Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crowd Control for Your Poems

If you plan to submit poems for publication, you need poems, lots of them. And the only way to get lots, without plagiarizing, is to write, write, write. Daily is best. This means that you make time to sit down, put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and string words across the page or screen. DAILY. This does not mean that you will create a publishable poem every day. If you get one a week, you're doing very well. I'm not about to tell you in one short blog how to write great poems. There are plenty of courses, programs and books to tell you that. I'm going to tell you how to get this mass of work organized so that you can manage the output.

  • Computer files: keep several with clear labels. I keep one POEMS, one CFP for my online writing group, one GAMUTS for my weekly critique group, and one PUBLISHED, for the retired pieces that have, hooray, gone out there and found their niche. You might also want one IN PROGRESS or REVISIONS.
  • Cloud files: explore Google Docs or Dropbox or some similar virtual filing system. When I watered my laptop as well as my philodendron I lost text that I had not yet printed out. Won't do that again. These services are not quite the same is an external hard drive for backing up work, a device I also use. (Reminds me of a friend who kept a copy of her thesis in the trunk of her car and one in the freezer, in case of fire or burglars. Would that someone stole poems.)
  • Paper files: my REVISIONS live in a paper file that I often tuck into my work bag as I leave the house. I like working in my local coffee shop, so I drag this file along, just in case. A copy of the critique poems lie in a similar portable file.
  • Binders: I could not, even with all the digital tools available, keep my poetry house in order without binders. I keep a hard copy of each poem, filed by title within alpha dividers. Published ones get a notation in the upper right corner as to where and when.
Why do you need such a mass of poems that you have to organize them? Because you will send them to editors in batches, usually three to five at a time. This poetic wealth helps convince editors that you are not lazy or of limited talent and that their readers may look for more of your amazing output in future issues. The game of publication requires that you impress your editors, not by sending flowers or key lime pie, but by offering an abundance of well-crafted, energy-filled, readable poetry. So, create your writing space, keep copies, know where they are and backup everything.

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