Work off the fat from overwritten descriptions

Consider the following paragraph:

Fabio’s robust, bulging arms swathed themselves in a bronze casing about Shannon’s flawless, wilting body. Her velvety, wine-colored lips arched toward his as her sparkling sapphire eyes gazed into his brilliant, glowing emerald pupils and she in turn sheathed his body with her elongated, graceful, snow white arms. They were one at last.

Wasn’t that pretty?

Maybe, if you like pigs with lipstick. It’s a good example of fat writing.

Fat writing, a term coined by CSFW’s Sarah Smith, is “unnecessary and grandiose verbiage.” You may have heard writing instructors refer to it as “verdant greenery” or “purple prose.”

You want to trim the fat off your writing. If you stuff it with grandiosities, you’re just showing off, or demonstrating your writing skills not to advance the story but merely to prove you’ve got a way with words. Okay, so maybe you’re good at creating a clever image with consonance and alliteration, but what is the point of that image if it doesn’t advance the story? It’s just fat on your piece…and while your story can be lean, muscled or curvy, you don’t want flab hanging from it.

Fixing it is easy: Simplify your sentences and say exactly what you mean. For example, the first paragraph could be rewritten as: Fabio and Shannon embraced and gazed into one another’s eyes. They were one at last. Notice how all of the extra adverbs and adjective were deleted.

Giving your writing a good liposuction doesn’t mean it can’t be evocative or sensual. Quite the contrary. It will be more so after you’ve toned and shaped your sentences.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.