Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Question of Illustrations Rethought

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As I’ve been working on writing the last 10% of the book, I’ve also given a lot of thought to the illustrations. Though in an earlier post I shared I would be creating a few drawings of my own for the start of the sections, I have gone back and forth whether to use a graphic of a labyrinth or my own art. Publishing a book is not a straightforward affair and decisions are often remade, choices changed.

When I originally decided to include my own illustrations, it was before I took my winter drawing and painting classes. Since then, I’ve fallen in love once again with the art form and joyfully look forward to each class session. A friend tells me my whole face lights up whenever I talk about them. I am truly, deeply happy with a pencil or paintbrush in hand.

You would think since I love creating drawings and paintings, I would be eager to include them in my new poetry book but I am not. I’ve realized over the last few months my art is the one thing I do purely for fun. All my other hobbies have also turned into work. I help lead our dragon boat team and am on the board for another. I teach the aerial silk tricks classes and my photography has been published in a variety of magazines and journals. I still love these activities but there is now a professional leadership component to them. It’s often not as much fun when you have to do something you used to do for the pure delight of it. And so I’ve come to the decision to not include my artwork in my upcoming book so I can still enjoy creating it. It’s a way to keep my joy just that: a joy.

Instead of my own art, I’m going to include a graphic of a labyrinth at the start of each section which will go better with the theme anyway. Then I can continue creating art with no pressure and no expectation. Just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should. Sometimes, there are more important long-term benefits and drawbacks to take into account. This is a decision I have peace about.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Creating a Clean Manuscript

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For weeks, I’ve been working with a manuscript made up of my editors’ original papers all marked up with four different people’s edits. Having already entered all the changes in to the computer, what I had in front of me no longer reflected what the actual poems were. I needed to print out a clean manuscript.

When we’re in the midst of working on a book, at times we need to stop and take stock of where we’re at. How is it shaping up? What else needs to be written? Now that you can see the words without all the pen marks, is there more editing?

With one hundred and fourteen poems printed out, I went by a print shop and bought neon orange and lime green sheets of paper to stand in for section breaks and holes still needing to be filled. It was a relief to take out all the old manuscript sheets, which I’ll be keeping in case I need to refer to them later, and replace them with poems on clean white paper not marked up (yet).

With this manuscript in hand, I have a better idea of where I’m at and what else still needs to be done. Though not all authors need a visual representation of what still needs to be done, I like having something in my hands to look at. It is, probably, the last time I’ll print out the poems in this way. After writing the last sixteen poems, I’ll review the manuscript again and then start designing the book on the computer. It’s hard not to start the page layout now, but once a poetry book is designed, any changes have to be made twice: to the design file and the original Word document. If the poetry is nearly in its final form before I start laying it out as a book, the work will be much easier in the end.

It’s fun to see the book coming along in this way. Even when life gets busy and I don’t have a lot of time to give to it, I find encouragement taking little steps so I at least know I’m getting somewhere. Creating a clean manuscript was a huge step in this process as I look forward to getting the book into final form.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Writing Rules

When I started talking to my editors about this book, I gave them special permission to ask any question they wanted, inquire about the back story of any poem. They have only taken advantage of this once and when they did, it was to ask if a poem was about romantic love. I assured them it was not and then I explained to them my three self-imposed rules limiting what I write.

  • I never write about romantic love. This is usually not something I have to state outright but now that I have a book with the word “love” in the title, I’m going to have to include this fact in the introduction so people know to look beyond that particular expression of bonding. Besides the fact the whole point of this book is to open up a wider view of what love is, I also don’t share something that can be so fleeting in so public of a forum.

  • I never mention names in poetry and rarely in a story. Even when I have someone particular in mind when writing a poem, I never mention their name. This is partly to protect them, partly to protect myself, and partly to let the reader interpret the words into their own life and story without being encumbered with my details. If I’m writing about my life in an article or as part of a talk, I will refer to a person via our relationship such as friend, mentor, or sister. If I use their name, it’s always just their first name with no personal details that is only their right to tell. Being in a personal relationship with a writer is hard enough without worrying about what they’re going to say about you.

