Advice for Poets 12: The Finishing Touches

As the deadline for submissions to our charity project is looming (tomorrow-eek!!) we thought a great idea for the next instalment of our creative writing tips blogs would be to compile a checklist of things you should do before you submit your work/decide it’s finished. Most of them are common sense, but having a 1-2-3 guide like this is always handy when it comes down to actually doing it!

Photo by Meg / CC BY NAME
Photo by Meg / CC BY NAME


The rise of slang and all kinds of new words to our language means that our accepted vocabulary is growing faster than most word processors can keep up. We’re therefore much more used to ignoring those little red squiggles than you would think – it’s very common to ignore small typos. Here at The Wait, we do it all the time, and we’d forgive you – but if you’re submitting work to a big scary publisher, you want everything to be polished to perfection! So always run a spellcheck, as well as visually check your work.

Read Aloud

Checking how it sounds out loud is the definitive way to check the flow of your piece, and make sure you haven’t made any glaring errors that your eyes have simply skimmed over.

Get Some Distance

Even if you’ve only got time to walk away for five minutes, go concentrate your brain power on something else for a while and then come back for a final check. You’re likely to pick up more that way.

Photo by Matt Wynn / CC BY NAME
Photo by Matt Wynn / CC BY NAME

Get Another Opinion

You know when you’re painting a wall and some git comes along and says ‘missed a spot’? They can see what’s wrong with the scene better than you can because they have a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ that haven’t become too used to staring at the same thing over and over. It’s the same with writing. Take advantage of a trusted friend’s fresh eyes ad ask them to look over your work.

Walk Away

French poet Paul Valery said, ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’ And he’s sort of right – it does often feel that way. You have to make the judgement as to when it’s finished, or you could end up expanding, snipping and tweaking a single poem for the rest of your life! Follow the tips above and then declare the poem finished when it feels right.

We hope this helps you finish off any lingering pieces you’ve been sitting on!


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