What do you want? How badly do you want it? What are you willing to sacrifice? These are the questions we must ask not once, but daily. There is no success without the GRIND.
Or perhaps, the G.R.I.N.D.
Every day we have something to give that will keep propelling us forward. I love, love, love the movie Rocky. This is among my favorite quotes:
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. ~Rocky Balboa
Life does hit hard. I’ve been there more times than I can count.
Some of you know I was a high school drop out twice. I had the chance to simply get a GED but I chose to go back and finish even though I was embarrassingly older than my peers (19 in a class of 14 year-olds).
I worked hard at a community college until I won a full Air Force scholarship to become a doctor. Before I could enjoy that? I fell in an ice storm and broke my back.
My free ride was over. I took a job in a tiny mall store that sold motivational material. At the time, I couldn’t walk without a cane and while my coworkers spent the slow times chatting with friends on the phone, I read every single book in that store over and over and over.
I knew physically I was a mess, but I also appreciated that this was a meantime. It was the span of suck before my breakthrough. What could I do for my will? For my mind? How could I keep my spirit healthy while my body mended?
Life hits and worse, it will sucker punch you. We may not always be able to do the big stuff, but we can keep pressing with the small stuff because greatness is not a singular moment. Rather, greatness is the cumulation of a lot of hidden moments that have no glory.
We give our best because our energy is seed. We plant our dreams and faith in the world and in others and trust that eventually it will bear fruit and eventually give back.
If I don’t have enough or something? I give it. That is a huge reason for this blog. Today, I need encouragement, so I am giving it. Want more love? Give it. Want more skill? Help others hone theirs. Want more passion? Give it.
Life is an echo.
You want to do anything remarkable? Learn to be relentless. I heard someone once say that the richest place on earth is a graveyard because we cannot imagine what we’ve lost; the dreams, inventions, ideas that people took to their graves because they were afraid of failure.
One of the reasons I’ve always been such a pit bull is that my father was an extraordinarily talented man. Probably far more talented then I ever was. But he died penniless and working for $8 an hour in a bicycle shop. Why? Because the second anything got hard or gave pushback, he folded. For all we know, we lost one of the greatest writers of the 20th century because his fear was bigger than his faith.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that the harder life is pushing back? The better. Usually that is a sign we are doing something right.
Look back at your own life and I will guarantee you’ll see those times. You had a goal, a plan, and were actually seeing forward momentum then?
The AC in your house died, the car broke down, the kids got sick, the family decided to all go crazy simultaneously. You went from being ON FIRE to putting out nothing but grassfires.
Truth is, that’s a good sign. Keep pressing.
Invest in yourself. Talent is natural but it isn’t anything all that remarkable. Talent is nothing if it isn’t paired with skill. Skill is only something we can earn with blood and sweat and pain. We can’t earn skill on the sidelines, only on the mats. Hammering on our will, our mind, our craft day after day after day.
Skill only comes with failure.
Skill only comes with getting back up knowing we could fail again. Skill only comes when we appreciate that if we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting. Skill eventually rises out of the ashes of our failures because we have made all the wrong moves and so we begin to recognize the right ones.
Skill comes from reaching out to those who are better, wiser and asking for help. Skill comes from humility. Read craft books, take classes, ask questions then do it again and again and again.
No is one of the most powerful words in human language.
We must learn to say NO. We have to say it to ourselves. Right now I am training for my blue belt in Jiu Jitsu. After being sick so long my cardio is less than stellar so I am cycling in the mornings. Trust me, it ain’t easy being a chubby girl on a bike … which is why I am glad it is dark 😀 .
When the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and I want to sleep? NO. When I want to stop at 5 miles instead of 15? NO.
When I’d rather putter around the house and clean than edit or write my blog or research? NO.
I tell myself that I have a choice. No to now or no to later. I must give up what I want now for what I want most.
Learn to say no to toxic people. They will always have more drama they want us to fix. Learn to say no to the small leaks deflating your energy. Quit expecting average people to help you accomplish the extraordinary.
Conversely? Don’t take NO.
