Ten Ways to Tighten Your Writing & Hook the Reader

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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Not Knowing…

It’s Steam of Conciousness Saturday! The Prompt for today is:

….use a word, anywhere in your post, that begins with the prefix “de-.” Extra points if your word ends with “ed”! It’s all about the fun – have some!

socs-badgeBen-Josephesus is determined to boo and hiss, point and glare, and be one of the crowd at this afternoon’s crucifixion on the hill called Skull. He despises the mealy-mouthed man and his silent replies given to accusations  of blasphemy, and so, …he participated earlier in the curses of the Romans and jeers of his people. Now, as he follows the Nazarene who lumbers up the rocks, falls face down under the weight of that cross hewn from the wood of a mighty tree, (and still does not open his mouth in defense or beg for mercy) Ben-Josephesus reaches down for a hand of gravel and pummels the man whose blood already soaks him.  He deserves to die a cruel death. He has deceived many Jews, most of them ordinary fisherman, women, and those vile sinners who are not worthy of Jehovah’s notice.

The noon hour approaches as soldiers nail him to the wood, this man who preaches mercy and forgiveness of sin. They plug long steel nails into his hands and feet. There, now…they finally lift him high to hang until sundown. It is the Day of Preparation. Passover and the Sabbath are about to begin. At home, Ben-Josephesus’ wife  prepares the lamb that was sacrificed.  (Home, where she should be.)     Not like these women who stand a short way from the cross and mourn with cries and sobs like those of the lambs tied to two crossed poles,  heads up, shoulders fastened to the cross pole so the fires do not reach their head or scorch their unclean brains. Only a clean lamb can be sacrificed to Jehovah.

Three hours pass and the man who claims he is the Lamb of God lifts His own head towards heaven and speaks, ” Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Then he slumps, whispers, It is Finished and breathes a last sigh.

The women move closer to the Cross; they wait for him, whom they love, to be removed and laid down so they can prepare his desecrated body for burial. Their Day of Preparation. The sky darkens, no sun, no moon. Only three o’clock, thought Ben-Joseph. The earth shakes and rocks fall. He hurries home to his wife, ready to begin his Sabbath… not knowing what he has done.

Join in the fun of SOC! The link to the page

http://lindaghill.com/2015/04/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-415/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

Saturday Sream of Consciousness Promt: Pat-Cakes

Hello! Its Saturday and on Saturday I participate in Linda’s Steam of consciousness Prompt.

mother and childsocs-badge

Today’s prompt is pat/pet/pot/put

My mama likes to make what we called pat cakes.  Fun biscuits. We all get to make our own and we can pat them into shapes… any old thang we want. I  make a capital L for my name most often. Sometimes I’ll go all out on myself and make a crown shape. Younger brother  pats out worms.  He’ll roll the flour into skinny long snakes and then  chop them into short wormy thangs. I’ve done forgotten what my little sister makes. Most likely a work of fancy stuff so great it makes me feel like a stupid baby. STUPID. Mama says that’s an ugly word, but I say it anyway. STUPID. That’s why I forget the thangs my sister does ’cause of she always does them better than me.  This living with her has done turned me into a pitty-pot. Mama tells everyone I’m a pity-pot having a pity-party. Not sure what that means, but don’t think it’s so good. My pat cakes look the best until sister finishes hers. Then mine become pitiful lumps of flour. All I want to do was just eat worms…my brother’s worms. He don’t care for biscuits so his is up for anyone’s taking and eating. I care too much and am sure happy to eat them all. I don’t get to eat sister’s pat-cake biscuits because my mama saves them. Before anyone can gobble up those precious little cakes, she’ll say, “They’re so precious, I need to have them bronzed, like her baby shoes.” PRECIUOS. I will never say that word cause mama says it all the time about sister.  See…I only said it just once so you can see what mama says. Mama never has anything of mine bronzed. Little sister has a special shelf in the parlor lined up with her bronzed baby shoes,… bronzed first cup… bronzed first spoon. And right along side them, all in a row, mama puts her many, many bronzed pat-cakes. Sister is mama’s pet. I’m just her first child. No big deal at all.

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

Here’s the Link:

http://lindaghill.com/2015/03/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-1415/#respond

Aerial View of Camden, New Jersey, 2012

benfranklin bridge

“In a dream I saw a city invincible.”

-Walt Whitman
(inscribed on the walls of Camden City Hall
where the great American poet spent his final years.)

View of Camden, 2104

From an aerial view, the city appears blighted
gray smoke from the Ben Franklin Bridge south
even Philly, north, fares better, those sharp-witted
lights of brilliant history.

Boarded row home. Poppy packs powder in zip-locs,
loads them into his son’s backpack, soft and squishy,
explosives up middle-school noses. Says don’t come
home without the money. Daughter struggles with
homework. Poppy says don’t bother. Not necessary.

