If you hang around writers for very long, the “f” word is bound to come up. No, not that “f” word. I’m talking about “flow.” It’s thrown around in writer-to-writer conversation pretty frequently these days. As a writer, I know the importance of flow and how it enhances even non-writers’ messaging. The thing is, flow is sort of an elusive concept. It’s one of those things that makes it so easy to read and connect with content that you don’t even notice it’s there when it’s done really, really well. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it it easy to define if you don’t eat, sleep and breathe words like some of us weirdos.
So, to help demystify that pesky “f” word and make achieving the sweet, lazy river kind of flow easier for you, I’ve put together some tips. Trust me, the impact is worth a little extra education.
THE BALANCING ACT
One of the first keys to finding your flow is to balance your content. If it’s all entertainment or all education, your audience is going to tire out much sooner. Mixing up the factual lessons with fun stories and a little bit of pizzazz is an art form, but one worth learning.
Striking a balance between the entertainment, the personal, and the educational is the best way to build trust while simultaneously teaching your potential clients stuff they really want to know. Socking your audience in the jaw with four paragraphs of really dry information without adding in the anecdotal, personal, fun stuff to keep their eyes from glazing over is a major flow failure. Stay away from extremes and strive for the balance.
KISS DRAMA GOODBYE
The place to get overly dramatic about your business is DEFINITELY not in your content. Avoid making grandiose claims and puffing up your stories. The flow secret here is: if you hype something up and can’t follow it with well-articulated, substantial evidence to support the REALLY BIG thing you just put in front of your people, your prose will jump abruptly from one point to the next.
Without a quality transition, your people will suffer motion sickness from all the jump cuts and sharp turns, and no one likes to leave a piece of content feeling queasy.
SHAKE UP YOUR SENTENCE LENGTH
I’ve mentioned this before on social media, but it’s worth repeating here. The fastest way to get your audience to read your work as though you’re a 5th grade math teacher (because if we’re honest, how many 5th graders are THAT interested in math?) with the most monotone voice on the planet, it’s the write sentences that are all the same length, using words of the same length.
When you vary your sentence length, it builds a sort of mental melody to your words. That gives you the power to control the way people read. If you only take one thing from this blog post, I want it to be this. Because sentence length variation is possibly the best way to get control of your flow, fast.
OPEN AT THE CLOSE
I’m not talking about the golden snitch here, though if you’re looking for a masterclass in flow, Miss Rowling is the place to go. The place a lot of non-writers (and quite honestly a lot of writers, too) get caught up is at the beginning. You know, blank page, blinking cursor syndrome? The pressure to get those first few sentences right is real, guys. But if you write the rest of your article/email/course sequence first, then going back and writing the intro becomes a lot easier.
Why? Because it’s a lot easier to introduce what’s coming when it already exists. Once the body of the post is written, you can go back, highlighting important points along the way. Then, write the intro to hint at those points and help support the overall theme. Boom. You’ve automatically established a better flow and set yourself (and your readers) up for success.
WRITE IT LIKE IT'S FICTION
Paint your audience a picture with your words. Number one thing I learned studying fiction? Show, don’t tell. And yet, constantly, we tell. Instead, describe things using your senses. Evoking images in your audience’s head is so important because if they can picture what you’re saying, they are far more likely to connect with it. You don’t have to tell them a full fictional anecdote to prove your point, but using illustrative examples to help support your point is extremely powerful. Metaphors and similes, when used in moderation, can also be an effective way to incorporate imagery and improve flow.
LET'S GET TECHNICAL
Grammar, syntax, and all those technical writing rules do serve their purpose when it comes to flow. The best part is you don’t have to go back and major in writing to get a basic grasp that can help improve your writing flow. You can hop onto sites like Grammar Girl to learn some quick and dirty writing tips or install a plugin like Grammarly to help clean up your work far better than a word processor ever could. Plus, learning the basic rules of grammar and syntax allows you one of the greatest rebellions: knowing when to break those rules like a goddamned writing ninja.
CAN YOU FEEL IT?
As one of my favorite writer friends, Lacy Boggs, says: if it doesn’t move you, it won’t move them. If the content you create doesn’t make you feel anything, there’s no way you’ll be able to feel it flow. Emotional response helps set the pace of your writing.
If you want your audience to read faster, you might throw in a dash of fear in the form of a slightly hyperbolic rhetorical question. Or, if you want them to slow down and savor what you’re saying, you can inject some romantic vibes (please avoid hitting on your audience via blog post) or throw in something so introspective and deep they simply have to take a moment to pause and let it sink in.
Whatever you're feeling, write in a way that makes your audience empathize with that. Infusing your content with genuine emotion will keep your audience reading with ease.
The whole point of flow is to keep your audience engaged with your content longer and leave them wanting more. If you can find a way to make your work read as easy and smooth as a sweet, lazy river, you’re priming yourself for a more dedicated, engaged audience. And that only bodes well for your brand. So, how’s your flow?
If you’re looking for a content partner who is dedicated to writing in line with the true heartbeat of your brand and helping your content live that lazy river life, let’s talk.