Thursday, May 07, 2009

Good intentions

I know, I've been a very poor blogger lately. I'd say it was just that I don't seem to have much of anything very interesting to say, but when has that ever stopped me (or anyone on the internet for that matter)?

I'm going to try to be better. Really. (Hi Eduardo.)

At the moment, I have a monster to-do list staring me in the face; I'm headed out of town on Friday and it's crazy how much I have to do before then. And a good part of this evening was a lost cause thanks to a combination of sheer slothfulness and a headache (my sinuses apparently do not approve of the weather tonight).

My crazy-productive writing spurt seems to have tapered off, which might be a good thing actually. After I finish running around the Midwest for a few days, I hope to take some time and sit down with a bunch of the poems I've drafted over the past few months and pound on them a bit and revise the things. And I want to see how close I am to having a draft of the full "Chasing Angels" manuscript. The other day I sat down and asked my three main characters (the singer, the guitarist, and the devoted fan) a question -- yes, I'm doing that fictiony thing of writing up character studies, just for my own benefit, to understand them better. I may end up mining these sketches for poem bits, or I may not, but I think I'm going to do more of them. The question I asked them this time was: What scares you? The funny thing is, I know good and well what scares all three of them, and as I wrote their answers, none of them were completely honest. Typical. ;) Next question I want to ask them is: What would you risk for someone or something that you love? Something tells me they won't give me the whole truth about that one, either.

The other writing project on my plate is, of course, the first book manuscript -- the one I banged together on my retreat in June of last year and have been sending around to various presses and contests. Twenty-nine presses and contests so far, to be exact. I've decided that it goes out to one more, just to make it an even thirty, in the next month or so -- and then I may pull back a bit on this one. If nobody names it as at least a finalist, out of thirty attempts, I think that's a sign that I should do a pretty extensive revision. I skimmed through it (and tweaked it here & there, of course) as I was getting it ready to go out to the last little handful of places, and funny enough, I still pretty much like it and believe in the thing. But I may well be able to make it better. Maybe I can manage to go away somewhere for a long weekend this summer and dive back into it then.

So, one more publisher or contest. I'm open to recommendations! :)


Collin Kelley said...

I wouldn't be so quick to revise it, Anne. You might have to enter 100 contests to win. That's why I've sworn off them. It's like playing the lottery. A well known poet (who I won't name) submitted her brilliant manuscript to 70 contests before it was accepted and never changed a word.

Jessie Carty said...

It is so funny how we seem to be in the same place in our writerly lives :)

My 2nd manuscript is also character driven, but I'm only to the point right now of finishing revisions on the glut of poems I wrote for it during April so I'm looking forward to seeing what the characters are really like when the whole manuscript is together.

And I stopped sending out my 1st manuscript after it didn't final in a contest I really felt I had the best chance for. So *sigh* gonna revisit it in the future I think, but Collin is right if you go the contest route it takes a REALLY long time. I know two really good poets who spent 5 years sending their manuscripts out!

But, then, how else do you get the thing published?

Anne said...

Collin - Well, who knows how major a revision I'll do... but I feel like if I don't get at least some kind words out of this latest round of submissions it's time to give the thing a good hard look. Maybe I'll decide it's as good as it can be already. But it's been a year with only minor tweaks, so I think it's not unreasonable to at least consider revising. Besides, I can't afford to send it out anymore for a while, so I may as well do something with it! :)

Jessie - Self-publishing is always an option. Me, my #1 goal with the thing is to get it into academic libraries, so for the most part I'm submitting it to presses that would give it the best chance at being picked up by most major academic libraries. I think it's important to know what your priorities are - for some people, it's more important to go with a press that publishes beautifully designed books. Of course I'd love that as well, but I'd rather have a plain-looking book with a big presence in WorldCat than a gorgeous book that libraries don't know about.

I know it's largely a crapshoot, with 500-1000 mss. in every contest. The other decision I have to make now is whether to resubmit to places that turned it down before, in hopes that they'll have different readers or be in a better mood this year. Hmmm.

Jessie Carty said...

Yeah, I am not at the point of wanting to self-publish yet because I hope, someday, that I might have the chance to do some teaching. Although my 2nd chapbook feels like it might go the route of being self-published. I just like it so much :)

Neil Aitken said...

I've been in this space before -- it took three years for my book to find a publisher. When I sent it out that last year, I was ready to give up on the contests and just shelve the whole thing for a bit.

The contest route can take a long time and is quite expensive. Sometimes a better option is finding presses that have an open submissions period (no contest) and don't require a reading fee.

While some of these are just as backed-up as the contest-driven presses, they do have more flexibility and may choose multiple manuscripts for publication instead of just a winner and a runner-up.

Lyle Daggett said...

I agree with Collin and Neil -- don't be too quick to start revising the manuscript. And although I haven't submitted to contests, I take Collin's and Neil's word for it about how long it can take before a manuscript is accepted for publication. A lot of it is pure luck of the draw.

It can take a real toughness, a really thick skin, to contend with trying to get published. I would personally encourage any poet to cultivate an iron-hard will and absolute belief in oneself. And implacable patience.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't ever revise our poems, but the revisions should be based on the qualities of the poems themselves, not on whether they can be published. The poetry publishing world can be a capricious and fickle moon.

It's true I've had luck finding publishers for some of my manuscripts, and if I hadn't had that kind of luck, if I were still looking for someone to publish them without success, it's possible I'd feel differently about this. Though ultimately if I just couldn't find a publisher, I likely would just self-publish. I actually did self-publish my first book, and I've never regretted it.

Anyway some random thinking on this.

BTW, I've finished reading Breach, and I really like it. The poems truly rock.