Red brick school building. Demolition red. Teacher sets
a timer, gestures students back to their desks
for silent independent reading. She pulls out her
own Sue Grafton novel. Teacher example. Yolanda
swears in Spanish. Home language so teacher ignores.
And reads on….

Kinsey Milhone, lady detective, draws her gun
and foils the robber’s break-in…

Quason grunts, takes out his high interest, low-level
book. Snorts from the rest, but they follow…

Kinsey drives her Volkswagon down a Santa Barbara
sea side road. Wind sprays the ocean, colors are warm golden hues…

Someone passes gas. Laughter shatters, fingers pinch noses.
Teacher rolls her eyes, keeps reading. Flies swerve around Joey’s
book bag. Teacher wishes to be Kinsey.

For twenty minutes sixteen troubled students pretend to read,
sleep, swat flies. One teacher gets lost in a world where
lady detectives solve all the problems.

-Leigh Mackelvey

 

.

Saturday Strem of Conciuosness Prompt: Get-a-Long Little Doggie

socs-badgeToday’s Prompt given by Linda is the word “go”

http://lindaghill.com/2015/03/06/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-715/

Please see her page for Rules and Join Us!

Get- a-Long Little Doggie

Not dog poop in  my yard,
Not dog poop anywhere at all.
If it’s fresh, the odor calls,
let’s one know where not
to let your foot fall.
Old poop gives no hint,
no print, no reason
to sprint far or
to avoid to aim
your handlebars.
So go away, please don’t
play in my nice yard,
disregard my garden chard.
Get-a-long little doggie,
and when you go,
don’t bother to send
a good-bye card.

When Sister Mary Prays

 

 

Never take your prayer for granted.

I’m at my computer praying right now for God to write through me. I often pray that it will be what He wants me to write, not what I want to write.

To ask Him to write through me simply means that because I’ve accepted Christ,  a part of God lives in me. Not that I’m a “small god” or anything like that. His  love and His power through His spirit is in me to help guide and protect me while I travel through this thing called life. I’ve accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He died in place of me because I’m not holy enough (no matter how many sacrifices or good works I do for God on my own) to deserve His forgiveness. The thing is, Jesus came to die for me and for anyone on this earth who desires forgiveness because He is the only perfect and holy sacrifice. He is worthy .He came to give us the news that God loves us enough to save us through His son. We don’t have to earn His love, or to be good enough to go Heaven. None us can ever be good enough. It sounds much too simple, and it is to a point. See, when I accepted Christ in my place and was forgiven by God, I was given His grace and mercy. Not to mention eternal life. God’s mercy, His grace, and the fact that I will someday die physically, but will live eternally with God and not apart from Him in Hell,  is a HUGE THING. And I can’t just go on living willy nilly,…being the same old me. If you really accept Christ, you no longer want to be that same old me….or you. God’s love in you gives you a desire to love others, to do good works, to obey God…not to get to heaven, but because He is changing you to be more like Christ. One of those changes is to ask Him continually to live His life through you. And to get where I want to get in this blog ( finally) I did some explanation before getting around to the reason for this specific post.

But it’s all for good, because I wanted you to understand why things happen when Sister Mary prays.  She has faith in the power of prayer because  she accepted Christ. She prayed for the suffering and the sick people of her community. God’s love inside her gave her a strong desire to pray. Because she prayed, thousands of people in her village in South Asia were led to Christ and their lives were transformed in many different ways. It started when God healed Sister Mary’s of a painful stomach disease. She experienced God’s power to heal and she just had to tell others. And…to pray for them. She didn’t take her prayers for granted. She knew God heard them all.

Mary, a simple wife and mother, tells her exciting story in the video below. I invite you to hear how God works in His people.

“When Sister Mary Prays” Video:

http://www.gfa.org/pray/when-sister-mary-prays/

Your prayer can also transform lives. Pray for the peoples in Asia who are widows, orphans, children. They need your prayers and your help. Remember, too, if you have never accepted the simple Gospel of Jesus, along with living a not so simple life on earth for Him, you can come before Him at any time, and anywhere you are. Ask for His grace and mercy by admitting that like me, you are not holy enough and that you need Jesus. He will be Holy in your place!

Find out more ways to pray for South Asia at http://www.gfa.org/pray/people-ministries/when-sister-mary-prays-4

when-sister-mary-prayswhen-sister-mary-prays-2

 

Prompt for SOC Saturday

socs-badge

SOC Prompt for 2-28-15:acquaint and/or friend
The Saturday SOC prompt is from the blog of lindaghil

http://lindaghill.com/2015/02/27/special-edition-friday-prompt-for-socs-february-2815/
Please Join in the Fun! Rules are on her blog…link above.

I had no idea where this was going, and I don’t think I got there!

It’s always hard to acquaint myself with someone I really want as a friend…and on the other hand, it’s easy for someone I don’t think I want as a friend to familiarize… rather quickly … themselves with me.

