Ten Ways to Tighten Your Writing & Hook the Reader

Great, simple, sensible edits….way to cut to the chase!!!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.40.52 AM Image via CellarDoorFilms W.A.N.A. Commons

When I used to edit for a living, I earned the moniker The Death Star because I can be a tad ruthless with prose. Today I hope to teach you guys to be a bit ruthless as well. Before we get started, I do have a quick favor to ask. Some of you may know that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so I’ve taken on our dojo’s blog to see if we can try out new and fun content and am using the moniker Dojo Diva.

I posted about how hard it is to begin and the fears that can ever keep us from starting. The way others try to stop us from doing anything remarkable. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories, so I hope you will stop by and get the discussion going.

Click the word “Comments” and a box should appear…

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We Don’t Need No Thought Control

A Buick in the Land of Lexus

we-dont-need-no-thought-contro

Our kids are in CRISIS.

I work with teenagers in an affluent suburban area.

They don’t comprehend what they read. They use calculators to multiply 10 x 10. The average high school junior has no clue what the word “diligent” means.

They write essays resembling those of a 5th grader. About how Albert Einstein discovered electricity.

In tests administered in reading, science and math to 15 year-olds globally, we are behind TWENTY NINE countries in math. And our kids’ performance in reading and science is  not much better. And yet, American investment in education is unrivaled, globally.

Are you scared yet?

We lead the world in the consumption of illegal recreational drugs. And one of the chief sales outlets?

Our SCHOOLS.

Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world.

EVERY DAY there are over 5,400 suicide attempts by kids in grades 7 – 12.

NOW are you scared?

The two places teenagers…

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Search and rescue

I tried to convey a similar thought in that we are all works in progress but you wrote this so succinctly and just spot on. There are no wrong answers, really. Thank you for sharing.

candidkay

My mother, when she was dying, said to me, “There are no wrong answers, Kris.”

She was speaking from the vantage point of someone who has nothing left to lose. Someone with the luxury of looking back on a life filled with worry about making the right choices and realizing, in the end, most of those choices become irrelevant.

I was torn between staying at her bedside and going back to Chicago to take care of my kids. I felt I did not have a choice. My kids needed me. I was the glue in our household. But my mother needed me also.

Recently, I was worrying about the right job, the right parenting, the right financial and life decisions. As I’m sure many of you do. Few of us are immune to trying to game the system for the best results.

choices, options, alternativesIn most situations, you can stay put until…

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Against All Odds—What’s Our REAL Chance of Becoming a Successful Author?

You hit the nail on the head in probably 95% of the cases where one doesn’t quite finish their manuscript. You can’t fail if you don’t finish. Thank you for a kick in the butt. 🙂

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook. Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Many of you were here for last week’s discussion regarding What Makes a Real Writer? When we decide to become professional writers, we have a lot of work ahead of us and sadly, most will not make the cut.

I know it’s a grossly inaccurate movie, but I love G.I. Jane. I recall a scene during Hell Week (the first evolution of S.E.A.L. training) where Master Chief has everyone doing butterfly kicks in the rain. He yells at the recruits to look to their left and look to their right, that statistically, those people will quit.

Who will be the first to ring that bell? Who will be the first to quit?

Image via www.freerepublic.com Image via http://www.freerepublic.com

Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is…

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Patience and Fishing

Family holidays aunder the riverside bridgere sometimes difficult for our son. It’s not that he doesn’t like being with family, he does. But his cousins, being quite older, have families of their own, leaving our son, the youngest by decades, kind of stuck with the old farts. In an effort to make sure he got to enjoy some of the pastimes he would like, we went fishing this morning. In fact, his uncle joined in. Frankly, I wasn’t sure said son would arise at an early hour but, surprisingly he did and we were on our way before 8am.

Promising to meet us at the bait shop, we took off before the uncle because, of course, I needed to indulge in my morning coffee. By the time we arrived at the bait shop ten minutes later, his uncle had not only purchased the proper hooks but a cupful of live bait (shrimp) as well. I have to acknowledge my gratitude at this point. I’m not a fisherman and the idea of skewering a cute little tiny shrimp wasn’t appealing at all.

Without driving all over the island, we decided to walk underneath the bridge and find a spot near the murky waters surrounding the concrete pilings. Besides two other fishing folks, we were the only ones. It was quiet, calm and the waters gently lapped the platform underneath. Having successfully baited the hook, my son cast as far as he was capable into the water We waited……and waited…..and waited some more. Casual conversation occupied our time as we waited for some unsuspecting fish to snap up the the shrimp. Behind my brother in law and my son, I noticed what appeared to be a floating boulder, which of course, was impossible. The boulder turned out to be a pelican flyingcouple of manatees making their way upstream. I would like to proclaim I captured their progress as they meandered upstream but I couldn’t get my camera set up in time. Suffice it to say, they are quite impressive.

