How I Finished my Poetry Manuscript in 2 Weeks

I chose and gathered together the poems for Inside a Writer’s Head several months ago. I tried a few times after that to organize the collection to no avail.

Part of that was my own fault, for trying to organize the collection while choosing the poems, but I also had no idea where to start.

Cue the guiding hand of the Praxis program. I was only one week into Module one when I started thinking about my portfolio project for this month. I talked with Hannah Frankman, the module one advisor, about my goals for the program and how it played into my longer term goals. I initially wanted to finish and publish Inside a Writer’s Head for my project but was advised that a better project would be to market it.

I had my work cut out for me. It was hard at first, and I had to do some research to get some ideas.

To help eliminate the block I had created, I deleted all the section names I’d added. Then I started reading and moved poems around as I did so. I familiarized myself with the poems such that I got ideas for sequences and poems to put together. As I read through the collection more and moved the poems around more, it got easier.

I amazed myself by finishing the manuscript in one week instead of two.

In order to do this, I put my other projects on hold so the poetry collection would be ready for this month.

I also scrapped my initial plan of designing the cover myself. I knew it would take me more time than I had to play around with options and create a design I was happy with.

I reached out first to Alexandra Wagner, a Praxis participant in my cohort. She said she would be unable to complete it by the time I needed it. I asked for suggestions of who to work with and found Jacob Beman. He has a website where he sells clothes with designs he created, and I liked the style and nature of his work. He agreed to work with me and did a really great job on my book cover. I reviewed his work here.

Three things allowed me to have a self-publishing-ready poetry collection: Focused work, a deadline, and finding the right designer.

If you can focus on the project you intent to complete instead of jumping project to project you will surprise yourself how quickly you can complete it.

The deadline for completing the project seemed really tight and super hard to meet. I pushed myself to finish quickly and surprised myself with the speed of my work. If I hadn’t had the extra push to finish the collection before November, it would have taken me longer. If it had been less urgent, I wouldn’t have been as focused or as driven to complete it as quickly as I did.

Find a designer whose work you could see being a great fit for your vison of your book cover and who is excited to work with you. Both of those make for a great experience working with that person and lead to you getting a result you love.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. For $5 you get early access to part three of the Diary of Kaashif Sarwan and another post later this month as well. There are other rewards at every tier, so be sure to check it out!

Unexpected Project Roadblock

Last Wednesday night I uploaded my YouTube video for the week on organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I realized later that only some of the video had gone up.

After some investigating, I determined that OpenShot, the video editor, had failed to export the full video. I tried several times and ways and it wouldn’t export the full 11 minutes and a few odd seconds video.

So this week on top of editing the video on choosing a self-publishing service, I have to go through last week’s video again to see if I can shorten it or if I have to make it into two videos.

I have my work cut out for me, but I’m going to push through and still meet my deadlines!

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service

This post is not sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors, BookBaby, Medium, or Marcin Wichary. All information is based on my research for this post and while I was at this step of the self-publishing process for Inside a Writer’s Head.

I have a few recent posts about preparing a poetry collection for self-publishing. This post is more general and can be used for finding the right self-publishing service for any project.

There are a huge number of self-publishing services available nowadays. I couldn’t possibly investigate and review all of them. What I can do is discuss some qualities to look for when choosing a self-publishing service. When you find a service you like, you may want to review this page by the Alliance of Independent Authors rating self-publishing services to see what they have to say about that service.

Your Goals

Before you can find the right self-publishing service, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to give your writing to family and friends? Do you want to sell it? Do you want it to be something you giveaway to your audience, possibly as a free ebook download or a Patreon reward or in some other way? Do you want an ebook, physical book, or both? Are you going to design the cover or have someone who will? If a physical book, do you want a hardcover (dust jacket?) or softcover book?

Ask questions and really understand what you hope to accomplish.

I wanted to sell my writing to the most people possible, but also have the option of giving it away.

Cost vs Reward

Think about what the service costs, what you can afford, and what is being promised for a certain price.

Keep in mind what your goals are. If a service is really cheap but won’t check all your boxes for what you hope to accomplish, it may not be a good fit. On the flip side, if it’s way outside your price range but has everything you could ever want, it’s also not a good fit. As a side note, if the promised quality doesn’t match up with the price point, do some more research.

When I chose BookBaby I knew it was higher than I had anticipated. I thought about what they were promising for that price and did research on them and other services before deciding. For what I paid I’m getting 25 copies of my poetry collection, an ebook available on all platforms from Amazon to Apple’s iBooks, print on demand, and distribution of my book to catalogs for major retailers, and Amazon. I also got a free book review, which I shared on my Published Work page.

