When I think of pacing, I think of a sinuous graph.
It peaks, it troughs, it ebbs and it flows.
Sometimes the peaks are high, adorned with colourful vernacular and serpent like prose.
Other times, they’re short.
Your flow, (your pacing), is unique to YOU. It should map against your creativity and tone as well as it’s intended purpose.
Are you selling your latest E-book? Or are you teaching your viewers how to maximize Pinterest? The art of persuasion begins with the clarity of your speech, or in this case, the clarity and flow of your copy.
And that right there my friends……
Is what YOUR writing is missing.
Your muddled and hesitant copy is driving AWAY engagement.
Your viewers don’t believe in you.
YOU don’t believe in you.
You have a message to relay and valuable knowledge to impart. Do it the right way.
Do it with confidence, do it with clarity and do it with the perfect freelance writing flow.
This is lesson 2 of the weekly beginner lesson series.
Come on in.
(For ya’ll skimmers)
Back to basics (conjunctions)……………………………………………
Your habits matter (writing procedures)……………………………..
Short and sweet or long and hard (sentence variation)……………
Quick question…..how was your day? (question use and engagement)
Chop it up (convention breaking)………………………………………
Just have some weed (writing frames)………………………………...
1. Back to basics
Ok…. So for our first section in this lesson, we’ve really gone back to school on this one, but hear me out.
This is something I’ve found many copywriters to use poorly and/or incorrectly, so it’s something I just had to address…….
Examples of these are
Fairly regularly, I see articles/blog posts that state a great premise or opening sentence; it’s funny, it’s catchy, it grabs my attention.
Unfortunately, the follow through to the bulk of their post is choppy; they try to hide it with humour and colloquialisms, jokes and then more jokes, and the worse culprit of all, unnecessary curse words.
These techniques just paper over the cracks, turning an entertaining blog post into a diary style entry.
It’s an amateur-ish approach that I often see excused with, ‘It’s a blog post not a book!’.
There’s never an excuse to cut corners, to cheapen your work by not valuing the details.
Link your ideas, let your sentences and thoughts flow, and STOP jumping from point to point.
The beauty of great copywriting lies in its simplicity.
However, simple doesn’t mean amateur.
Take your time to master the basics, to use conjunctions to manipulate your ebb and flow.
They help to connect your ideas, list your points effectively, and remove that broken and choppy feel from your posts.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER: A lack of fundamentals is the prime reason writing appears choppy and hesitant. Don't be too proud to go back to basics.
2. Your habits matter
Writing procedure: a set of actions you like to take before and as you write that assist in reaching your flow
Whether you create a detailed plan or write your introduction last, writing procedures help you to grease the groove-- to sink into the flow of your patterns.
Of course, plans aren’t always for everyone….
But procedures, the things you habitually do, those are conducive to your freelance writing flow.
Writing procedures can vary greatly from person to person, some create detailed structured plans, others draw flow charts, and some enjoy the simplicity of a morning jog before work.
For Haruki Murakami (author of international bestseller birthday girl), his procedure was as arduous and as disciplined as it gets.
‘When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.’ — Haruki Murakmi
For Stephen king, (a style much more to my liking), a more relaxed routine was his preferred approach.
‘There are certain things I do if I sit down to write... I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine.’ — Stephen King
All successful writers, copywriters and bloggers have a procedure, the things they do to take them to the places they go when they write.
They surround themselves with familiarity, encase themselves in rituals and memorised patterns, and repeatedly associate their flow with a given set of procedures.
Whether it’s done consciously or unconsciously, it’s through this repetition that they force the link to become natural and ingrained, (enabling them to initiate their flow at will).
If you find yourself stuck for hours before writing, if you find it hard to replicate a prior post, it’s likely you need to find YOUR freelance writing procedure.
So, get yourself started by identifying your habits, by embracing those habits and using them as a vehicle to reach your freelance writing flow.
Did you know: You’re not limited to one writing procedure. If you assign different procedures to different styles, its likely to trigger that corresponding flow.
3. Short and sweet or long and hard?
The easiest way to optimise your pacing is by using SENTENCE STRUCTURE.
LONG SENTENCES are prone for descriptive or informative pieces i.e. how-to’s, travel blog entries, thesis, tutorials.
SHORT SENTENCES are designed for impact i.e. Sales, persuasive texts, powerful blog posts, motivational articles.
With longer sentences, I can set a scene or answer a question. I can manipulate the ebb and flow of the information I provide, making it manageable for you to ingest.
