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So when is the editing done?

A quiet morning, so I’m taking the time to go through all the hurriedly-filed poems and get organised, as I want to send a few more submissions out – to fill the hole left by those I’ve finally given up on.

poetry filing


I knew I’d been hanging onto a few, waiting for the submissions windows of the mags they feel destined for. But I didn’t realised how many there were, in various states of completion. In the end I counted 35, and that’s just the ones I’ve printed out (I usually only do this if I think they’re ready or nearly ready. It also included poems that’ve been sent out, perhaps several times, but haven’t yet found homes. It doesn’t include those currently out.)

Now I’ll go through and categorise them – OK to resend as-is, need some work (but hopefully the last edits before sending), needs a lot of work (some editing then re-file to look at another time). I’m hopeful there won’t be anything to ditch entirely (I’ve already got rid of two this morning which just seemed un-rescuable.)

Everyone has their own thoughts about editing & reworking. When is the editing done? Experienced poets say a poem isn’t necessarily finished when it’s published. I can see how that might happen if you’re deciding on poems to put into a collection, and you may look at something published in a magazine a few years back and decide you can improve it. My trouble is that I sometimes re-work a poem while it’s out for consideration somewhere, then if it’s rejected I’m kind of relieved because I think the newer version is better. Perhaps the reason I do it is because I’m subconsciously pre-empting a rejection? Hmm, I probably shouldn’t waste time wondering about that.

What I do know (for me anyway so I imagine it’s the same for many people) is that there is no correlation between the number of edits and/or length of time a poem sits ‘maturing’ and whether it gets published and/or placed somewhere. I’ll repeat that: no correlation.

I can’t pretend to enjoy the waiting game once something has been sent out, but I do enjoy the editing/filing/re-working is it any good/is it finished angsty stuff leading up to that point, and although I frequently kill my darlings once they’re been through 5 or 6 rejections, there are a few that are still hanging on. Because just occasionally an old one finally gets pummelled into something worth reading, and that’s very satisfying.

Published inAngstBlogRejectionsSubmissionsWriting

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  1. Oooh, that’s how our front room looks as I slowly finalise my first draft collection. I really enjoy laying them all out, let them breathe for a while; sometimes I imagine them talking to each other when we’re not here… Anyway, I totally agree with these points. I had a poem that I’d sent out at least half a dozen times to different magazines and journals and it’s finally found a home ! So yes, the motto is, never give up 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2024