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Self-Publishing: Bringing Order to Chaos

Strategies for ordering a poetry manuscript.

Book cover of Khadim Zaman's poetry and prose book: Love Like Yesterday Didn't Happen
Book cover of Khadim Zaman’s poetry and prose book: Love Like Yesterday Didn’t Happen

Question: How do I order the various pieces of prose and poetry in my Love Like Yesterday Didn’t Happen manuscript?

As always, a good place to start is by asking Google.

After some misses, I eventually stumbled upon this very aptly titled article by April Ossmann: Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript.

She suggests various ordering strategies that I intend to use on my manuscript. However, before implementing any of those strategies, she begins her article with a listing of several steps she (as an editor) takes, to select the strongest poems and separate them by themes and subjects.

These are the steps she mentions:

1.) Read the manuscript and give each poem a grade: check-plus, check, or check-minus.
2.) Set the check-minuses aside.
3.) Deciding whether checks can be edited up to check-pluses.
4.) Set the checks aside if there are enough check-pluses to create a book-length manuscript.
5.) Reread the poems and list for every poem;
> the theme(s)
> the subject(s)
> the repeated words or images
6.) Separate the poems into piles based on;
> theme
> subject
7.) Count the number of pages in each pile
8.) Note how many of the strongest poems landed in each pile.
9.) Use that information as one of multiple guides to a successful ordering strategy.

Can’t wait to try this out.