5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

improve writing flow

 

This guest post on how to improve your writing flow was written by Asha Caldwell.   

There’s no single best way to define what writing “flow” looks like, but the Writing Center at the University of Carolina explains that writing that “flows” is a piece that can be read smoothly from beginning to end. Readers should be able to easily establish connections between ideas without stopping or having to reread. To put it simply, it’s writing that’s easy to digest and follow. To make your writing flow seamlessly, it has to be cohesive and well-written.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Sentence and Word Variety

Vary the types of sentences you use. You should mix up the length of the sentences to create a natural rhythm for your readers. This ensures that they are carried from one sentence to the next, enabling them to move easily through the prose. Additionally, you should also make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same words. If writing fiction, there are some words that should be used sparingly, with the most infamous ones being “look” and “said.” Check out our ‘Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book’ post for tips on how to conquer crutch words.

Tip #2: Brevity

World famous author Stephen King in On Writing highlighted the need to always be looking to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases as a crucial step in writing. King relates how some of the best advice given to him was to always look to take things out during the rewrite. He emphasizes how simple writing delivers without the need to over-explain. For example, a sentence with too many descriptive words or unnecessary articles can detract readers from understanding what you want to convey.

Tip #3: Structure

The structure of an article or e-book is fundamental in terms of flow. A reader should be able to easily follow the prose as it moves from one topic to the next. If the writing lacks a cohesive through-line the reader can easily get distracted or lost. When writing an article, you should outline the key points in the introduction and continually refer back to them throughout the article.

Tip #4: Old-to-New

An old-to-new approach to writing means you don’t presume that readers are familiar with the subject matter. Instead, writing experts at the University of Arizona recommend that you consider anything already mentioned in the piece to be old and all concepts and ideas written for the first time to be new. This lets you build a solid foundation for your readers that they can easily follow. Anything you’ve already put in writing can serve as a springboard for future paragraphs and sections. Writing this way reduces the likelihood of readers needing time to pause and do additional research on the topic, which hinders them from reading the material as intended.

Tip #5: Inspiration

Writing should be inspirational, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  Put simply, there has to be a purpose behind your writing. There has to be an end goal. For fiction writers, outline the story’s key points so you know what the ideas are leading up to. Similarly, nonfiction writers should have a thesis statement or a definite opinion on which everything hinges. This helps you streamline your piece and keep everything in a cohesive flow.

Just as everyone has their own writing style, each writer has their own way to make their writing flow. That being said, these tips are excellent starting points for finding your unique flow.

 

Behind The Rewrite With C.E Flores: Revisions Inspired By Free Editing Class

Behind The Rewrite With C.E Flores: Revisions Inspired By Free Editing Class

Free editing course

Today’s Behind the Rewrite meant a lot to me as author C.E. Flores made her revisions after taking my free editing class, Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages. If you haven’t gone through the course, be sure to sign up. And if you took it a long time ago, sign up again as it now has an online classroom component and interactive quiz. But first, read this informative post from C.E. Flores as she gives a behind the scenes glimpse into polishing up her nonfiction book on herbal remedies.

Recently I published Volume 2 in my Mexican Herbal Remedy series. Since I needed to update the back matter to include information about the second book, I decided to use this opportunity to make some changes to Volume 1. Stacy Juba’s free course, Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages, helped my editing processes tremendously.

First, I searched through my writing for crutch words as instructed in Lesson 1. Since my non-fiction book focuses on the medicinal uses of certain herbs, would you be surprised to learn that the word “use” was entirely overused? I found it in various forms (used, use, using, useful), at least five to ten times per chapter. I rewrote almost all of those sentences using synonyms such as remedy, treatment, therapy, and so on.

Then, from Lesson 3, I went through the book again, looking for the five common offenders (some, that, very, as, just). I found entirely too many instances of “some,” “that,” and “just” plus my personal nemesis “so.” Those sentences received a little tightening up. Additionally, I took a leaf out of Lesson 5’s book and checked my prepositions. “In order to” was there almost as many times as “use” had been. Wordy phrases–be gone!

