Manuscript Redux

With several large first poetry book contests on the horizon (namely, Yale, Walt Whitman, and APR), I’ve spent the last several days working on my manuscript, Predator’s Tongue.

First, I printed out the whole manuscript and read each poem aloud, cutting and trimming as I went along.

Then, I accessed order. I’d been thinking about flipping the current first and second sections, and after getting some feedback from some friends, I decided to go ahead and do that. Moving the current first section to the second one wasn’t going to be easy. I had ordered the current first section as leading up to the current second section. Now that I was switching those two sections, I have to completely re-order both sections so the transition makes sense.

I worked through the current first section (which will now be the second section). This section has a lot of dark farm/mythical poems in it, so I wanted to add some realistic ones to play with how the reader reads a realistic poem juxtaposed with one of the other styles. Most of the poems were also written in the third person, so I added in some realistic first person poems, and also changed one of the dark farm poems to first person. This section is also particularly violent, so I moved a couple more violent poems from the last section into this one. Since this section would now be followed by a “love” section, I also wanted the poems to slowly transition into being softer as they went along, so I moved some more tender poems to the end, and I think the order of this came out perfectly.

I’ve got the current second section (now first) and third section to order now. By flipping the first and second sections, I’m really changing the arc of the whole manuscript. Before, it went from violent poems to mostly child/parent poems to adult love poems. Now, the child/parent poems start first, with the violent poems next, and the love poems last. Because the child/parent poems section now starts first, I have to make sure that the strongest poems in that section lead it and then order the rest of the poems to build enough suspense to throw the reader into the second section.

When it comes to the third section, I have to reorder all of it as well. It needs to be an easy transition from the second section to this one, and I have to re-think the ending. The ending always needs the strongest poems since it’s also the ending of the whole manuscript. I also originally chose the very first poem and the very last poem of my manuscript because they were similar thematically and worked as good dialogue pieces. Now that my very first poem has changed, I have to think about about a new last poem.

I’ve also been wondering if the title (Predator’s Tongue) will still work since the “predator” aspect is going to be a little more subtle in this revision. The mouth/talking/tongue/speech/silence aspect will still be very present, so I’m wondering if Swallow Tongue might work better. A swallow’s tongue gets torn off in one of the poems (yes, I did say they were violent…) and the other meanings of “swallow”: to eat, to put up with (swallowed the insults and kept on working), to suppress (swallow one’s feelings), to devour (a building swallowed up by fire), to take back (swallow one’s words), to mumble (the actor swallowed his lines). The title also makes me think of when Hannibal Lecter convinced his cell neighbor to swallow his own tongue (which he dies from), which…could be good or bad. Thoughts about all that??

/sigh. So much work ahead of me, but I have 10 days to continue working through it. Thank goodness!

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Manuscript Redux

  1. you’ve been hard at work! sounds like good revisions–I need to sit down with mine again soon, before contest deadlines!

    i will have to cast my vote for Swallow Tongue–I love that double meaning and I think it fits your book

    1. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading this. Good luck with the third section. I’m with Renee on “Swallow Tongue.”

    2. Good luck! This is the hardest round of revisions I’ve had yet. I just printed it out a second time to go over it /again/. I’m just so nervous about glaring errors I might have missed the first time…

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