competitions as you can is great for practice, experience, and exposure – but only if you are drawing from a source of inspiration. Just as it is impossible to pour from an empty cup, you must ensure that you have something meaningful to say before you sling words together.

5. Forcing Rhymes to Work

Rhyming poems are tricky, not only because some words are harder to rhyme than others, but because forcing a rhyme might compromise your piece. If you are attempting a rhymed verse and find that the word you wish to use changes the rhythm or direction of the poem, it might be best to find an alternative word or poem style. Always avoid writing yourself into a creative corner.

6. No Thought for Scansion and Rhythm

Rhythm is all that sets poetry apart from everyday speech because it gives any poetic piece a heartbeat. It also sets the tone of the poem and amplifies the emotion you wish to carry across. Adhering to a format for scansion or metre makes your piece more enjoyable to read. If you intend upon a confused rhythm or no rhythm at all, be intentional about this and use it to strengthen your message.

7. Overindulging in Melodrama

Some believe that the more emotional a poem is, the more powerful its impact. While this may be true for certain poems, there is a downside to loading your piece with melodrama. Emotions occur gradually, from temperate to intense, and overwhelming your audience with extreme imagery and metaphors from the get-go is likely to exhaust them before they ever reach the end. Just as emotions happen along a continuum, so too should your use of emotional language.

8. Neglecting the Art of Editing

Poetry competitions are not just about making your unique voice heard, but about your language proficiency too. Make sure that you edit your drafts before you enter any competitions and double-check spelling and grammatical errors. For overused words, look up synonyms and implement figures of speech where appropriate.

If you would like endless inspiration for your writing, why not visit our library of thousands of poems from local writers here?