Snappers seemed to be toying with my son as they breached the surface several times opposite of the location where my son was fishing. I even spotted on leaping almost twelve inches above the water. Of course, we decided to change our location, try a fresh shrimp and cast a little further out. During this waiting period,  I managed to capture a pelican in flight along with one preening his wings. All the while, my son and his uncle chatted nonchalantly. No nibbles, no tugs, nothing, nada, zip.

The snappers had moved to the other side of the bridge or at least their decoys had. Once again, my son moved to where they were making their existence known and once again, we switched bait and regrouped. After another forty minutes, he called it quits but unwittingly gained experience of learning patience. Patience is not his strong suit, nor apparently of teenagers in general these days. He’d garnered no fish, had only seen the manatee as it began to dive, hadngordon and chase‘t had a single nibble and other than witness a nearby flying pelican, the morning had been a dismal failure. But he came away feeling the time had been well spent.

There had been no text messages. He and his uncle had enjoyed a rare camaraderie. Baiting the hook hadn’t been nearly as gross as he anticipated and there’s just something mystical about early mornings, quiet fishing holes and the serene sound of water. It’s an imaginary throwback to the adventures of Huck Finn. In any case, what he did capture was a little slice of heaven he could tuck into his memory bank.

Happy Easter.

The Angst of Immaturity

My husband and I are at the stage where we watch our son in awe…..most of the time. Oh there’s the ups and downs of immaturity and the  aggravaSpencer,Alex,Chasetion thereof but yesterday was different.

Our son took to tennis like a duck takes to water about four years ago. Since then, he and his friends have taken lesson after lesson, clinic after clinic. When the summer temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels in the high eighties, most of the participants scrambled to the swimming pool. This group, however,  headed back out to the courts for another couple of hours of grinding a little yellow ball. I admire tenacity and determination. To have a goal and set out to at least try to achieve it, is a worthy aspiration. On the practical and pragmatic side, however, there is a harsh reality one must eventually address whether the goal is in athletics or academics. It is easy for a young dreamer to announce the desire to play in Wimbledon or perform with the New York City Ballet Company or simply compete in an Olympic event. It is quite another to fully comprehend the magnitude of the desire and knowing the cost, continue with the commitment no matter what results will yield. Yesterday, my son received a mere taste of what the future can hold.

High school athletics is rigorous, competitive and an invaluable experience. One year a particular high school will have attained notoriety in a specific sport only to return the next year barely hanging on to the bottom rung havtennis racquets.on.neting lost the bulk of the team to graduation. I can only liken the rise and fall of any high school’s athletic division to the undulating tides of the ocean – sometimes high, sometimes low. My son chose a high school closer to our home and in doing so, wound up on one of those high school tennis teams climbing up from the bottom rung. There were probably 5 students on the team and only 2 had participated in any formal training, one being our son. For those unfamiliar with tennis  lingo, which I wasn’t, Court 1 is considered the best court, the dreaded arena often referred to as the court of annihilation one wants to avoid unless properly prepared. It would be like having a Freshman suited up to play quarterback facing a defensive line made up completely of experienced seniors. Kind of takes the stuffing out of you.

It didn’t take long for the lineup to be formulated. A great, lanky, and talented sophomore played Court 1 and my son, my tall, wonderfully goofy, freshman son moved to Court 2. In one fell swoop, he was thrown into the deep end.  The remaining team members fell into place thereafter. Now, this was just our high school. There were approximately six other high schools to compete against. A few were in the same category as ours; limited number of players with equally limited experience. Others were highly regarded with a deep roster, exceptional experience, mostly comprised of seniors and carefully cultivated to dominate the competition. They did so quite well. However, our little team became the thorn in their sides, at first surprising, then annoying. While my son’s high school team didn’t do well overall in the standings, both Court 1 and Court 2 weren’t easily overcome.

The season ended yesterday with District competitions, another level involving another set of high schools,  some familiar, some completely unknown. Without being aware of the fact, my son was pushing his commitment into an unknown arena. He was facing competitors of unknown ability in front of friends, parents and other attendees for the opportunity to achieve the same goal as every other high school tennis participant: the chance to play in the finals, a lofty goal for an incoming freshman.

