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Friday, September 20, 2013


I have been reordering the poems in my manuscript this week. Hard work. Hard decisions to make.

Since repetition is one of the themes in my manuscript, in my first version I did not group similarly themed poems together, but had them popping up at intervals throughout the book, so that the order reinforced the notion of repetition. But now I have begun to fear that this has not been working well, that it was too subtle a point to make via overall form of the manuscript, that the repetition was not obvious enough to suggest patterns, but instead looked too much like chaos to the reader--like looking for some kind of order in the digits of an irrational number like pi: we suspect it's there but haven't found it. In fact, I wonder if the reader could even have suspected that the pattern was there in my manuscript without more prompting.....

So I have reordered the poems, putting poems similar in theme and tone together, and I think it is a stronger manuscript now. I hope so, anyway, since I have abandoned the more innovative approach for a more standard one.

When considering how to reorganize the manuscript, I had a look at older posts I've written on the matter, like this one and this one, and followed the links there. All that hard work of finding resources back then is paying off again now. Or anyway, I hope it pays off.

I remember reading somewhere (wish I had a source for you but I don't!) that there should be at minimum three reasons why any given poem is where it is in the manuscript. Not just one reason, but three, at least! That's a hard standard to uphold.  But for the most part I was able to, with a few poems having only two discernible reasons to be where they are. Unless I fished around for fairly contrived reasons....

So that's that. For now.


Erin said...

Thanks for this! I'm doing the same thing right now, and my conclusion is the same. I like the idea of thinking up 3 reasons for each poem's placement--even if you can't, thinking about it that way definitely means you've put the time in and have a pretty strong feeling about them.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Erin! One time I got a manuscript back as a finalist in a contest, with the comment that it was beautifully the time, I was nonplussed that that was the most outstanding feature of said manuscript, but now that I'm struggling with the order of this manuscript, I long for those days when poems clearly went together. Good luck on your reordering!