How to Write a Sonnet Poem in 7 Steps ?

Written in fourteen lines, the sonnet is a poetic masterpiece that engrossed readers and writers throughout the centuries. Shakespeare's romantic sonnets and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's philosophical musings exemplify how this form presents an exceptional fusion of organization and ingenuity. 

However, novice poets may find the sonnet to be intimidating. Not to worry, for we shall reveal the intricacies of sonnet composition in seven feasible stages within this manual.

Step One: Determining the Two Primary Sonnet Forms

The Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnet structures are the two fundamental types. Although both utilize the fourteen-line format, their internal structure and rhyme schemes diverge.

The renowned structure of the Shakespearean Sonnet comprises three quatrains, each composed of four lines, and concludes with a rhyming couplet. Typically, the rhyme scheme consists of the following: abab cdcd efef gg. In Shakespearean sonnets, the initial quatrains frequently introduce a predicament or inquiry, the middle section elaborates, and the final couplet provides a resolution or witty twist.

An octave (six-line stanza) and a sestet (eight-line stanza) comprise the Petrarchan Sonnet. While the rhyme scheme may differ, ABBAABBA CDECDE or ABBAABBA CDCDCD are frequent patterns. The sestet provides a reflection, commentary, or response, while the octave introduces a theme in Petrarchan sonnets, which are typically more introspective.

Step 2: Selecting the Type and Theme of Your Sonnet

The choice of sonnet type should be guided by the intended message.

Sonnets composed by William Shakespeare are masterful at conveying intense sentiments, delving into contentious matters, and delivering unexpected resolutions. Themes such as love, loss, beauty, and the passage of time recur frequently.

Sonnets in the Petrarchan style are well-suited for exploring intricate concepts, philosophical inquiries, or personal observations. Frequent topics include the human condition, nature, and morality.

Step 3: Master the Art of Rhyme Scheme 

The melody of a sonnet is determined by its rhyme scheme. The following are some suggestions:

Determine vowel and intense consonant sounds: Consider the endings of words when composing pleasing rhymes. Consider utilizing slant rhymes (words that share similar sounds but are not identical) or internal rhymes for increased complexity.

By utilizing online rhyme dictionaries, one can uncover additional rhyming partners for the words of their preference.

Examine previously composed sonnets: Become engrossed in the poetic compositions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, or other eminent sonnet writers. Determine how their rhyme schemes enhance the fluidity of the poem.

Step 4: Embrace the Power of the Metre

The rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within a line is called "meter." Although not mandatory for every sonnet, iambic pentameter is frequently employed.

Constraints of iambic pentameter: Each line comprises five "iambs," denoting unstressed syllables succeeded by stressed syllables (da-DUM). A natural, flowing rhythm familiar to the English ear results from this.

Step 5: Composing Energising Sentences: Selection of Words and Figurative Language

The substance of your sonnet resides within its linguistic composition. To achieve the effect of "making your words sing":

Vivid imagery and powerful verbs: Verbs incite action, whereas imagery employs words to construct mental images. Employ these instruments to manifest your chosen motif.

Personification, metaphor, and simile are all examples of figurative language that add depth and significance to a poem.

Choose vocabulary that elicits sentiments and corresponds with the central theme. Fearlessly engage in experimentation!

Step 6: Compose Your Sonnet Line by Line

Now, the enchantment of composing your sonnet commences.

Commence with a compelling introductory sentence: Captivate the reader's interest through vivid imagery, an intriguing inquiry, or a resounding proclamation.

Construct your theme: Each quatrain or octave should expand upon the central idea depending on the chosen form.

Develop an impactful conclusion: Ensure that the final couplet (Shakespearean) or sestet (Petrarchan) has a lasting effect. One might contemplate an astute remark, an insightful contemplation, or a compelling resolution.

Step 7: Critical Revision!

Revision, like any other quality writing process, is essential. Perform the sonnet aloud. Is the flow effortless? Is the rhyme scheme effective? Do you employ precise and impactful word selections? One should be quick to explore and test various wordings and structures.

Share On