The other day, as I looked at chapbook manuscripts, I planned just to look at the Table of Contents to see if any of the poems had been published (or accepted for publication) since the last time I looked at the manuscript. I thought I was just going to do a quick update of the Acknowledgements section. Instead, I did a revision of one of the manuscripts (Dismantling the Fallout Shelter), the one which has gotten the most positive feedback, but no offers of publication.
For years, I've resisted the temptation to look at the manuscript too closely. I assumed that since it garnered praise even as it was being rejected, that it was close to perfect. But I've continued to explore the themes of that chapbook, and I have some poems that I think are stronger than the ones that found their way into the chapbook manuscript.
Plus, that chapbook was fairly short in its original form, only 22 poems. I was looking at several contests which requested 27-30 pages of poetry. At first, I was just going to add some poems. But I decided to take out some of the weaker ones.
In the end, I removed 5 poems, and added 9 poems. From here on, this will be the manuscript that I submit.
So, should I send it to contests/publishers who have looked at it before? If the old manuscript was a finalist in a competition, should I try again? I don't want to waste my money, but what if I came close, and some tinkering/revising would make a difference? It's just so hard to know.
I know that I'm not the only one who continues to explore themes long after the collection has been put together. How do we decide whether or not to do substantial revisions to existing collection or just to make new collections out of the more recent poems?
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