A few weeks back, I shared the idea of brevity and deletion, using a famed Hemingway 6-word story as an example.
Today, I want to turn to another element of writing that really matters. But that you can’t see.
Rhythm and flow.
Writing has its own pace. Its own energy.
And, what so many writers never really get, especially those writing for digital media, is that readers respond not just to what’s on the page. Not just to what’s left to be filled in by the reader’s experience. But to the cadence and ease with which a writer moves them through the text, the story.
While researching the book I’m working on right now, I stumbled upon another book that shared a fascinating 3-year experiment that was a direct hit for what I was writing about. The topic, the approach and the conclusions blew my mind. But it took me nearly three-months to get through it. Because it was written in an academic style that was much more concerned with conveying information in an accurate, linear, logical progression than it was guiding the reader along an intriguing quest of discovery.
Rhythm and flow, worked well, help turn rote delivery of information into the breathless pursuit of the next sentence. Rhythm and flow, worked poorly, make interesting content brutal to read.
So, how do you create gorgeous rhythm and flow?
There’s no easy answer.
For some it comes naturally. For most, not so much.
It’s the effect of labor and attention over years. That’s certainly the boat I’m in.
And, it comes into play on both a sentence-by-sentence basis and a sense of flow across an entire work.
My approach is to write as closely to the way I speak as possible. Because I’ve found my readers respond best when my language patterns mimic my speech patterns. That assumes I can speak and tell stories reasonably well (yeah, yeah, I know, we’ll leave that for another conversation, lol). It also may mean consistently breaking many of the most-revered pillars of grammar. Like starting a sentence with the word like. Or because. Splitting infinitives with relish. And shredding into sentences midstream with and or but.
And, in the bigger picture of a longer work, it means being constantly aware of the broader pace of things.
Noah Lukeman, in his fabulous book, The First Five Pages, shared some wonderful insights on the topic in the chapter entitled “Pacing and Progression.” where he asks:
The manuscript might be fine, but does it read?
Lukeman’s insights on the issue include:
- Pacing and progression are difficult to self-edit. Ask a small number of trusted readers for insight.
- If you must self-edit, take a few weeks off to allow you a fresher perspective, then read through the entire work in one sitting to get a feel for the full ebbs and flows.
- In areas where things are too slow, ask if there is enough at stake, if you’ve got solid beginning and ending points but the middle plods, if you’re telling too much and showing too little.
- If it’s too fast, ask if you’re avoiding an inability to fill in the gaps or using dialogue (that speeds pace) in place of more artful, gradual building.
These are just a few things to think about.
If you’ve never read Lukeman’s book, by the way, get it now.
Curious, how do YOU work with issues of rhythm, flow, progression and pace when you blog or create longer works?
And, how aware of it are you when you read what others write?
Share away in the comments, let’s all learn…
Join our Email List for Weekly Updates
And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...