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As you develop as a writer and work to perfect your craft, what you’re aiming to improve is your written fluency.

When we think of the word “fluency” or “fluent,” we think of the automatic and appropriate use of words to represent thoughts and ideas.

If someone is a fluent in a language, all the words he needs come naturally – as far as everyday speaking and writing are concerned. If one isn’t fluent, it’s hard to put ideas into words. Words are missing, are in wrong combinations, or don’t make sense.

When you are fluent, you have no trouble putting any idea into words.

Writers have to go to even higher levels of fluency; they work in the realm of ideas that are beyond the ordinary. Written language is more formal and expressive, especially in its use of figurative language.

Writers are constantly striving to improve their written fluency – and it’s a huge task as it covers everything under the hood when it comes to getting ideas down on the page in strings of words. It therefore takes time and incremental growth. Written fluency accrues over time and with acquisition of writing craft.

The written fluency of writers starts at words and scales right up to the logic of the story and – at its core – that one great idea.

You need a certain vocabulary and ability to put words together to write a shopping list, a sick note to a teacher, or an email to a loved one. You need an altogether more sophisticated vocabulary and ability to combine words to pen a book someone will read and enjoy. You must be able to produce long spans of beautifully connected, structured, and textured words that create new worlds.

Some writers are brilliant stylistically but can’t put a plot together. What one gets are endless streams of amazing sentences and scenes, but no higher-level story.

Some writers are genius storytellers, but just can’t get the smaller-level mechanics right. Paragraphs and sentences are awkward or forced.

The key to great writing is pulling it all together and having no awkward points at which fluency is missing.

So, how do you go about improving your fluency? Practice? Yes. It’s about being aware of fluency and working to actively improve it.

Improving your written fluency takes knowing how you write. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Building your fluency is about honing your skills of word choice and dialogue, plus your ability to create visual images, sustain a tone, and most of all, exhibit a strong voice. It’s also about building characters that come alive, advancing your plot, and integrating your themes.

And let’s not forget pacing, knowing when to heighten the conflict and when to resolve, and the ability to build tension through the entire book to your climax. Written fluency is also dependent on a writer’s facility in expressing abstractions and describing concrete details – knowing when to do which, and in what measures.

Written fluency is about your logical and intuitive abilities to weave together all the elements of a story. Of course, you also need to be fluent in the specialist content you are writing about, whether it be whaling, diamond mining, or space travel.

Written fluency is also about how you structure information so it is easily consumed. How do you manage transitions? Do you prefer exposition versus description versus dialogue? How much of each do you have? Do you excel at beginnings and have a hard time with endings? Do your books sag in the dreaded marathon in the middle, or bounce along, full of action?

In short, written fluency covers it all. It’s the nexus point of a huge range of skills that culminate in the writer weaving words into meaning and striking the perfect balance required to relate a story in the most imaginative and memorable way possible.

 

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Dawn Field

About Dawn Field

Dawn Field has written 64 posts in this blog.

Dr. Dawn Field is a book lover interested in what makes great writing. After a 20 year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by Oxford University Press. Now a columnist of The Double Helix, Dr. Field is exploring new writing venues and writing a second book. Based in Virginia, Dr. Field is looking to collaborate with a range of fiction writers as a writing coach, editor, and consultant on the publishing process: fiedawn@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “What is Written Fluency?

  1. Hans Rudolf Richter says:

    yes I noted what you wanted to explain about fluency- All right, I am German
    writer but even so, I think to have the necessary disposal to write the necessary
    Facts or ideas.
    I wrote ( in German language) five books, published by ENGELSDORFER
    VERLA LEIPZIG and I could be interested to offer those books in English as the
    German Editor has only the right to print and sell in Germany.
    My G e r m a n titles were anounced also by BARNERS AND NOBLE some monthes
    ago. Hans >R. Richter (seudon. Mario Monteiro)

  2. Lynn O'Brien says:

    It is easy to write and believe it is accurate and fluent. Get someone else to read it and then correct minor grammatical, spelling and other basic inconsistencies they have picked up. But actually writing a story (a book) in the most readable way is something entirely different and incredibly difficult. Knowing it is difficult but having found it easy set up warning bells. What had I missed? I finally researched the craft. Some things I had almost instinctively comprehended and followed. But then step by step all the difficulties and flaws emerged. Overuse of the word “that”. Passive tense. Point of view. This was the start. Elimination of all the unnecessary little words by altering the way sentences express things. Balancing an eight (nine) part structure correctly. Then divulging information for a reader in specific ways, at the right time, without leaving anything crucial out. (to escalate conflict not to surprise a reader with important details sprung on them later) Wimpy hedging, showing not telling and how to do this, balancing dialogue, description, narration, conflict in the right way. Conveying the most drama at dramatic points instead of downplaying. Adjectival mania instead of focus on nouns and verbs. Very correct grammar and explaining every step. Lastly the structure of scenes to link them to what follows. Phew! Having photos in my mind of all the tips I’d read was not a lesson in how to go about applying this information to a manuscript. NOR DID IT GIVE ME THE TIME. I am at the stage where I can read published books and note the flaws or note the deviations from what I have learned and work out why the author may have done so. My advice is don’t give up. There is a way of getting it right and the more you do it the more natural it becomes. Would I have written the story I have written any other way? Probably not but it saves time to apply this knowledge as you go. A cautionary tale.

  3. Rene MacDonald says:

    I can relate to that ‘marathon in the middle,’. I’m writing my first novel, and I am glad that someone has referenced the middle in such a way. It tells me I am not alone; my struggle is a common one.
    Thanks

  4. James says:

    Thanks for your article on Written Fluency. I am a copywriter and content marketer, so I write exclusively nonfiction. I find that the more I write, the more fluent I become at writing. It’s obvious to me that the more I speak English, the more fluent I become at speaking English. It takes study, and practice.

    As an aside – I understand that there are different parts of the brain with different functions. The part that governs speech isn’t the same part that governs the written word. So practice is key. I write everyday. Sometimes it’s 500 words, sometimes more like 2000 words.

    But it’s everyday.

    I have a peer review in place. This group prevents me from repeating the same mistakes over and over. I believe it helps immensely with fluency, especially when your every words hinges on whether or not the sales copy pulls.

    Of course, I’m only human. I wish there was an easier way… what do you think?

    Do you have a silver bullet for us?

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