His first match was long and deliberate, controlled and executed. The opponent was no slouch but eventually my son prevailed. Because of a pass, he went straight into the semi finals against a player, a senior, he’d come close to beating twice. My son was chomping at the bit, eagerly ready to play, certain he could win and move to the finals.  Previously, their matches had been neck and neck so the opposing team player was rather surprised when my son won the first set handily. I’m sorry to report that’s when things began to go south. This is where the difference in age, the difference in competitive experience and the ability to pull it all together or simply keep it mentally together, is affected by immaturity. When a few of my son’s shots went awry, his frustration grew. Instead of taking a few moments to gather his wits and take a few breaths, he launched immediately into the next point with the same results. It didn’t take long for his opponent to capitalize on my son’s growing self aggravation and win the second set. My heart broke for my son. He wanted the win so much he could taste it but the possibility was rapidly slipping away.  It was a journey to a lesson he had to take on his own. A simple hug or thumbs up wasn’t going to make everything better. As parents, we aren’t allowed to coach our children during match play. The only thing I could manage to tell him, handing him a bottle of water was, “Getting angry isn’t going to help your game.” not really believing the statement would help.

As he went back out on to the court, however, a new young man emerged. I can’t readily confess he was no longer frustrated but for the first time, he took charge and began playing with his brain again. For the next ten minutes, emotion did not control his game and I saw a glimpse of the young man he is trying to become. When the tie breaker ended, he was the first man to the net to congratulate the winner. I couldn’t have been more proud. I’m not sure angst is the proper word to describe what teens go through but I’m fairly certain it’s the perfect word to describe what parents of teens go through.

Well done, son. Well done.

TheTrue Meaning of Love

Today was my birthday and I say that not to announce some sort of milestone but as a small tribute to my husband. As is our regular habit, hubby always prods and nudges me several times before the day.

“What would you like?”

“Is there something special I can get you?”

“Come on, honey. Give some sort of hint.”

My answer has always been the same over the years, oddly enough. Feeling blessed, I have always responded with the phrase. “Seriously, honey, I don’t need anything.”

Of course he never listens. The day before, like a man on a mission, he disappears for several hours. Upon his return, he usually places his special prize somewhere in safe hidey hole to wait for the next morning. When we first married, he would surprise me a pair of earrings or a necklace. All of these baubles were exciting to receive but considering our work involved manual labor, they weren’t something I could wear on an everyday basis. As time passed, his gifts took on a sensible vein.The first practical gift my hubby proudly presented was a brightly wrapped box definitely larger than a piece of jewelry. As I carefully peeled back the paper and lifted off the top, I discovered a salad shooter. A SALAD SHOOTER!!! He looked at me, waiting for my grateful reaction………he waited a long time, I’m sorry to say. I promptly filled the thing with carrots and took careful aim….

When we moved to Florida, dear hubby presented me with a brightly colored, huge umbrella for one birthday. After all, he reasoned, it rains quite a bit during the summer and now I wouldn’t get wet when it came time to feed the horses. After awhile, I waited in earnest to see what “practical” gift he would present next.

This year, when he asked what I wanted, I threw out a simple suggestion. “Honey, just get me some flowers. That would be perfect.”

During my first cup of coffee, hubby proudly placed a medium sized bag on the island along with two birthday cards. The cards were hilarious, as usual. Then I turned my attention to the bag. We’ve reached the age where wrapping is optional. So as I withdrew the box, I discovered this year’s gift was an “ultimate” blow dryer. I’m not sure if I have enough hair on my head to warrant such a powerful styling dryer. Nevertheless, his birthday presents always make me smile. We have had some good laughs over the years, let me tell you.

Here’s the thing though. Long ago, after I got over my snit at receiving a salad shooter, an umbrella, a gift certificate to have my car detailed, a crock pot, a blender and any other item I mistakenly regarded as ridiculous, I grew up. They say wisdom comes with age and hopefully I have achieved some measure of it. My husband’s gifts were his way of showing he knew me…..I mean he really watched over me. I love having salads; so he gave me a salad shooter. The horses had to be fed, rain or shine, thus an umbrella. I hate washing my car, hence a gift certificate. My favorite way to prepare a meal with our busy schedule is utilizing a crock pot, therefore, why not purchase a new one. When smoothies became my preferred breakfast choice, a top of the line blender would come in handy. All of these simple gifts were an extension of his consideration. As I looked at him, proudly presenting my latest birthday gift, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be married to someone who looks beyond the glitz, the bling, the baubles and genuinely observes what’s really important. And that was the best birthday present of all.