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!

Inside a Writer’s Head Giveaway!

I’m going to giveaway free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head. This post will likely be edited as I refine the nature of the giveaway.


On November 28th I’m going to use a random number generator to determine who will receive free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head in the form of an epub or pdf. There will be one winner per 30 entrants. I will also select one winner out of every 15 entrants to receive a preview of Inside a Writer’s Head containing four poems in the collection and poems that didn’t make the final cut as a pdf.


Ways to enter:

Like and share this post on Facebook and like my Facebook page.

Like and retweet this post on Twitter and follow me.

Like this post on Instagram, follow me, and tag two people in the comments.

Like this blog post you’re on right now, follow my blog via email or WordPress account, and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Send me the link to your post in the comments or alyssachantelwright@gmail.com with the subject line Giveaway Entry.


For each of your entries, you will receive a message confirming your entry along with your entry number. These numbers are in the order in which I saw the entry and added it to my list of who entered where. Your confirmation is for your sake and mine to help me keep track of who has already entered.

I may add more ways to enter later on if this gets more popular or I find a better way to track entries.

Module 2, Week 2, Project Update 2

The other day I shared that I had run into a problem with my project, specifically with the video for last week.

Yesterday I finished my edits and successfully exported and uploaded the video!

I have an older computer, and it was not cooperating with OpenShot long enough to export my video. I had to shorten it quite a bit before it exported the whole video. I cut out a lot of fluff while still getting my point across. Now that I’m aware this can be an issue, I can pay attention when I export this week’s video and not submit it late again.

Because I had this problem, I spent time solving it instead of working on other aspects of the project, such as sharing more on Twitter and devoting more time to writing my blog posts. The last couple days felt a bit thrown together, and I want to spend enough time on each post that it doesn’t feel rushed and like I didn’t give it 100%.

This week I shot the new video on choosing a self-publishing service to go with the written guide I wrote. I also posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter everyday.

I started out making the images I post with Vintage Font, which worked really well, until the app wouldn’t let me save my design. I hit their ten free design limit and they wanted me to get a paid version. It was really expensive for what it is, so I deleted the app and went on the hunt for an alternative. I’m not trying to sell the design I make, I just want to create designs for Instagram that I can share other places using images I own. I wanted something free and simple to put text on my photos.

Unsure what to do, and having been unaware of Vintage Font’s paywall, I reached out to my friend Justine. She’d made some text images for me before, so I asked her about it. She suggested Font Candy. That has worked great the last couple days, and hopefully it continues to do so. If it doesn’t, I’ll include that information and the new choice in an update.

I’m planning to do a giveaway of the Inside a Writer’s Head ebook, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and like my Facebook page.

I started the giveaway, details in this post.

Become a Patron to get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or a signed physical copy of the collection!

Formatting a Poetry Collection

Before formatting a collection, you’ll need to have it organized. I discuss that in Choosing a Poetry Collection Organization Style and Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned.

I have hand-written most of my poetry, so poems were left-aligned and single spaced. When it came time to type them, I had them all centered. When preparing for self-publishing, I had to decide which way to present the poems. I chose to mix the two, depending on which I thought looked best. You have to make the same choice.

For an ebook, you will leave the margins normal for an 8×11 standard sheet of paper. If you’re self-publishing, as I did, you’ll need to know what file type to save your collection in. Bookbaby calls for a pdf. With Google docs you can also export a document as an epub file.

If you are using a self-publishing service, find out if the cover needs to be separate from the text file or included in it. If you plan to sell/give away/distribute your poetry collection yourself as a downloadable pdf or epub, you probably want the cover image in the document.

For a physical book, you should have some sort of instructions or a template from your chosen self-publishing service. You’ll need to adjust the paper size and the margins in a document editor.

This last part is what I misunderstood and had the most problems with. Adjusting the margins and changing the paper size of your document are not the same thing. In Google docs, go to File > Page setup, and you’ll see this:

The circled box is what you need to change. Depending on the dimensions of your book, you may not need the same option I have selected.

These are the main things you need to think about when formatting your poetry collection for self-publishing. I hope that was helpful.

If you have any questions about formatting a poetry collection or Inside a Writer’s Head, leave them in the comments below!

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon. Follow me for updates or become a patron for cool rewards!

 

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.

Praxis Module 1

Today I submitted my final deliverables for Module 1 of Praxis. So it’s time for another program recap!

I have a post specifically about week 1.

As I mentioned in that post, for the first week we had orientation and two blog posts to write. The two posts were my Top Three Skills post and the Five People Experiment post. We gave feedback on each other’s deliverables as well. In addition to these activities, I went above and beyond by writing Recap posts for Episodes 9, 29, and 36 of the Forward Tilt Podcast.

Week two we revised our pre-program deliverables (more on that here) and talked about productivity. I wrote a post reviewing the workshops we watched, and as a result of those workshops, a few other members of my cohort and I made an accountability group. I also wrote my How I Work post. During the Praxis Wednesday call, we talked about how our website and LinkedIn tell people about us, and worked on refining how we are perceived. We also discussed productivity and habits and such.

Week three was the hardest week. I made my about me pitch video (also on my Home page) and a video discussing the two articles we read. I also wrote a Recap post about one of them. As hard as it was making the videos, especially the pitch video, I discovered that I enjoyed the process! I actually wrote two posts about making videos, The Difficulty of Video Making and What I Learned About Video Making. I also have plans for another video that I will make over the next few days. Instead of just “I want to make more videos,” I will make a video over the next few days. If I haven’t posted a video and shared it on the blog by Wednesday night feel free to call me out on it.

Week four, this last week, we finished the month by learning about the apprenticeship and planning our project for next month. We filled out a placement survey, took the DISC assesment and the MBTI personality test, and wrote a Project Ideas blog post. (I wrote about the MBTI here, because I find it fascinating though it is pseudoscience.)

It’s been a really busy month, and next month will be just as busy! I’ll be marketing my poetry collection, which I just finished! It will be releasing the first of November as an ebook and a physical copy will be available for pre-order until December. I will have a few exclusive signed copies available. Very few, so if you want one, email me as soon as possible at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com to secure yours now.

5 30-Day Project Ideas

Next month in Praxis, we’re focusing on portfolio projects. This week we are thinking about and preparing for that. For that reason, here are five ideas for potential projects.

  1. Market my poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head by producing blog posts about writing poetry, creating a collection, and self-publishing through BookBaby. Bring people who are interested in writing to me and my collection by teaching them about making their own. I would also share posts on Facebook and Twitter, and I might “boost” some posts. This would include planning and scheduling content, interacting with people on social media, and clearly articulating what I learned while making the collection.
  2. Make Facebook and/or Twitter ads for my poetry collection, targeting people who are interested in writing, poetry, and self-publishing. Make posts compelling to peak interest in the collection so interest turns into sales.
  3. Make a blog post series on making and editing a poetry collection followed by a guide to self-publishing with BookBaby. Supplemental videos that go along with and expand upon the blog posts. Post ideas: choosing an organization method, formatting the collection, choosing a self-publishing method/tool/service, a guide to self-publishing ebooks with BookBaby, a guide to self-publishing physical books with BookBaby.
  4. Starting a consistent YouTube channel. Discussions of projects, short stories I’ve written, video supplementation to Recap posts, conversations with Justine about topics we cover on Over the Invisible Wall, etc.
  5. Complete a second poetry collection, taking it from nothing to published in 30 days. I have a poetry collection that only has a title and a cover image that could work for this. It might not be the best time for this project, though, since I just did this for Inside a Writer’s Head.