Organizing, Shaping, and Making Changes


“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles.”

––Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Writer

Chances are you’ve spent a few hours composing an essay envisioning a black female future and are about halfway through this challenging and exciting process. Take a moment to honor your hard work, knowing your perspective and voice are necessary for creating a better world.

Does it make sense to take a break and renew your creative energy and stamina? Getting rest is important for writers. Taking a walk, talking with a friend, reading the words of a writer you love can help you return to your essay with fresh eyes and clear vision.

During the next writing stage, you will begin to look at your essay with a more critical eye, shifting away from keeping the subconscious happy and beginning, instead, to serve your future readers’ needs for clarity and sense.


This shift needn’t happen immediately. It’s OK, even necessary to continue to maintain a relaxed state. But now, you can also begin to ask questions, on behalf of your imagined readers: Will they understand this sentence? What do I need to do to make this idea clear? How can I better keep their interest and connect with their hearts?

In asking such questions, you will find some ideas naturally drop away while others become your central focus. Up to now, you’ve been growing your writing. At some point soon, you will find yourself wanting to shrink it too.

Human beings are machines for creating patterns. Through patterns ideas become clear. Patterns can be created from almost anything and often occur in sets of three. Think of writing patterns such as: beginning, middle, and end; or introduction, body, and conclusion. But there also two part patterns, such as compare and contrast; problem solution; and so on.

As a writer, you are automatically making patterns all the time. You can’t help it. None of us can. We are human; it’s what we do. Go back through your writing and choose one or two patterns to emphasize for your reader. It will make your ideas more understandable and powerful too.

While a piece of writing often includes a variety of patterns within its sentences and paragraphs, its overall structure often depends on only one, a pattern that is related to an essay’s primary purpose. What is your essay’s primary purpose? This single thought is sometimes called the controlling idea, main theme, or thesis statement. What is the controlling idea of your essay? Try writing it out in one sentence.

Your primary purpose might emerge by answering the following question: “What do you desire for this world and what future do you hope for black women worldwide?” Write your response in one sentence.

Is this what want your essay to say? Try rewording it and then try again. Experiment with different phrasing until you have something that pleases you and can guide you through the next phase.

Here are additional methods for looking back through your writing.

RECOGNIZING PATTERNS, MAKING CONNECTIONS

Look back through your freewriting experiments identifying patterns that are already there. Do you see a paragraph that would make a natural introduction or conclusion? Are there parts of your writing that might naturally be placed in sequence: first, second, and third. What ideas seem naturally connected? Which might belong under the umbrella of another? Which ones can be brought together through transitions?


Look for things you’ve already written that would make sense if you connected them by using transition phrases, such as “For example…”; “This shows…”; “On the other hand…”; “Some believe __________, but I say…”; “Another way of thinking about this is...”

There are other phrases that might work for you too. Which ones can you think of? Such phrases can help you connect ideas together and generate new ones too.

By using scissors, you can cut up your notes and experiment with creating patterns by connecting one paragraph with other parts of your work. As you try out different patterns of organization, notice which ones please you most? If you find something you like, tape the pieces together.

Open space by taping in clean scraps of paper, so you have room for writing in transitions and connecting paragraphs as needed.