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Is Your Poetry Manuscript Ready? Part One.

January 1, 2013 by · No comments

Our manuscripts are always ready. Sometimes they are ready for us to work on them some more. Sometimes they are ready for a month-long nap in a drawer to take a break from us. Sometimes they are ready for us to stop obsessing and relineating and to send them to try their luck with real life readers.

Sometimes the trouble is that we, the poets, have difficulties recognizing when our manuscripts are ready or not. I believe there are several signs we can look for:

Signs that your manuscript is NOT READY:

1. You know it. If you have worked on your poetry long enough, and especially if you have had some success, chances are you have developed a degree of internal honesty about your work. Wanting your manuscript to be finished doesn’t make it so. If there is a sad, quiet voice in you that sighs “I know it’s not ready…” – do not submit it for publication. Instead, send it out to several trusted readers for comments and constructive feedback.

2. You don’t like it. Do not send out a manuscript you do not like. There is no way you can win in this scenario. If it gets rejected you will feel stupid for sending it out in first place. If it gets accepted you open a whole new can of drama. Instead of sending it, put it aside for a while. Stop working on the manuscript, but continue working on your writing. Then, after some time has passed, you may be able to make a better decision about the work – whether to edit, recycle in a different genre or simply let go.

3. You change it drastically and often. If every time you get your hands on your manuscript it gets reconceptualized, reordered, renamed, reenvisioned or otherwise majorly revised – I am so sorry, but it’s not ready. Do not send it. If an older, “inferior” version of it gets accepted, you will live the rest of your life steeped in contempt for your own impatience. Instead, wait for the manuscript to settle.

4. You keep on writing more and more poems on the main topic. Do yourself a favor and spend the energy writing, rather than collecting. Don’t close the manuscript. Maybe you will be able to write a full-length book rather than a chapbook. Maybe you will be able to replace older, weaker poems with newer and better ones. Maybe you will get new ideas for structure? In any case, if you are writing, keep on writing. You will have time to consider the collection at a later time.

5. The manuscript has all your poems. If the manuscript you are about to submit for publication contains all your poems, I can almost guarantee it’s not ready. If you have written for a while you will have had the need and opportunity to let go of poems that you have outgrown either as a poet or as a person. If you haven’t been through such a process yet, your manuscript is not ready, no matter how ready you feel to start sending.

I hope these have been helpful. In a future installment of In My Own Accent, I will be happy to share my thoughts on signs that your manuscript is, in fact, ready to be sent out for publication.

Thank you for listening! I look forward to sharing with you again next week!

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Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

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