Sunday, 11 February 2018

New Directions and Big Decisions

This collection that I am working on is becoming increasingly problematic - not so much because of its themes or even the ordering of the poems - but because it is simply too big - and to make matters worse I can't stop writing. I have culled it by about half already and it is still at 90 plus A4 pages. I know I shouldn't moan - most people I have spoken to have pointed out that this is surely a good problem to have, and in some ways they are right. I am beginning to wonder whether I should pull one of the threads out (hoping, of course, that the whole thing doesn't unravel like an old jumper) and make it the back bone of another book.

To do that feels rather scary. For one thing most writers want to put their best stuff in their collections - why wouldn't you? For another thing there is no guarantee that I will even have a third collection published. I am lucky to have a second - and if the second is not well received I may not get another chance. The things I am writing now feel risky, and at the same time I am finding it incredibly exciting. Things that I am doing with my Arts Council funding (like the research trip to London) seem to be really bearing fruit and taking my ideas in new directions. The new stuff feels more rooted in the physical and less in the landscape of personal history - this in itself I find intriguing as I went to London to look more at my 'personal history' and while I did do that I found myself more moved by the physicality of the places I visited than any past connections. I would like to spend more time visiting there to see what more will come.


Ken Evans said...

Hi Julia, just a thought - maybe it's about letting go of seeing everything as affiliated 'collections'/connections, and subbing some of the new stuff to magazines and comps to see what reception it gets in those places? It's all building the body of published stuff which feeds back into how seriously other publishers may consider your work, when perhaps you do have a third (and fourth, and fifth) collection ready?

I've been irritated/bemused to discover that since sending a PDF of the typescript to the publisher of my first collection, ot seems to have released a fresh course of half a dozen-a dozen, even - new poems that I think are 'better', more interesting, more 'coherent' as a set. At first i was desperate to lever them into the finished manuscript, now I think I'll keep them for the next stage, and 'trial' them by sending to all the usual places. If they bomb, perhaps I've been wrong, and judged them in the adrenaline surge of 'finishing' what I had. If I'm right, I'll have a new direction to go for, and hopefully some validation for that view (in terms of acceptances/placings), along the way. I think, generally, collection are getting shorter - am I right?

Julia said...

Yes I think you make a good point Ken - and actually quite a substantial proportion of the collection I am working on has already been published in journals (both print and online). Having deadlines from my publisher and from the Arts Council has galvanised me into making it collection shaped - which was when I realised that I have way too much work.

Not sure about collections getting shorter - I think it depends on the press. Smaller presses tend to do shorter collections and that may be a cost of the print run issue - an extra five to ten pages does up the print cost quite a bit.