Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Flabby Prose is like Flabby Arms—Plus 6 Tips to Get Your Writing in Shape

by DiAnne Mills @DiAnnMills

Not so long ago, I took a critical look at myself, and I didn’t like what the mirror revealed. I have flabby arms. Some of you call these bat wings or fly-zones. 

I refer to them as dangling participles, nothing I want on me or in my writing. 

Now, I’m a small person, and I exercise and lift weights, but still the flabby arms persist. What was I doing wrong? Had my body become accustomed to the same exercises?

I refused to deal with the disgusting condition any longer. My commitment hit the no-turning-back level. I searched YouTube for videos guaranteed to make my arms firm and shapely.
Goodness! I live in Houston where sleeveless is a fact of life.
One of the videos captured my attention. The exercises were different from others, using ballet movements. After I completed a set, my arms ached.
Thrills! By Christmas, my arms should look substantially better. I’m so very excited.
Then I sat at my computer and focused on my latest novel, due November 1. I cringed. I stood and paced. The truth glared at me.
I had flabby prose. Not just an excess but lazy writing that shocked and angered me. After publishing for 14 years, why did my craft sound amateurish? Had my mind grown accustomed to the same words and methods of stringing together sentences? Why wasn’t I applying what I’d learned and taught at writing conferences?
Transparency is supposed to be healing. Right now it hurts.
I refused to deal with my lack of professionalism any longer. My commitment hit the no-turning-back level. Just like my flabby arms were under a new conditioning program, so would be my flabby prose.
6 Discoveries made While Toning My Flabby Prose
1. The more I challenge my voice, the better writer I become. We writers can sometimes grow too comfortable in our word choices and body language.
2. The more I read my favorite authors’ books, the better writer I become. Characters strengthen into real and unique heroes, heroines, and villains.
3. The more quality movies I see, the better writer I become. Dialogue, setting, and body language show am amazing and credible story.
4. The more time I spend with others, the better writer I become. I learn from their lives what’s critical in today’s world, and create my stories around those needs.
5. The more passion I develop for my story and characters, the more my writing comes alive. When I can’t eat or sleep because my characters are in the midst of a problem, I have a story that is real.
6. The more time I spend in prayer, the better writer I become. The story steps from the writer zone to the infinite possibilities of the great Creator.

Here’s my challenge to you. 
If your prose has grown lax, and flabbiness has inched its way into your writing, stop and assess you’re style. Bestselling writers gauge their writing habits so their stories reach into our hearts and never let us go. I want those qualities in every one of my stories.
My arms and writing are getting tighter and tighter. What about you?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

6 Discoveries best-selling author @DiAnnMills made while trimming flabby prose - on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

How is flabby prose like flabby arms? @DiAnnMills has the answer-and tips to help on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than sixty books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Visit her website at and connect with her on


  1. Thank you, DiAnn. Working our craft muscles is as important as a physical workout.

    1. Hi Henry, It's way too easy to write fluff. See you at the ACFW!

  2. Great article DiAnn and helpful for my arms (they do flap in the breeze) as well as my writing. I tend to go on for days and need to tighten my prose. Will be using your advice, for sure! Won't be in St. Louis, but maybe next year in Dallas. Love ya!

  3. I love this DiAnn! And oh, how I could identify--not only with with writing, but the arms as well. :-(
    Hugs, my friend!

    1. The arms have a lot to do with our . . . stage in life. :)

  4. DiAnn and Vonda, my arms were a problem way before I hit this "stage in life." :) Thanks for some valuable info. It just shows that no matter how long we've been writing, there's always more to learn and more growing to do. We all have to dig a little deeper.