  • I rarely share the stories behind the poems. One of the great things about poetry is people read their own lives into the poems and don’t often wonder at mine. Still, I rarely share my own experience behind them as I want my words to stand on their own merits. This rule also lets me write with greater honesty and openness knowing I can keep details to myself. Though my editors have permission to ask any questions they want, for the most part, I choose not to talk about the stories and leave people free to see themselves in what they read.

These three rules have helped immensely as I’ve written my books. They give me boundaries and help protect those I love.


What guidelines have you created for your writing?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Warning Labels for Writers - Publishing a Book Series


I joke that I ought to come with two warning labels worn as buttons on my clothing so everyone around me is prepared for what may come.

“Anything you do or say may and can be used in my next book.”
Much of my poetry is inspired by what I experience in life whether it’s watching a man dancing with wild abandon or the words said by a friend as she hugs me. I take those moments that stay with me, haunting my deeper awareness, and turn them around in my head by writing them down. If the poems are good enough, I then share them in a book or magazine. Though most readers will never recognize where the words come from, some who know my heart well will recognize themselves and the words I’ve shared with them in the lines. The experiences of my life are what I draw on to share larger truths and I often include those I love in my words as it’s another way to treasure their presence in my life.

“I reserve the right to see in you the face of God.”
Sometimes when I’m looking at people, I see God in their faces. It’s such a beautiful sight and once in a while, what I see inspires what I write. One night I watched a woman at a concert clapping and dancing in her seat. I imagined it was God singing along and taking joy in the ones onstage. Another night I watched my art teacher work her way around the room encouraging and praising every student for their work. I take these moments of visibly seeing the qualities of God and include them in whatever I’m writing whether it’s an article or poem to illustrate my point or to give readers an image of God they not have thought of yet. It’s a joy to be always looking deeper into those around me to find God.

As I work on writing these last sixteen or so poems for the book, you can bet I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for experiences I can use whether or not the people around me know about the invisible warnings. You never know what I’m going to come up with next.

What other invisible warnings do you think writers should come with?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Managing Multiple Editors - Publishing a Book Series


 
For several weeks, my editors have been across the board concerning how much of the book they’ve worked on. One editor has been through two out of three poetry batches and my other editors have only gone through the first. In between trips and holidays, I’ve been working on catching everyone up to the same point. Last week, I stayed with one of my editors so we could go over the third batch. In a few days, I’ll meet with my other two editors after they’ve arrived at the same point. I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of the new material and discussing some changes to writing they’ve already seen. I also want to start discussing the order of the book with them.

It’s been somewhat stressful having people at different places and keeping track of who has seen what but I would rather have this be a fun experience for my editors with no pressure to be done by a certain time. This is not always a grace I can confer but with no strict timeline to follow, I’m giving us all space. Two of my editors, especially, have enjoyed spacing the poems out, reflecting on one each day.

The point I want to get to is having a clean manuscript to set aside for a while. Once I’ve talked with everybody and made corrections to the master files, then backed them up, of course, I’ll print out all the poems, place them in the order I want them, and then store the manuscript away for a time so I can focus on writing the rest of the book.

When I’ve been at this point in the process before with the other books, I‘ve juggled two hats: one as a writer and one as a publisher. It’s a dichotomy I’m well used to as this is my fifth book but a benefit of taking my time with Finding Love’s Way is I can concentrate on one hat at a time whereas I usually have to juggle both in nearly equal measure. I deeply believe this book will be better for it. A beautiful place to be, I anticipate marking off the majority of the book as having been completely approved for publication and then having everyone on the same page once again.