I can be brief. Sharp. Impactful.
I can make you read slower……
Or faster, faster and faster.
Varying my sentence structures allows me to control the emotive outcome, to manipulate the cadence of my post.
This precise control of the tempo, (the abrupt stops and starts manipulating the rhythmic beat), has an influence on the reader that is much more than is initially perceived.
A fascinating study by Psychologist Annet Schirmer revealed that rhythmic sound ‘not only coordinates the behaviour of people in a group. It also coordinates their thinking – the mental processes of individuals become synchronised.’
That kinda makes sense, right?
We see evidence of this during a haka, where at its recital, a primal calling resonates through our bones.
We see evidence of this at concerts, where a song from 20 years prior, ignites the fiery embers of a forgotten youth.
And we see evidence of this in a great piece of writing, when a character who doesn’t exist, in a world that doesn’t exist, moves us to joyous tears, thunderous rage, and a soul-destroying grief.
Words aren’t just words.
And sentences aren’t just sentences.
Use sentence structure to control the tempo of your writing, to let its melody ring true, or…. if it calls for it, to let the silence shout.
Bitesize breakdown: Writing an impactful article is a bit like composing a song, you need to know when to pick up the beat and when to let the vocals play on their own.
4. Quick question…. How was your day?
When you’ve got a lot to say….
And you’re not too sure that people will care.
Do you say it anyway, hoping that someone relates?
Do you take proper precautions, ensuring that; if the information you provide isn’t edge-of-the-seat-thriller, then the journey you take them on is?
Questions act as leads.
Devices of engagement.
They involve the reader in your writing, ensuring that they’re still engaged, whilst making them feel a part of a larger conversation (a part of your tribe).
Always remember this—your job is to take your reader on a journey—a journey to somewhere unknown where they have lots to discover.
So, when you consistently speak as though you’re alone, as though your trekking this journey solo, that’s exactly how the reader begins to feel.
They watch from the outside in as YOU go on a discovery, as YOU go on that trip, as YOU cook that meal.
When you change your approach, when you INVOLVE the reader, when you ask them questions instead, it quickly becomes a conversation, a dialogue, a relationship.
Freelance writers, copywriters and bloggers never speak at their readers.
No, no, no
They speak to them.
They speak with them.
Find out what they think, how they are, what they want.
Learn everything you want and need to know about your audience, so your posts aren’t a sad depressing monologues, but a back and forth dialogue instead.
Key points to remember: Interaction is vital.
The most important flow is the one between you and your reader.
5. Chop it up (When writing blog posts)
When freelance writing, you’ll find that Copywriting posts, specifically blog posts, are unique in the fact that they break every paragraphing convention.
The only rule is that…… THERE ARE NO RULES.
You HAVE to wing it.
Writing is evolving in the age of social media, what was once a literary sin, is now a blogging must-do.
Chop it up.
Butcher your work.
Although it pains me to say it… it actually works.
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER: When writing blog posts, remember that the paragraphs should be short, don’t be scared to break away from the paragraphing norms to optimise your freelance writing flow
6. Just have some weed (When writing blog posts)
When freelance writing, the posts we are tasked to create can often be overloaded with information. Hence, when we begin to write this information up for our clients, it can be easy for our work to turn into convoluted messes that are difficult to follow.
Rather than a mess of tangled wires, you should always be striving for your posts to be an intricate design of logically placed threads, a literary spider’s web that aims to please and not frustrate.
Tug on one thread, and there needs to be a clear reverberation to another, a follow through from one point to the next.
To link ideas in a format that flows, that contains logical links to your reader, there is a writing structure called W.E.E.D, (coined by J.Godwin(2009)), which sets out how you should start.
I’ve detailed the frame below in a pinnable infographic:
Before you start your work, a little bit of w.e.e.d can you help you relax. It helps frame your work in a logical way, keeps your points flowing from section to section, and leaves your readers hungry for more (munchies anyone?).
Feel free to use this frame to help with your flow, or…… you can steal it, change it, and make it your own.
Whichever you decide, ensure that w.e.e.d or an iteration of w.e.e.d, is rolled up tightly in your copywriting toolbox
Key points to remember: Sometimes, it’s best to find your flow when you’re a little bit high.
Goodbye my minions
Wam bam and done! 6 EASY tips to improve the pacing of your writing and establish a unique copywriting flow.
Were you familiar with any of them? Better yet, do you have techniques I didn’t mention. Be sure to let me know in the comments blow, and make sure you stay tuned by subscribing so you never miss a post in this new weekly series.