Today, You Can Take a Poem through Seven Drafts

Today, You Can Take a Poem through Seven Drafts

I want to offer you something that I developed in my sophomore English class last year.

I’m always trying to get my students to revise. Revision is where all the creative decision-making happens in writing.

I came up with a method for pushing a freewriting through seven drafts, and into a focused, straightforward expression of an feeling or idea. Let’s call the result — draft number seven — a poem. Though you could use this method for revising an email to your boss, or whatever you are trying to write.

The method asks you to expand, select, focus, reconstruct from memory — and all of these are specific cognitive tasks that filter and change the writing for the better.

Crease a paper into quarters.

In the first square, freewrite until you run out of room.

In the second square, identify three or four ideas that emerged in the freewrite. Expand on them.

In the third square, focus on one of those ideas and expand on it.

In the fourth square, rewrite what you have, but be ruthless: trim it down to the fewest words possible.

Fold the paper over. You have two more squares to write in.

In the fifth square, rewrite your draft from memory. Don’t peek at your previous drafts. Let your “faulty” memory be your editor — it will leave out what you don’t need, and keep what you do.

In the sixth square, solve the lingering issue. Maybe you’ve been avoiding saying something. Speak your truth. Maybe the poem needs to be reorganized. You know what you’ve been putting off — do it in this draft.

Fold the paper closed, like a booklet.

The “front cover” of the booklet is your space to write your final draft. Rewrite your poem in as few words as possible. Again, don’t peek at your previous drafts. They’re all there — inside the booklet — but see what your short term memory decides is worth keeping.

Here's a quick video of the process.

Click the video to see a demonstration. I had this idea for a poem about driving to school with my son. I used this method to push through seven drafts, and I’m happy with the result.

Try this at home.

This revision activity is simple enough to do on any piece of paper. Go ahead! Grab some loose-leaf and try it!

If you’re a teacher, though, and are thinking about using this in class, you might like a template. You don’t want to have to explain how to fold the piece of paper, or explain the prompt for each box. So, here’s a grab and go version. My gift to you. works best when printed double-sided.