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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