In my last blog post, How to Write a Chapbook of Poetry, I went over the process of completing a short manuscript. I briefly touched on the revision process, but today I’m going to get into the exact steps of self-editing your own book.
1. Decide where to submit.
I’d recommend self-editing your work before sending it out to publishers—this way, you’ll put your best foot forward during the submission process.
Then, after you (hopefully!) get to work with a publisher, you’ll be assigned an editor to polish your manuscript with.
If, however, you’re planning on self-publishing your chapbook, I’d strongly encourage you to hire a copyeditor.
If it’s within your budget to hire a professional to help you out, I’d recommend it. Nothing beats the process of working with a trained editor to perfect your chapbook for publication.
2. Read over your own work.
Once you’ve assembled your first draft, carefully read through the poems. Pay close attention to spelling and punctuation.
Ask yourself: Is everything spelled correctly? If not, are the misspellings made thoughtfully and intentionally? How much punctuation have I used? Am I aiming for a minimalist approach or a formal tone?
Read your poems out loud, repeatedly. Listen to the flow of each piece. Dive deep into the minutiae of the work. Take your time honing the voice of the speaker.
3. Seek advice from respected colleagues.
As I touched on in my previous blog post, it’s a great idea to ask others for their thoughts. If you have writer friends, ask if you can take them out for a coffee and get their feedback on your work.
Writer friend relationships are often reciprocal—if you met in a workshop or class, you’ve likely both helped edit each other’s work. This is an awesome part of finding a writing community—people are often very willing to help each other out.
If you’re lucky enough to have a poetry mentor, such as a professor/instructor you’ve become close with, see if they’re willing to read over your work. Many professionals are very busy, so this may not necessarily be possible—but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Try to offer something in return, such as a coffee or meal, to show your appreciation for their time. Remember that they may be willing to do this out of the goodness of their heart, but they deserve something for their efforts.
If you’re consulting an outside editor (who you’re not friends with), don’t ask them to read your work for free or in exchange for a meal. Pay them. Always.
4. Review the feedback you’ve received, and decide which suggestions to implement (or not).
Once you’ve gotten some solid feedback, ask yourself which of these edits actually make sense. At the end of the day, it’s your book.
No matter how much you respect a colleague, they don’t necessarily understand your complete creative vision. Consider each suggestion carefully, but don’t feel obligated to accept every single one.
Thoughtfully implement the edits you find useful, and set aside the rest.
5. With your new edits made, return to step 2.
After consulting your peers and making some changes, read over the new versions of your poems thoroughly. Read them aloud again, and pay close attention to spelling/punctuation.
Once you’re pleased with the draft, submit it to publishers. If you’re self-publishing, move onto the phase of finding and working with your copyeditor before moving to print.
(Check out my previous blog post for more specifics on the process of finding small presses to submit to.)
I hope you found this blog post helpful.
And, if you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter or editor for your next creative writing project, I offer freelance services. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a quote.
Thanks for reading!