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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tentative Manuscript

In order to distract myself from my frustration and despair over my first book's publishing woes, I decided to concentrate on getting my next manuscript in shape. I have enough poems, enough that I can cut some of what I decide are the weaker ones, so I decided to get to work ordering them.

This was a different kind of challenge for me, as my first book was built around a structure that I recognized only a few poems into the manuscript, and so ordering was automatic. My chapbook ordered itself easily too, as it was quite coherently about a very few subjects.

But this time I have a bunch of disparate poems, albeit featuring a number of my obsessions, but these poems are more divergent in style than my previous ventures, wildly so. So what to do?

I re-read the sources I had researched earlier on organizing a manuscript (which you can access here and here and here). So many good ideas about how to think about organization of a manuscript, and I settled on having the ending of a poem suggest the beginning of the next  poem. Which is not too surprising given that my first book featured a cycle of poems which were linked by word pairs, one from the previous poem and one from the following poem, until the last poem circled around to the very first poem. This string of suggested relations will be more subtle though, but I hope effective.

So I quickly got 15 poems all lined up and linked up and I was feeling pleased with myself, when I hit a wall. It wasn't that the fifteenth poem couldn't link to a next poem (there were a few options); it's more that it didn't feel right. So I stopped for the day.

The next time I picked up the first fifteen poems, I still liked the organization, and I realized that the fifteenth poem ended on an almost ironic imperative to keep going, and it suddenly pleased me to put a section break there, so that the reader couldn't keep going.

I'm having less success trying to get the next section going, and this may not be the organization that I end up with, but it's where I'm starting. And while the first read-through of poems I hadn't read in awhile made my proud of my work, subsequent read-throughs have me despairing that none of it is any good. Which is a feeling I'm more familiar with, anyway.

And so goes the writing life, sandwiched between the working life, the family life, and the life life.


Mari said...

Congratulations on arriving at this stage, Jessica! You're an inspiration...

Jessica Goodfellow said...

It's only just a beginning. But that's at least something.....

Suzanne said...

Despair?! Oh, no! I love your first book!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Suzanne, Thanks for your encouraging comments. Unfortunately my publisher closed his press, for personal reasons, and I'm finding that a previously published manuscript is like a car just drive off a new car lot; it's value falls precipitiously for having been "used" however briefly (in my case, just over a year!). But I still believe in this book and want to see it out there, so am exploring some options. Will update with details when I can.