Ease of Use

You will also want a service that is uncomplicated and clear about the steps. Some services may have old or clunky software or process for uploading your writing and cover. There may be other advantages to a service that do make it a good choice even if the uploading process is harder or more time consuming.

The Finished Product

Find other authors who used the service(s) you’re looking at. What do they have to say about the service and their finished ebook or physical book? Is their review positive or negative? Why?

If they have a bad experience with the self-publishing process with a given service, see if that is common. If their negative review is with the end result, evaluate what they hoped to accomplish and if what they received aligns with your goals. Do the same for a good experience and a positive review of the end result.

While researching options, I found an article on Medium comparing the quality of four self-publishing services for printing 15 copies of a hard cover book. Marcin Wichary shows images of the books he received, discusses his goals and what he liked and disliked about all parts of each service. If you want physical books, definitely check out his article, even if you’re doing soft cover books. He shows the pages, the type quality, and the interfaces used.

 

These are the three main things to consider when choosing a self-publishing service, your goals, the cost vs reward, and the finished product. They all intersect, and the services that excell in all three areas are the services to choose from for your project.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.

The Journal: 23 February 2017

This is a new series comprised of past journal entries I wrote followed by some current thoughts about it, if I have any. The reason for sharing a particular entry will vary. Some may be recorded story ideas, interesting events from my past, or some weird or fun thought I had that I wrote down.

What if humans (or some other species) could connect their brains and share information that way? Like, instead of teachers standing in front of a classroom to teach students things, their brains would be connected and the teacher would send the lesson, facts, assignments, etc. straight to their brains. Or to teach someone else to crochet, your brain would send theirs the details of how to do it.

This could turn into a story idea at some point. We’ll see.


I think this could make for a really interesting story world. What the story would be, I don’t know, but I like it. If someone wants to use this concept as a prompt, please do and send me what you come up with!

Maybe we could do a crowd-sourced (ish) collaboration project and make a collection of short stories based on this idea. If you’d be interested in that, comment below or email me at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com.

Choosing a Poetry Collection Organization Style

Last month after I finished organizing Inside a Writer’s Head, I shared what I learned from the experience. Before you pick an organization style, you should check that out. It has four things you should know about the overall process.

This post discusses some different styles or types or organization you could choose when creating your poetry collection.

One thing you should already know if you’re making a collection: The first and last poems, especially, need to be strong.

Topical

If your collection contains poems of a variety of topics, it could be useful, beneficial, or aesthetic to group them based on topic. You can then create defined or undefined sections in the collection as well.

A defined section would have a title, and an undefined section would not. Either way, you’ll want to open and close the section with a strong poem, just like opening and closing the collection.

In the case of Inside a Writer’s Head, I initally tried to have a topical organization based on the subcategories of themes. This didn’t work, in part because it’s a topical collection. This style works better with more than one topic.

Emotional

You can also organize the collection based on the emotion a poem creates in the reader. In the same way a novel shifts in emotions as it progresses and has ups and downs, you can an emotional “plot” with your poetry collection. To do this, first group your poems based on the emotions they evoke.

You can then weave the poems together based on similar lines, topics, etc. throughout the collection, keeping in mind the emotional journey you intend to take readers on. Plan the ups and downs and pick the poems that feel right in each place.

For Inside a Writer’s Head, I incorporated some of this. I placed some poems together to amplify humor, or emphasize certain feelings or reactions to the poems around it.

Lyrical

A possible organization, especially for a collection with a variety of topics, orders the poems so each poem repeats a theme, subject, word, or image from its predecessor. This could create a plot, or add to the emotional effect of the poems. By connecting them in this manner, you allow the poems to speak to each other, as it were, adding more insight or a divergent perspective on the ideas.

This can be an organization style on it’s own or be paired with a topical or emotional style.

Inside a Writer’s Head is largely lyrically organized, blended with some emotional influence, as I mentioned. That isn’t all I employed though. Which brings me to the next style.

Collage

A collage is a smattering of thoughts and images paired together in one place, seemingly or actually at random. They may or may not go together, but they create an effect based on how they are placed.

If you have a topical collection or a large disparity in the number of poems in different topical categories, a collage organization might work well. You can create a mix of the topics, not following a specific rotation of topics, but moving similar topics away from each other.

This is another thing I did for Inside a Writer’s Head. I had a lot of poems about not having inspiration or dealing with writer’s block. Far more than the number of those in the other subcategories I had created. In order to create more balance, I spread out those poems among the other poems. A couple of them are paired together, but they are a bit of a unifying theme in a collage.

 

These are four possible organization styles used in poetry manuscripts.

If you have any questions about these styles, Inside a Writer’s Head, or your poetry collection, leave them in the comments below! I’d love to talk to you about that.