Friday, November 28, 2008

Literary Liposuction: Part Four

Lastly, Literary Liposuction wraps up with Wordiness, Repetition, Passive/Active Verbs and some final thoughts.


Lose the wordiness. If you can say something in five words, don’t take fifteen to do it.


Wordy: Jane decided she would order a pizza. Limping to the kitchen, she favored her wounded knee the whole way. Grabbing the telephone book, she tried to find a pizza place that delivered.

Tight: Jane, her wounded knee throbbing, limped to the kitchen and called Domino’s.


If you told us on page one that the Bob’s brother, Will, is a police officer, you don’t have to refer to Will as “Bob’s police officer brother” on page five. The reader will get it.


Passive: Jane was divorced by Bob. (The subject, Jane, is acted upon.)

Action: Bob divorced Jane. (The subject, Bob, performs the action.)

Passive: Jane was fooling around with Will. (Was is a linking verb and really performs no action, unless it’s to show time passage. If the fooling around happened in the past, keep the was. If it’s happening right now, lose it.)

Action: Jane fooled around with Will.

See the difference? Use action verbs whenever you can to keep a story tight and well-paced.

What you need to know about Tight Writing:

Tight Writing doesn’t just happen. It takes work.
Don’t try to write tight on your first draft. Work on tightening when you edit.
Tight and short are two different things. Don’t sacrifice clarity in place of length.

I hope this has all made sense and you've found some benefit in it. These are the tools I use when editing to tighten up my writing and I'm happy to share.


  1. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Thanks for these great posts, Kristen. I've really enjoyed them :)

  2. Passive verbs are evil. Especially in my latest WIP!

  3. Sounds great to me!
    I have a post waiting about passive verbs, but I think you said it better than me. Maybe I'll just link to this. :-)

  4. These are great posts and thing I need to be reminded of often.