A book manuscript I thought I was only half done writing suddenly came together into a draft. A draft that runs…maybe a little on the long side. I’d thought the book was so far from being done that I had started flirting with another manuscript I saw coming together, even though those poems feel more troubled to me, need more work.
I had been working/revising with a paper draft of the (good) poems, loosely thrown together in a haphazard order, when, while driving from Detroit to DC, the appropriate structure for the book struck me. For a month I kept that idea at a low boil in my head, and earlier this week I started putting the plan into action.
I retyped them into a new document page by page. It took about four hours. (Naturally, in the midst of this I had to eat dinner, play my guitar, etc, so it wasn’t four constant hours. But close.)
The exercise–retyping drafts–is one that I’ve come to find essential. I retype my poems from scratch several times throughout my writing process now. It helps me shake off any unnecessary words or phrases, like how transplanting a potted plant allows you to shake loose the old, unhealthy soil.
And when I feel cringe-y when typing something, I just cut it from the draft, even if it means putting myself on the spot to rewrite the ending or come up with something new for the piece.
There is something about working with the manuscript holistically, from the start to finish, that means the arc of the book is preserved and the language and diction remain fairly consistent. Of course, it also means I sometimes grasp at straws and throw in something that’s all wrong–but generally, it’s better than what was there and it’s closer to what it should be.
I printed the manuscript off and, for the last few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been in that aura of having-just-met-someone-you-really-like. I steal glances at the stack of pages on my desk. I flip through it gently, marveling at my turns of genius. I want to call people I know and say, “I think I’ve met the one!”
All of this, but I know after some time, the newness will wear off. We will slip back into our routines and, while we will still care for each other, it won’t ever be so perfect. I’m good with that. When the aura wears off, I can tinker with the poems again.
But for now, I’m enjoying the glow.