Back when I was in sales, my managers could not get over how good I was at cold calling. Most salespeople loathe cold calling with the power of a thousand suns because it is 99% rejection. Why was I successful? Because when they said “No” I heard… “Not yet.”
A lot of you are attending conferences. You might be pitching agents or sending out query letters. Expect rejection. Rejection isn’t always bad. Rejection isn’t NO. It is “Not YET.”
Go back and fix what you can. Move forward. Invest in your skill and then ask again. And again. If they won’t budge and you’re ready? Go around. Find your YES.
My book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World was with a major NYC agent for over a year. New York was unwilling to publish a book about social media even though my book didn’t rely on technology. I wrote it in such a way that it would always be relevant, and so didn’t have the typically short shelf life of this type of book.
I didn’t wait for them to change their minds, I published it anyway.
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam. We will find a way or we will make one. ~Hannibal
I hate those scams on late night TV that promise vast riches with no risk. That’s bunk. Our rewards exist in direct proportion to our risk. Risk big win big. Risk small and…yeah.
When we risk big, we can lose big. But we can also learn big. If we never fall from that kind of height, how can we learn to roll out of it? Dare daily. Dare to do something different, something meaningful. Nothing miraculous ever happened in the comfort zone.
When we dare to push ourselves outside of what we believe is possible, we discover talents we never knew existed. Yes, invest in your future but remember that today, THIS day, is the only one that matters. Because THIS day adds up. The only question is…
How are you going to use it?
Do you find yourself making excuses? Heck, I do. Do you find yourself spread too thinly “helping” others who are unwilling to help themselves? Are you afraid of failing? Do you feel selfish going after your dreams? Do you find yourself “waiting” on others? Does success seem unreachable? What dreams or goals have you attained that you never thought possible? What did you do? Sacrifice?
I love hearing from you!
Quick Announcement: Due to popular demand, THIS SATURDAY I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.
Again, I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
#1 by A.J. Goode on July 21, 2015 - 11:17 am
Reblogged this on A Goode One and commented:
I always learn something from Kristen Lamb’s blog, but this post REALLY hits home for me. It’s well worth taking the time to read, whether you’re a writer or just need a little pep talk.
#2 by Maria Jansson Photography on July 21, 2015 - 11:20 am
Truly an awesome blog post! The best I’ve read in a long time. Keep them coming!
#3 by Matt Kruze on July 21, 2015 - 11:24 am
Absolutely correct. I’ve been reading your posts for a while now Kristen and I never, never piggyback, but my blog basically says exactly this! If you have a look at thesecretsoftheirsuccess dot com you’ll see that all my guests basically say the same thing: nothing comes without hard work. Hope you don’t mind me mentioning my blog, it’s only because there’s a link and a common interest!
#4 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 21, 2015 - 11:42 am
Share away! It’s what this is for! 😀 ((HUGS))
#5 by Matt Kruze on July 21, 2015 - 2:11 pm
Thanks Kristen 🙂
#6 by mitziflyte on July 21, 2015 - 11:26 am
Reblogged this on Mitzi Flyte and commented:
It takes persistence….persistence and more persistence…Kristen Lamb tells it like it is.
#7 by D Joyce on July 21, 2015 - 11:34 am
MAHALO Kristen. Your blogs inspire and keep me on track. You write from your heart. Thank you for your energy, time, and inspiration.
#8 by 1stpeaksteve on July 21, 2015 - 11:40 am
I have a lot of ups and downs just like everyone else. Where people are quick to tout my talents or achievements; I reflect upon the many struggles I have overcome to make myself who I am today.
#9 by Marianne Gage on July 21, 2015 - 11:51 am
WOW!!!! Thanks so much for this post…..I’ve got to share it with my 20-something-year-old kids. What a kick in the pants for this now-or-never-50+-year-old trying to discern her passion and her purpose. Great blog…as always.
#10 by Monica-Marie Vincent on July 21, 2015 - 11:52 am
How long have you been lurking in my head?? Because that’s exactly what this feels like! I’ve been feeling a bit low & frustrated because everything (yes…I DO mean EVERYTHING) has been going to the dogs quicker than dog snot! I’ve been trying to feel a way back on track…..and then WHAMMO….you hit me RIGHT between the eyes with this. Thank you! Thank you from the very depth of my being thank you!