 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Taking My Time - Publishing a Book Series

Last summer, I made a decision to not pin down a book publishing date for Finding Love’s Way. With all my other books I’ve had firm deadlines but with this one, I’m giving myself the grace to let the book take its own course for however long it needs. As authors, we have a tendency to rush things along, to curtail the process because we’re tired of slogging through the manuscript and want to be done or we’re so excited to see it published, we don’t take the time to refine the sharp edges. Only later do we find the errors, the improvements we could have made if we’d simply taken the time. Such a book is often badly written and hard to read. No time was taken to refine the work and remove the excess verbiage. I don’t want to let that happen with this book and the difference I’ve experienced in choosing to not have a definitive timeline has been, for me, refreshing. There’s no pressure; I can let the book become whatever it desires and give myself the time to make any corrections before it goes to print.

As this book is so personal, so much about growing into the deeper meaning of love, by giving it space, I’ve also given myself space to develop and learn. At different times, I’ve let the manuscript collect dust so I can come back to it with new eyes when I’m not so attached to what I’ve already written. By tweaking the words after a time of rest, I better understand what each section needs, where I want to go with each poem, and I can change phrases to form a more cohesive whole making one poem blend into the next. Truths I learn in the latter half of the writing stage can be worked into the first.

The other tendency authors have is to let a manuscript sit so long that it’s never published. Or we might have a hard time letting the manuscript go—we keep going over it with a fine-tooth comb. Though I am all for the editing process and making sure a book is ready to be published, there has to come a time when we come to the end and release it. There has to be a point when we call it good and put down the red pen.

How do we know the difference between when a book is done and when it needs more work? How do we know when to keep going and when to stop? For myself, I listen to that voice deep inside that just knows. My intuition has served me well. My editors, too, help a great deal. They’re good at letting me know when something still isn’t working or when it’s ready to go. I trust their advice even as I make the final decisions.

At this point in the process, I know I’m far from being finished with the writing. There are still holes throughout the book: three larger holes and thirteen small ones. The poems are like seeds in a garden that haven’t sprouted yet. They need time to grow, time to send down roots and mature. I don’t want to give in to the temptation to hurry them along just to have a “completed” manuscript. The point I want to get across would be scraggly, weak, and unfulfilling. After putting so much effort into all the other poems, I want to give these poetry holes the same treatment. There are things I’m learning and thinking about every day, pieces I’m being given I know I want to include, new understandings to build in. When they are ready, the poems will be there tumbling out of my mouth onto the paper. They will be what they were meant to be because I waited, because I let them grow until there were ready. Only by choosing to not have a publish-by-date has this been possible.

Sometimes we have to have a due date. There is no way to get around it, an article or book has to be ready by a certain time. In this case, don’t put things off until the last moment. Use the entire time you’re given. Give it thought and listen to your editors. I am sure there will be books down the road with a tighter deadline but since I have a choice with this one, I’m taking all the time it needs. When I have at last finished writing and editing the material, I know it will have been done right and done well. 

I’m excited to see what a book looks like that’s had time to really come together in the way it should. I’m excited to see what truths come out that wouldn’t have been otherwise thought of. What will I learn through this process of not rushing myself or anyone else helping me with the book? We move forward, certainly, but the pace is steady with time to enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finding the Holes - Publishing a Book Series


In the post, “Bringingit Together,” I talked about the process of putting the book into order. Last week, I opened the manuscript and took a second look at how one poem flowed into another. Laid out on my living room floor, I went through the whole manuscript, line by line, and on a pad of paper, wrote out what part each poem plays in the larger storyline. Going through the book like this gave me a chance to appreciate and refine the curves and turns along the way.

At times I was amazed at how the placement of a poem influenced its meaning and gave it greater depth. At others, I found holes where the storyline left off and where the book needs new material to fill the gaps. This is actually a relief to me for I know I’m not done writing what I have percolating inside quite yet. I know there’s more.

Because of this process, I have a far better grasp of where I am on the timeline of having the manuscript completed. I can see the larger picture and can thus focus my writing efforts on what the book really needs instead of a more scattered approach just to get to a total number of poems in the table of contents. Each piece now comes under closer scrutiny. Does it work? Is something not here that should be? Is this message repeated elsewhere? It will be a fun challenge to answer these questions as I work on writing poems for the open spaces using whatever inspiration comes my way.