How to Write a Poem: My Three-Step Process

When I first started writing poetry, I did not have a step-by-step writing process which I followed from start to finish. As a result, I would spend all day (and sometimes even multiple days) writing a single-page poem with an ABAB rhyme scheme. I tried crafting every line in its final form right from the start, and this was a painstaking process which was woefully inefficient.

Now, I do follow a uniform writing process with three simple steps. I based it off of my normal writing process that I use for most other pieces of writing. The three steps include: planning, drafting, and editing. I will explain what I mean by each of these three steps in detail, and follow each of them with a screenshot of a poem which I wrote with this process step-by-step.


an outline for a poem
A full outline for an ABAB poem about winter

The first step is planning. For me, this almost always takes the form of an outline. I will open up a document and outline each of the different stanzas and what I want them to express.

I write brief statements that can be sentence fragments or single sentences. In the early iteration of an outline, I may only have one statement for each stanza, although my goal is to write a statement for each line. In this example, I wrote an outline for a poem about winter after I found inspiration in the change of scenery from the other seasons and the tranquility of winter landscapes.

I am just getting started at this point, so I am not sure what to title this poem yet. As such, I just give it a simple descriptor as a working title. As you can also see, each line in the poem has a brief statement corresponding to what the line will express. This process is as simple as putting my thoughts into words and takes only a few minutes.


draft of a poem
A rough draft of an ABAB poem which has not yet been made to rhyme

The second part of my writing process is drafting. When it comes to writing ABAB poems, this means taking each of the statements from my outline and turning them into a line. At this point, I am not worried about rhyming, however. I just worry about making cohesive and coherent lines. I will worry about rhyming later. The poem also has to be proofread for errors and other minor changes need to be made.

Often, I will make the first and third lines in a stanza rhyme, since I find this to be easy to accomplish. However, rhyming is totally unnecessary at this point. Nevertheless, the more rhymes we can discern while drafting, the better. Still, the focus at this part of the writing process is on creating coherent lines that make sense and can be easily made to rhyme in the editing phase.

In a way, the drafting phase of writing poetry is a form of editing for me. This is punctuated by the fact that poems are often comprised of brief lines with few words and the original outline of the poem is subsequently getting trimmed down during the drafting phase.


completed ABAB poem
A completed ABAB poem

In the official editing phase of my three-step writing process, I go back and make sure all the lines in the poem rhyme according to the rhyme scheme I am applying. I typically use the ABAB rhyme scheme since I like it so much, and that is the rhyme scheme I used with this poem. I also edit any errors and make whatever minor changes are necessary from the draft.

I find that by worrying about making every line work within the ABAB rhyme scheme as the very last step in a process, I alleviate much of the pressure and frustration felt by trying to rhyme everything right from the start. The poem is almost entirely crafted at this point, and all I need to do is edit some of the words to make it fit the appropriate rhyme scheme. The content and the message intended to be expressed are fully formed already.

That’s All There Is to It

By following this three-step process which I use for most forms of writing I engage in, I have found writing poetry comes along much easier for me now. I am able to produce a finished ABAB poem within an hour or so instead of toiling over it all day, or even worse, dragging it out over multiple days.

Of course, my writing process may not be exactly what works for you. Maybe you find an idea web more useful than an outline, or perhaps you like to get straight into the draft. Whatever works best for you is great. If you can find a way to tweak my process and make it even better, that would be wonderful!

So, how do you write poetry? Do you find it difficult, or have you too found a way to make it easy? Please, feel free to share your wisdom, and don’t be afraid to comment any questions you have if there’s more you’d like to know about my writing process.

Creative Commons License

All posts by The Pen and Sword are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Published by Louis

I am a freelance writer and English tutor from the United States.

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