Thursday, October 29, 2009
Question: Did early submission of your mss help shape your mss? Or did you mostly revise from readers?
I wanted to respond to a question Jennifer asked:
You wrote: "Also, I think waiting until you have a good strong mss is important, not submitting too early, before your mss is done. I could have saved a lot of time and money had I not submitted in 2005, 2006, and even most of 2007. My manuscript really didn't take it's strongest form until after August of 2007." But do you think the process of submitting helped the manuscript evolve, or do you think it was primarily your revisions based on feedback from your trusted readers?
****This is a great question!
I think what's interesting here is that if you work on a manuscript for a period of time, things change. Sometimes it's the order. Other times, new poems are written and older poems are replaced, or vice versa.
I think for me, my manuscript would have come to the place it is now even if I hadn't submitted it in 2005 & 2006 because for me, the key element I feel made this manuscript work was that I was leaving out my emotionally dark or charged poems.
It took another student (not even a person I'm crazy about, to be honest) to tell me what was missing. I think we were all very good at praising each other for what we were doing well, but this one person who always kind of annoyed me in general, made the comment that stung--she was the one who said how my manuscript needed more emotionally vulnerable poems and less wit. When she said because, because my reaction was so strong to her, I knew she was right.
I always resisted what they say to do in poetry contests, which is put your strongest poems up front and at the end and fill the middle with your pretty good poems.
I have been told by many that many of my strongest poems are in the middle. Jeannine was the one who noticed that I tend to put up walls around my work-- the lighter, less deep poems in the beginning, the poems with more emotionally pull hidden in the middle (kind of like the skin and bones protecting the heart). And because my manuscript is entirely alphabetical (there's a little fact about this manuscript that I don't think I've mentioned yet). If I wanted to change order, I had to retitle the poem.
C.Dale Young made a very interesting comment to me on my post about how many poems where published when I first began sending out poems. He wrote: 60% were published when I first started sending it out. It took me 5 years. I changed practically nothing but the order of the poems.
I thought this was such a smart comment because many times we have the poems we need, we just need to figure out how they converse with each other in the best order.
But back to Jennifer's original question. I think for me, my manuscript would have evolved over those two years regardless of whether I sent it to any contests. (I am a crazy-reviser with manuscripts and with poems.) So I do think I could have save some money. What I would do differently would be just send to a few favorite key contests to see what kind of response I was getting "semi-finalist, finalist, etc." To me, that is what really lets you know that your manuscript is ready or close or just needs a little time.
Once I started being named a finalist (1 of 30, 1 of 25) and my manuscript was being given to the final judge, then I knew it was just a matter of time (and a little luck) for my manuscript to be put in the hands of someone who *got* what I was doing and saw/understood the vision I had for my book.
So my final thoughts would be--
Give yourself some time with your manuscript before you submit it, submit when it's ready, not when you're ready.
Ask a trusted reader, what's missing, then write or find those poems to include.
Listen to your gut (always most important).
Written by Kelli Russell Agodon
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