Daily Archives: July 13, 2010

Improve Flow with Sentence Variation

I was going through my “treasures” the other day and ran across a letter I had written to my great aunt back in the day.

“How are you?  I am fine.  I love you.  I miss you.  My cat died.  I am sad.  See you soon.”

Yeah, it was way back and I’ve definitely improved my writing skills since then.  But this simple letter has a lot to say about the art of sentence structure and flow.

  1. Every sentence is the same length.  Exactly.  This makes writing feel stilted and flat.  After reading a handful of same length sentences, we begin to fall asleep.  We no longer hear the words, we hear the rhythm.  Bum, bum, bum. 
  2. Every last word is only one syllable.  This exacerbates the feeling of boredom.
  3. Four of seven sentences all start with “I”.  I don’t think this needs an explanation.
  4. There is no feeling of connection between sentences.  The ideas are thrown out there as if on their own, with no relation to the other sentences.  Transitions and conjunctions can be beautiful things.

If Great Aunt had been an agent she would have rejected this piece with good reason.  The writing stinks.  And while this example may look and sound simplistic, I have seen adult-written material that looks exactly like my sample.

Okay, maybe not exactly word for word, but you get the picture.

Dear Great Aunt,

I’m just checking in to see how you are doing.  Fluffy died last week.  Losing her makes me sad, but a visit from you would cheer me up.  I miss you so much and can’t wait to see you. 

Much love~me

Not great reading by any means, but it flows one heck of a lot better than my first attempt.

How do your manuscripts flow?  What areas of do you struggle with?  What are your strengths?  What other tips can you give for smooth writing?