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How To Write A Good Sonnet

A sonnet is recognized by its iambic pentameter, ABAB rhyme scheme and three stanzas along with one couplet.


Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,—
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe

A good skill to have as a poet is delivering your point without following rules of grammar and syntax. This helps with brevity and eloquence, if you do it right. Give this a try – write a stanza and pay no mind to its flow. Then rearrange and shorten the stanza; your goal is to add flow without obscuring the meaning of your poem.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show

I could rearrange the words of this line to say “Loving truly, and willing to express my love in verse” (here, the word “fain” means “willing”.) The words of this line were arranged and rewritten to fit the 12-word iambic meter of the sonnet. The meter of my version isn’t as prominent as the original, and makes the reading a bit awkward. (as awkward as a perfectly written sentence can get when compared to one considered poetic…)


These are the fundamentals of the poem which are important to keep in mind while writing. There are multiple paths the poet can take in their story, but this is how my poems go: there’s the setup, the catapult, the momentum, and the landing.


This starts with an introduction or the question a character asks or an explanation of the situation they’re in; this is the setting and sets the tone for the rest of the poem.


The theme of the poem should be found by the end of the stanza. It’s the answering of your question; the end of a thought. However, since this isn’t the ending of the actual poem, there should be room for the story to continue.


The momentum of your poem benefits from your unique style, cultivated through your years as a poet. You take from your imagination, experience and subject matter to drive your story. Each line should express a thought, followed by another which logically follows it.


In a sonnet, the landing is found in the couplet after the last three stanzas. It sums up and concludes the poem. It is best if these last two lines are in contrast with the first twelve lines as this would have the desired effect on the reader.


Traditionally, a sonnet is about love. When choosing your topic, start with the general and work your way down to the specific. You can start with love, death, life, war; then find an example from your experiences and how those experiences make you feel. To make sure that you can work succinct messages into your stanzas, start with two halves of a topic sentence (does not have to be poetic) and rewrite it briefly into a shorter line of poetry.


Hope this all works for you!

To write a sonnet, you must become familiar with them! Read on!

Sonnets by Shakespeare

Sonnets by Elizabeth Barret Browning


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