If you’ve ever had your writing critiqued, the words “writing flow” may have been brought up as something to improve on. What does this mean? It’s hard to articulate and can refer to a range of issues concerning your writing. Here, we will attempt to give you a better grasp of what flow is and how to evaluate it in your own writing.
Writing flow can be assessed through different parameters: the rhythm, pace, style, chronology…it’s difficult to define, but a keen reader knows which authors have a good sense of flow. It’s intuitive.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when evaluating your writing flow:
Am I getting “tripped up?”
Start by reading a paragraph out loud. If you get tripped up and have to take too many pauses or go back and reread a sentence, then there may be something faulty going on. When you identify these sentences that are disrupting your reading, start by evaluating the punctuation. Do you need to insert a comma to make it flow better? Would breaking this part up into 2 or 3 sentences help with the pacing? Make some small adjustments then read the paragraph again and go from there. Make sure you vary your sentence structure. You don’t want sentences to sound too staccato, but also want to avoid run-on sentences. Start with a strong topic sentence to express the main idea of the paragraph. This will make what follows easier to maintain.
Am I being too wordy?
Are you using unnecessary crutch words such as “really” or “very” too much? Ask if the adverbs or adjectives are adding to the effectiveness of your sentence. Is it contributing to what you are trying to say? Remove these words and assess if the sentence seems stronger or remains just as effective without them.
On the flip side, in order to replace simple crutch words, some writers will try to expand their vocabularies and find synonyms for easily recognized words. This can actually frustrate the reader. You shouldn’t need a thesaurus handy when reading your book.
Be descriptive, but not overwhelmingly so. Writing should be clear and concise; you don’t want to confuse your readers. Have you ever read an entire page describing a sunset seen from a mountaintop, then turn the page and think, “Ok, what is happening again? I just read a page of descriptive language about one singular view.” When analyzing a piece of art, it’s acceptable to go into detail about every brushstroke and how it’s reminiscent of a specific work. In storytelling, massive amounts of descriptive language can detract from a reader’s emotional response.
Am I being repetitive?
Have you ever read a book and realized that the author has used the same adjectives to describe the same character multiple times? It’s important for character development to establish recognizable traits, but you want to change up your adjectives enough so that your writing feels fresh. If it feels overwhelming trying to pinpoint where repetitive words may be occurring, you can always highlight a section in the Word program you are using and search for specific words that you feel you may be overusing.
If there’s one idea to embed in your mind, it’s to look at your writing from a reader’s lens and ask, “is this easy to read?”
Re-visit your work often and read it aloud.
Go back and read some of your favorite books and try and pinpoint what makes their writing so successful.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of what contributes to effective writing flow. If you’re still confused, you’re not alone. It’s an abstract term that incorporates many parts of writing. Luckily, we have editors who can make this job easier for us. When your editor starts their process, make sure you tell them you would like notes on your writing flow.