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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Keeping records makes it easy to do a poetry book

This week I’ve been going through my Word files, gathering poems for my next book, which I hope to send off soon to a poetry publisher. Trying to decide which poems to include can be a daunting task with hundreds of poems from which to choose, but record-keeping has made the job much easier.

As I wrote each poem, I typed every new piece on its own page in my Word file of “Poems.” Since I often “tweak” or revise my poems (sometimes even after they’ve been published!) I space down from the last line then simultaneously press “Ctrl” and “Enter” to start a new page. That way each page will stay put, enabling me to add or delete lines without disrupting the entire file. For instance, I might later need to add “Revised” and the date of that revision.

Other additions to the top of the page came about when it occurred to me to type key search words for each poem. For example, as I write poems of “Faith,” “Nature,” “Family,” I type those words beside the date of writing. Then I can go back and find all the poems I’ve written on a particular subject. Or I can find poems in a particular form.

Recently, for example, I’ve been writing a lot of haiku and other minipoems, so I type “Haiku,” “Aahcoo,” “Senryu,” or “Micropoem” at the top of the page and, occasionally, traditional form names such as “Sonnet,” “Villanelle,” or “Prose Poem.” If I decide to collect my haiku together for a book or chapbook, the search for those poems will be made easy by simultaneously pressing “Ctrl” and the “F” key. Immediately a “Navigation” column comes up for typing the key word in the “Search Document” space. And presto! All of my haiku that I’ve labeled as “Haiku” will automatically pop onto the list.

Without that seemingly small step, I might not have any poetry books! Instead, I was able to compile poems quickly for my book, Living in the Nature Poem, when my editor/publisher expressed interest. All I had to do was search for "Nature," and relevant poems came up. Similarly, "Praise" poems came together for my book PRAISE!

Another aspect of record-keeping has to do with each poem’s whereabouts. It might be best to type the date and publication to which I’ve submitted a poem at the top of the poem’s page too. However, I didn’t think of that until long after the fact. So I have a “Poetry Submission List” file with poems listed alphabetically by title followed by the date and place sent. If the poem is declined, I put “No” and the date of that response in the file, then send the poem to the next publishing possibility, noting that info too.

When the editor of a journal, e-zine, or anthology accepts a poem, hallelujah! I note that in the poetry file and also add the title (again, alphabetically) beneath the “Poetry” heading in my “Bio” file where I keep a record of every publishing credit, big or small.

Keeping a Bio record of those credits gives me a quick place to search for info to include in the “Acknowledgements” page for each new poetry book or chapbook, so I can appropriately thank previous publishers and acknowledge the publications which included my work.

Mary Harwell Sayler
, ©2017

For more on record-keeping and submitting manuscripts of all genres to traditional and indie publishers, order the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book from Amazon Kindle.


  1. I have been doing this and it helps. The only problem I have is remembering who I sent a poem to after it gets rejected. I don't want to keep sending in the same poem to the same place again. Any thoughts?

  2. As I mentioned, Jonathan, I note the date and publisher to whom I sent the poem at the top of the page or in my Poetry Submission List file, which I keep alphabetically by title. Then, if the poem comes back, I note that too.