Am I a snob? I have to really be honest and say that at times, I am. There are certain qualifications I have at the top of my list for choosing a friend. Humorous, loyal, fun, and I want a friend who” gets me” and who I “get.”  Or is that whom? I don’t know and I don’t want my friend to know either. Maybe it’s more like I want my friend not to care. I especially want my friend not to point out any bad grammar, unless I’m asking for a proofread on my writing. No way do I want a friend to correct me when I’m speaking even when we’re alone. To correct me in front of others … most offensive and qualifies for a punch in the nose. There’s no right or wrong grammatical application to my fist flying into a part of the body. OK, I’d never do that, but I’d imagine it in full color.

So there I was at my “chosen” friend’s tea and book discussion. I tried hard to acquaint her with my amazing personality by commenting on how I once entertained royalty at a tea held in my home. It was a lie, but I  wanted her to have a complete realization about how many people…truly qualifiable people…enjoyed the way I told stories that lifted one into another world and could hold my own conversationally in any company. Her response wasn’t exactly what I desired.  I don’t think she believed me because it looked as if she was trying very hard to hold back laughter. When she asked me to name the royalty, I blubbered around a bit and came up with the “Earl of…  oh, what’s that kingdom’s name.”

So much for the hold on laughter…. and  embarrassed looks from several women.  I was avoided during the rest of the tea and whenever I tried to add to the discussion of the book of the month, someone interrupted.

Yet, there was this one lady.  She wasn’t much in the way of “fun to be with.” The entire tea, she hadn’t said a word. Just as  I was leaving, I felt her give my arm a gentle tug. She asked, with a straight face and seemingly in all sincerity, for advice on entertaining. royalty. She told me how impressed she was that I had entertained an Earl. I stared at her, waiting for a punch line, but none came.  My list of friend qualifications, aside, I asked her to come over on Saturday for lunch.

 

 

 

Girlhood ( after Billy Collins)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                   claras_dollhouse10

I’ve  always loved Billy Collin’s poetry. One of his poems, Boyhood, haunted me for a long time after I read it. It dawned on me that it brought back emotions related to my own childhood. I wrote the following poem for one of my MFA classes. I used a lot of Collin’s form and style. My critique group enjoyed it and gave me good feedback, but I never sent it off for publishing. Writing a poem after another poet is done in the poetry world as long as the poet gives note that it is “after” and then the poet’s name. I felt my poem was too similar to his, so I didn’t want to send it. However, I was looking through some of my old papers and there it was hidden beneath sheathes of free writes!  Again, it brought back feelings I’d left behind. It was as if I’d found an old friend.

I’ve decided to share it on my blog as a tribute to Billy Collins and as a tip for writers. It worked for me. and I hope others will find it a helpful tool in their writing toolbox. I was taught that it is a good thing for poets or writers in general to find a poet one likes and actually copy their style and form and even voice for while. I’ve done that with many poets I love. What I’ve found is that after awhile, I began to develop my own voice, my own style, and my own form of writing. Like I was taught…It’s Good Thing. So here’s my poem written after Billy Collins.

Girlhood
( After Billy Collins)
Leigh Mackelvey

I would lie beside my dollhouse in the attic
and level one eye against the largest window
to watch the plastic suited father sit downstairs

on the tiny sofa while the mother rocked
the pink-gowned girl in the  nursery upstairs,
an imaginary lullaby
filling and soothing the house
and me.

There was something about that time
before I reached my hand into the house
and moved the family
into other rooms.

It wasn’t the dishes the size of  my thumb,
unwashed in the pretend sink,
the miniscule posies on the nursery walls,

nor was it the sparkle of the silver-balled
evergreen on it’s round stand.
Not the orange glow of the battery-

lit logs in the wee fireplace.
What I wanted
was to be
calmed over and over

by that lullaby as I let it
drift slowly downstairs to the
father, then let it

melt  into
me
until there was
nothing left

but a softly sung song.

 

Now this is Billy Collin’s Poem! Much more gorgeous than mine.

BOYHOOD

Alone in the basement,
I would sometimes lower one eye
to the level of the narrow train track

to watch the puffing locomotive
pull the cars around a curve
then bear down on me with its dazzling eye.

What was in those moments
before I lifted my head and let the train
go rocking by under my nose?

I remember not caring much
about the fake grass or the buildings
that made up the miniature town.

The same went for the station and its master,
the crossing gates and flashing lights,
the milk car, the pencil-size logs,

the metallic men and women,
the dangling water tower,
and the round mirror for a pond.

All I wanted was to be blinded
over and over by this shaking light
as the train stuck fast to its oval course.

Or better still, to close my eyes,
to stay there on the cold narrow rails
and let the train tunnel through me

the way it tunneled through the mountain
painted the color of rock,
and then there would be nothing

but the long whistling through the dark –
no basement, no boy,
no everlasting summer afternoon.

— Billy Collins, past poet laureate USA