Lesson 4 had me go back through for dangling modifiers that disrupt the meaning of the sentence. I was guilty there as well. Some of the sentences needed complete rewrites. I took this opportunity to reduce passive voice use as well. I most certainly want to say what I mean and mean what I say when writing about these fascinating herbs and be clear about it.

I took to heart Stacy’s comment, “Your job is to finish your manuscript and to make it your best work, a professional book that will stand out from the competition and attract positive attention.”

Since I was on a roll, I made a few additional changes. The herb book was initially designed to record my own experiences with Mexican remedies. After completing Volume 2, I felt like I had a better idea of what I wanted to accomplish and what would appeal more to my readers. So, in my editing process for Volume 1, I took out several personal anecdotes about the herbs and added a bit more history in some cases and scientific support in others.

Then I switched out most of the images with better quality ones. After all, part of learning about the traditional use of these herbs was proper plant identification. A higher resolution image will aid herbalists interested in foraging their own supply. I also changed the cover so that it was more similar to other herb books on the market. With a much-improved manuscript, I republished Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico: An Introduction to Natural Healing. Thanks for your guidance, Stacy!

 

More About The Book

free editing course

Curanderos (healers) in Mexico still practice traditional herbal remedies learned centuries ago. It is only recently that scientists have begun to take these healing practices seriously. Study after study has validated the medicinal use of plants native to North America and those brought by the Spanish after the conquest. It’s time to reexamine the basic healing power in 34 common remedies used by traditional Mexican healers.

In Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico: An Introduction to Natural Healing, you’ll discover:

  • 34 traditional Mexican remedies
  • Effective herbal treatments for common ailments
  • Well-researched scientific support for herbal use
  • Accurate botanical identification of native Mexican plants

Buy it on Amazon.

More About C.E. Flores

C.E. Flores was born in the Eastern United States and currently lives in central Mexico. She received her Bachelor’s in Education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and picked up her husband while attending there. She writes about her wild and crazy off-grid life in rural Mexico as well as references books for ex-pats, writers, bloggers, preppers, and herbalists.

Website: Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters OR Content Creative 

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Take Stacy’s Free Line Editing Course

Does the thought of editing your book seem overwhelming? If your manuscript could use trimming and polishing, sign up for this free mini email course. It features bite-sized concepts and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing.

  • Lesson 1: The one thing that will jump-start your editing.
  • Lesson 2: Three mistakes you may be making and what to do instead.
  • Lesson 3: Five little words you need to start cutting now.
  • Lesson 4: The truth about editing.
  • Lesson 5: Struggling with wordy sentences? This will help.

Enroll here.

 

 

Behind The Rewrite With Liesel K Hill: Making Sentences Less Passive

Behind The Rewrite With Liesel K Hill: Making Sentences Less Passive

making sentences less passiveI see a lot of writers who need to learn the logistics of making sentences less passive. In this Behind the Rewrite, Liesel K Hill explains why limiting passive voice is important and how she approached line editing her fantasy novel Dragon Magic. Since Liesel is both a writing coach and an author, you’re in for an insightful lesson.

As a writing coach, one of the main problems I see is authors failing to edit passive voice out of their manuscripts. Most of us, especially after our first book or two, know what it is, but I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the importance of learning this skill.

If readers cannot connect deeply with your words, which passive voice keeps them from doing, you’ll never create megafans. One of my secret sauce editing techniques is what I call editing for crutch words. Crutch words are words used too often by you, the author. They’re also red flags for passive voice. So, if you edit out the crutch word, you also edit out ninety percent of passive voice.

Some of the crutch words I edit for are ‘was,’ ‘but,’ ‘had,’ and ‘that.’ There are plenty of others as well, but these are some of the biggest culprits for me personally.

I edit for these intentionally, not just reading through my manuscript and hoping I catch them, but actually using the Find feature in my writing software to look at each, individual case.

Unedited Version

I’ve highlighted the crutch words and other issues in the passage below, which comes from my WIP, a medieval high fantasy novel.

     “You cannot beat me!” He practically shrieked. He stalked forward and thrust his face toward Borilad’s. “You are merely a soldier! I am fierce! I am formidable! I have powers you cannot wield or even comprehend. I will kill you, General. You know I can do it. You know I will.”

