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.
In today’s Behind the Rewrite, Brenda Whiteside talks about one of the last—but most important—aspects of the editing process: varying boring sentence structure. She shares a before-and-after excerpt from her novel Southwest of Love and Murder, book two in a five-book series. Read Brenda’s line editing insights below.
When I write a scene, the first concern is to get it out of my head and onto the page. I “see” all of the pieces and parts simultaneously: the setting, action, and dialogue. There will be several passes at the scene in the editing process because although I can clearly see all those pieces and parts, translating to the page takes some prodding.
One of the most common edits I make, and one of the last, is sentence structure. The easiest way to get it written is a flow of character-does-this and then-character-does-that. Stagnant sentence structure can bore a reader even with the best plot line.
Take a look at the paragraph below. Of the fourteen sentences making up the paragraph, I began nine of the sentences with a character pronoun and an action. FYI—there are no names because the POV character is spying and doesn’t know the names. POV character is a not too smart, not too educated villain.
He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened. He scrunched lower, although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he painted it black. See how things work out? He peeked through the steering wheel. A man and a woman stepped out onto the porch. A tiny, dark haired woman gave the older man a kiss. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed but stopped at the bottom. Looked like she waved him off and continued on to the edge of the front drive, where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. She swung up onto the horse like damned Calamity Jane. She waved and rode into the night, toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up. Interesting.
Mixing up the sentence structure by combining sentences and beginning the sentence with the action instead of the subject makes it a much more enjoyable read.
He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened, then scrunched lower although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he’d painted it black. See how things work out? Peeking through the steering wheel gave him the view of a man and a woman stepping out onto the porch. The tiny, dark haired woman kissed the old man. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed. Her hand went up, stopping him at the bottom, and she continued on to the edge of the front drive where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. Her leg swung up onto the horse as if she was damned Calamity Jane. With a wave, she rode into the night toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up.
Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?
Writing murder mysteries is all in a day’s work until an obsessed fan brings Phoebe’s stories to life. Successful mystery writer, Phoebe Anderson, killed her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier. Now, someone has actually done it. Mason Meadowlark is happy with his wild cowboy ways, avoiding love since the death of his baby and his marriage twenty years ago until Phoebe shows up. With an obsessed fan close on her heels, Phoebe is thrown into her own murder mystery…and the next target on his list is Mason.
Buy it on:
More About Brenda
Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart, splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense.
Visit Brenda at:
Opportunities For Writers
Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.
Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:
Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips
Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.
How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.
Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.