Editing a Poetry Manuscript and #NovPAD Challenge Recap

It is December already!

The last November Poem-A-Day (NovPAD) update was from week two and here we are, four days post-challenge. My absence is justified by my upcoming graduation, but despite the last semester’s push, I can say that I’ve written 31 poem drafts (yay!). Now it’s the hard part–editing these scraps into real poems and assembling 10-20 of them into a cohesive chapbook.

I chose “Complete Circle” as the theme for the chapbook and, to be honest, some of my poems will have to work really hard to resemble anything rounded, but that’s why we edit. There is still a mystery to this editing-and-assembling process because there is no right way to do it, but I’ll share a few tips I’ve encountered.

Editing the poems:

  • Print them out.
  • Forget the prompt that began the draft. You are no longer obligated to satisfy the daily starter.
  • Trim the fat. Use stronger words and aim for clarity.
  • Revise when your mind is sharpest. Don’t revise when you are exhausted or feeling destructive.

Ordering the poems:

  • I believe a book of poems needs to be deliberate, created and crafted. It’s not just your best poems in whatever order, there should be reasons for the order, reasons for the poems chosen, reasons for each part of your book.” –Kelli Russell Agodon (Compiling a Poetry Manuscript: Part 1 & Part 2)
  • “Robert Frost said something to the effect that if a book has twenty-five poems in it, the collection itself must be the twenty-sixth.” –Diane Lockward (The Twenty-Sixth Poem)
  • Ordering requires seeing each poem from a distance, so that all its sides are visible; it also requires seeing the manuscript as a whole, so that you can decide how each poem and its parts might connect with others in a series.” –April Ossmann (Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript)

Oh, poetic wisdom! I’ll be revisiting this page and soliciting your help throughout the process. Thanks to everyone for your support during the month-long challenge.


Have any advice to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.


If you receive this message by email, remember, you can reply to the post by emailing me at maxiesteer@gmail.com, not by hitting “Reply.” Thanks!



4 thoughts on “Editing a Poetry Manuscript and #NovPAD Challenge Recap

  1. Hey Maxie, I'm happy that you've made it. No worries that some of the poems don't fit in the “round” and “circular” trend, poems go their own way 🙂
    I think I'll use those four bullets of the “editing” advice for my own collection. This seems to be a neat way of editing. So far, I have never edited my poetry much, but I've come to believe that editing is necessary and does the poems good.

    I'll have to sit down and write my own recap, too. It will not be half as cheerful as yours, I'm afraid.
    Glad to hear that coming graduation didn't inhibit your PAD challenge and vice versa 🙂

    Best, Mary

  2. Hay Mariya. Thanks for stopping by and reminding me that poems need to be themselves. I am looking forward to reading your recap, as I know you've been saddled with school as well. I'm so glad to have somehow influenced your finding a theme. Even if you are behind (and I know how frustrating that is, I was behind during the last week) at least you have a go-to message to write for. I'm eager to see what your collection becomes.

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