     Borilad noted that Malicroft did not even attempt to take the egg, thought it was within his grasp. The man knew better. Borilad had to give him credit for that, at least.

     He merely nodded. “I know you have powers I do not possess. I know you are willing and capable of killing me. I’ve always believed you a formidable enemy, Malcroft.”

     Leaning forward, Borilad peered into the man’s eyes. “But do not insult me by leaving me out of the equation. I’ve killed more men on battlefields than you’ve met in your entire life. I wield plenty of power, after my own fashion.”

Most of these words can be edited many ways, depending on how they’re used in the sentence. It generally boils down to the word being filler, meaning you can cut it without changing the meaning of the sentence. (And you should.) Or, it’s a vague word and you can come up with something much stronger and more specific. (Which again, you should.)

1. ‘Was’ is a lazy and vague word. Switch it out with something more specific. I chose the word ‘lay.”

2.  That can often simply be edited out. Unless you’re using it for emphasis, which I did with my second instance, it can simply be cut.

3. Had can often be cut without changing the sentence as well. In this case, this phrase is more a matter of far too many words to say the same thing. had to give became gave. I often see this with the word could as well. Something like, could hear can becomes simply, heard. The past tense, single word is much tighter and stronger than its more progressive counterpart.

4.  It also occurred to me that this is a medieval fantasy and “credit” is too contemporary a term. I changed the core word to ‘recognition’ and Borilad “recognized him for that, at least.”

5.  There are many instances where ‘but’ must be kept in a sentence, especially if you’re making a comparison. BUT, I use it far too often, as many authors do. ;D Go through each instance, read the sentence, and if you can cut it, do. That’s what I did here. If you make too many comparison sentences, consider splitting them into two separate ones. For example, “He wanted to go to the store but couldn’t find his wallet” can become, “He wanted to go to the store. He couldn’t find his wallet.” Depending on your prose, that may sound clunky, so you’ll have to see if it works for each instance, but you’ll find that often this works to cut down on overuse of the word.

Edited Version

Here is the edited passage. You’ll note a few other typos and issues that I’ve also fixed.

     “You cannot beat me,” he practically shrieked. He stalked forward and thrust his face toward Borilad’s. “You are merely a soldier! I am fierce! I am formidable! I have powers you cannot imagine. I will kill you, General. You know I can do it! You know I will.”

     Borilad noted Malcroft did not attempt to take the egg, though it lay within his grasp. The man knew better. Borilad recognized him for that, at least.

     He merely nodded. “I know you have powers I do not possess. I know you are willing and capable of killing me. I’ve always believed you a formidable enemy, Malcroft.” Leaning forward, Borilad peered into the man’s eyes. “Do not insult me by leaving me out of the equation. I’ve killed more men on battlefields than you’ve met in your entire life. I wield plenty of power, after my own fashion.”

This story, book 1 of my Dragon Magic series, won’t debut until early 2021. Until then, you can read the prequel, The Hatching. Get it on most major retailers, or download it free here.

limiting passive voice

More About The Hatching

What if a dragon looked into your eyes…and saw into your soul? Wenlyn dreams of seeing one of the legendary Harpy’s Servants up close. As a poor village boy, he can’t help but dream of the adventures the dragon-riding protectors of the Six Realms must have. Now one of them has come to Tranquil village.

With the Servant’s arrival, Wenlyn’s entire world falls away. He’s about to embark on an adventure of his own that even his wildest dreams couldn’t have conjured up.

Soar the skies with Wenlyn in this short prequel to Dragon Magic, an epic fantasy series.

More About Liesel

Liesel K Hill is a novelist who writes across three genres. Her scifi and fantasy are written under her full name, Liesel K. Hill.
She loved to read and write at a young age, and her earliest memories consist of her father sitting in the doorway of her room at night, relating stories of Frodo, Gandalf, and the One Ring. Her mother also read to her every afternoon as a child, sometimes for several hours a day. Today she is an award-winning author and a Story Clarity Coach. She plans to keep writing until they nail her coffin shut. Or the Second Coming happens. Whichever comes first. ;D

Website
IG Links: @l.k.hillbooks (for readers)
@theprolificauthor (for authors)

Watch Liesel’s workshop on marketing tips for writers, originally streamed live in the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group.

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