I have a system for writing poetry. It either looks like a hot mess or a mindmap, depending on your POV. It works for me. Since I LOVE glimpses into other writers’ methods, today I’m sharing mine.
I’m still searching for a go-to novel-writing system. If you’ve got one, please link up in the comments!
1. Grab a sheet of paper. I like unlined; you gotta find your comfortable.
2. Write a line at the top. A few words, a theme— whatever you know your poem is about. (Poems pictured are about sledding, spelling, and love being a roller coaster.)
3. If you have more than one idea, for different stanzas maybe, write your key words in separate areas around the page. Doesn’t matter where. You’ll put them in order later.
4. Now, channel your inner James Joyce or Jack Kerouac and start writing every word you can think of that goes, stream of consciousness style. You might group words by rhyme or alliteration. I love internal rhyme and almost instinctively include it whenever I get on a writing roll. You might hate rhyme and choose to group words based on their emotional flavor. I’ve got a WIP that has lists of foreign language words all over the margins and another that includes a bunch of musical and weather-related words. Whatever.
5. As you write, you often discover what your inner YOU really wants to say. Damn cheap therapy.
6. Certain words will begin to jump out at you. Circle or highlight them.
7. Other words will offend. Cross them out.
8. Coherent thoughts begin to emerge. Write them down. Maybe even fully fledged sentences come to mind. Write them down. No matter if they don’t make the cut this time. They are from your inner you, and they are treasures.
9. Now you’re at the hot mess stage. You may need fresh paper. Start grouping words, phrases or ideas together. This happens for me in one of two ways: a. Lines and arrows between words and/or boxes around words, or b. Cut (with scissors!) and make piles of like minded material.
10. Either on fresh paper or on the table with those cut outs, start to arrange your ideas. Think about how they look as a whole, and take out anything that doesn’t fit. If a line is too long, a metaphor isn’t working, or a word is out of place, you’ll see it.
From my written-out brain to yours. Cheers.