[The Desire to Write] Overarching Writing Goal

A burning desire
to pen more words.
A need to continue
and finish what I started.
I began with the intent
to finish, to publish,
And still that is the goal.
The sooner I prove
to myself I can do this—
What I’ve wanted
for so long to do,
the sooner I can
do it again.
I have too many
ideas to write,
to develop, to work on,
too many worlds
and characters
who need my attention
and words.
It only matters
that I want to write them,
not that you do or do not
want to read them.
That is your business,
this is mine.


This poem is part of my debut collection Inside a Writer’s Head.
You can read more poems from Inside a Writer’s Head here, buy the collection, or join the January/February giveaway for a chance to win the ebook.

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!

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!

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!

 

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.

Poetry Collection Release Date!

I am excited to announce that I have finished organizing the manuscript for Inside a Writer’s Head! (Check out what I learned about organizing a poetry collection!) I will be releasing the ebook on November 1 and the print book on December 1.

The collection synopsis/blurb:

“Inside a Writer’s Head is a collection of poems… about poems. And writing more generally. What do writer’s think about? What is the writing process like? What is my relationship with inspiration? Alyssa discusses this and more, with seriousness and humor in equal measure throughout this insightful collection.”

If you want an exclusive signed copy of the print book, email me now at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com. These will be extremely limited, so contact me now to secure your copy! I may or may not be able to offer this again in the future, depending on the success of the poetry collection.

 

There will be more on self-publishing, Bookbaby, working with an artist on cover design, etc. in the near future, so check back soon or subscribe to the blog if you are interested in that!

In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions you have about the process or the collection in the comments. 🙂

Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned

As I’m sure you know, I’m hard at work on my upcoming debut poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head. Since initally deciding to make this collection and amassing all the poems into one Google doc, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Don’t pick categories first.

This might be more relevant to collections that are already topic-specific. Inside a Writer’s Head is a collection of poems written about writing, so they have that theme in common.

I made the mistake of grouping poems together by topics when I was putting them into the Google doc. I had no idea how I wanted the poems arranged when I did this. I didn’t know which poem would open the collection, which would close it. I created buckets without knowing if I’d use them or how many poems would be in each bucket.

This made it harder for me to move forward because the poems were already “organized,” so I wasn’t sure how to “reorganize” them to make a cohesive collection.

2. Do play around with the order.

Move the poems around. Try different poems at the start of the collection, at the end. See what goes together and what you don’t like. What that means will depend on your purposes.

I have a few poems I paired together to create a humorous effect, or because they had a similar implication in some of the lines, or because they gave some clarification to each other.

I’m still not done doing this. I’m much happier with this draft over the previous one, though.

3. Don’t be afraid to cut, combine, or otherwise change the poems in the collection.

I had three poems about my novel-in-progress. They didn’t fit the collection. They would’ve needed some explanation and context and I didn’t want to interrupt the collection and the flow of the poems in order to add that. So I cut them. I didn’t want to, not really, but I did it anyway to improve cohesivity and order.

I had two poems that were very similar thematically, such that they were almost two versions of the same poem. So I made them one poem. A couple other poems needed lines cut or some other changes to be made.

You want the poems to individually be the best they can be. You want the collection as a whole piece to be the best it can be. For that to happen, you will have to make changes and edits. Also, just because you cut lines or a whole poem doesn’t mean you can’t still use it or that it has no merit. But you have to recognize when it doesn’t fit in the collection or the poem.

4. Do make the collection what and how you like it.

This is your piece of art, own it. If you’re not happy with it, it won’t matter how happy everyone else is. Everyone else could think it the best collection in the world, but that won’t make you happy with it.

Take control over your creative product, make it what you want, make it how you want. It’s in your name, you need to own it.

(That’s actually one of my reasons for self-publishing.)

 

I’ve only just finished a second draft. I’m not done crafting the collection, reordering the poems, etc. These are four things I’ve found to be important over the last few days when I moved from draft one to draft two.

For anyone looking to make your own poetry collection, I hope this helps.

If you have any questions about organizing your manuscript, Inside a Writer’s Head, or advice for me, put it in the comments! I’d love to discuss this with you.