Every writer has access to infinite possibilities of word arrangements

This always happens to me when I’m immersed in the writing process. The intent is always the same, to create the best draft. But I never know how many changes it’s going to take for me to say, This is the final version, and to actually mean that.

I’m working on a batch of poems I wrote years ago with the intent to finalize them. I concluded that it was necessary that years pass before I picked up those poems again and write their final versions. I was more confident in the revision/editing process this time around. I noticed I revised and edited quicker and better trusted my intuition when making those revision and editing choices. I was able to see what lines needed to be taken out. I say taken out because I didn’t delete them. I just piled them on another page in case they’re useful in the future.

I was better able to hear and see each poem’s foundation and heart. I felt more confident in bringing forth their individual meaning and beauty. Whereas before, I questioned my revision/editing choices a lot. I felt more comfortable with changing the title of a poem or leaving it untitled if I felt like it didn’t have the right title. I was able to take out many chunks of lines and words that weren’t needed with more confidence. I’d never done this with my poems before. I sometimes wondered if I was wrong for not finding ways to keep some lines when the lines decreased dramatically. Yet, after I removed the lines, I realized that I was still keeping the poem’s message.

Then I applied more writing strategies that have stuck with me over time. If I noticed that some consecutive lines didn’t have an image, I tried to figure out what image I could use to express an experience. For example, what image could I use to describe a sleepless night? I asked myself what’s the right word for what I’m trying to say here? Do I use selfless or virtuous? Do I use old or past? Do I use dull or mundane? I asked myself: how many adjectives are enough, do I use a or the, do I capitalize this letter or not, where can I add sound in this poem, and can I come up with an original way of saying things that have already been written about?

Sometimes I think that I won’t be able to find the right words to say what I want to say. I think that I’m not the writer who can write something extraordinary. Sometimes after waiting a bit and experimenting with the words, I end up surprising myself with what I write. I say this as evidence that every writer has access to infinite possibilities of word arrangements. 

What are your go-to revision and editing strategies? How has your writing process changed over the years? How do you know that you’ve completed the final draft? Leave me a comment. I’d love to talk to you about the writing process! 

With mucho cari​​ño,

Andrea

How to Become a Better Writer Today

How do you become a better writer today without taking classes for an MFA in creative writing? To improve your writing, all you have to do is pay close attention to the texts you read: your favorite book, the article you found online, or the advertisements you see on a daily basis.

All it comes down to is being a better observer of the world. In this case, pay close attention, not so much to the contents of what you read, but at how the writer paints a picture inside your head.

Notice the Writing Strategy

Notice the strengths in other people’s writings. Which lines do you find yourself rereading because you loved how the writer composed a phrase, sentence, or passage. Why do you reread those lines?

The Writing Strategy

Sherman Alexie applies the following writing strategy in “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”: If you describe something with a series, start each item in the series with the same phrase or word for emphasis.

The Writing Strategy Example

Alexie writes:

“They ran then, hard as they ever had, faster than Billy Mills, faster than Jim Thorpe, faster than the wasps could fly. Victor and Thomas ran until they couldn’t breathe, ran until it was cold and dark outside, ran until they were lost and it took hours to find their way home.”

Billy Mills and Jim Thorpe were famous Native American athletes known for winning Gold medals in the Olympics. In the scene described above, two boys run faster than these athletes from a wasp nest.

In the paragraph that follows, we learn how much they run and how they run without thinking. These lines don’t let you catch your breath.

Why is the Writing Strategy Effective?

The repetition of the words and phrases in the scene form long sentences. The long lines emphasize how important it is for these boys to run fast and how much they need to run without the full stops of periods so that the wasps don’t catch them.

Apply the Writing Strategy in Your Writing


Photo by Min An from Pexels

After you notice the writing strategy in the text you’re reading, reflect on its effectiveness, and find ways to apply it to your writing.

Let me give you an example on how I applied this strategy in a short story that I wrote a couple of weeks ago:  

She wanted to find meaning in the way blood covered Marcos’ body and hers, in the way he called out her name to ask if she was okay, in the way she could not find the voice to answer.

from “After Missing Death By 43 Seconds”

I’m not saying the imitation has to be perfect. What matters is that you apply the new writing strategy as you continue writing until it becomes a habit.


Join the Conversation:

What writing strategies have you applied in your writing to strengthen your work? How do you find new writing strategies to use?


Works Cited:

Alexie, Sherman. “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume E, edited by Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine, Norton, 2012, pp. 1213-1222.