#11 by thesexiestwriter on July 21, 2015 - 12:03 pm
Many blogs will try to inspire by cheerleading. You get straight to the point. The only power that matters is the power we exercise. I was always talented, but I wasn’t a writer until I started writing, and some day with a lot of work I would like to be a skilled writer. We don’t get to the top of the hill by napping at the bottom.
#12 by thesexiestwriter on July 21, 2015 - 12:04 pm
Reblogged this on criticalsexualmass and commented:
Even when we know what we have to do, sometimes we have to be told
#13 by Chris Tryon on July 21, 2015 - 12:07 pm
Excellent! I LOVE your quotes. I could swear that we were twins separated at birth! I am a telemarketer on my way to becoming a Motivational Speaker and I can relate to your initial statement that: Rejection isn’t no, it’s not yet. Well done my friend!
#14 by Lynette Mirie on July 21, 2015 - 12:07 pm
You said you’re giving encouragement because that’s what you need. Well, the Bible says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Sometimes that “night” is really dark and seems like it goes on forever, but don’t give up cause morning is on the way.
#15 by Amy Gregory on July 21, 2015 - 12:08 pm
I love love love your blog, and save every email I receive. You have a canny knack for knowing exactly what I need to hear and when. Thank you for all you do to help us succeed!
#16 by Linda Rawlins on July 21, 2015 - 12:28 pm
Thank you Kristen! I personally needed that today of all days. I shared on my author FB page, twitter and LinkedIn. All my best to you and I applaud all your hard work. I am keeping the Rocky Quote close by! Always Love your blog by the way!
#17 by winonabennettcross on July 21, 2015 - 1:00 pm
This post, this specific post, came on day two of a severe depressive slump. About many things but the foundation is writing. Or, not writing–more like fear of failure, excuse making, yada, yada, yada.
Thank you so much for this!
#18 by Lucy Lit on July 21, 2015 - 1:49 pm
You are one of the few people who can get me on Twitter. *gasp* Had to tweet out this truth. Thanks for another stellar read, er, kick in the pants.
#19 by kimberlywenzler on July 21, 2015 - 2:06 pm
So inspiring. Thank you!!!
#20 by maryblackhill on July 21, 2015 - 2:14 pm
Thank you. I needed this today – when I feel guilty for buying another book on writing technique. When I feel guilty that Mummy is in her office tapping away while the housework is neglected and the kids are eating sausages, chips and beans *again* (easy. and doesn’t require me to think). I have faith in myself even though I can’t see the route up the mountain. And yes – I was at the gym today in spite of food poisoning from a family barbeque at the weekend. It’s not easy. If it were easy everyone who ever said “I’d like to write a book one day…” would have already done it. This blog is just so affirming for all of us who are grinding away and wondering if we’re really doing the right thing. Thank you.
#21 by Dharmesh on July 21, 2015 - 2:27 pm
Glad I didn’t skip it! Truly needed that Kristen, thanks a lot!
#22 by Renée Schafer Horton on July 21, 2015 - 3:12 pm
This is great. You are great. I don’t blog anymore (don’t hate me! It was sucking all my time from writing my novel!!), so I can’t reblog this but I could like you to FB and twitter? Wonder if that will count good enough to get into the hat?
#23 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 21, 2015 - 3:16 pm
Yes ma’am 😀 .
#24 by nancysegovia on July 21, 2015 - 3:27 pm
To be honest, I hate this blog. I cannot deal with the daily pain, when even sitting at a computer to do my daily, earn-a-living-job, causes me to break out in a pain-caused sweat that drips into my eyes and down my back, I don’t want to read motivational stuff. I read it any way, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t keep me spiritually healthy. It – excuse the language – pisses me off. I am tired of platitudes, I am tired of hurting. I am doing all I can and I am still stuck spinning my wheels in a swamp of pain, exhaustion and hopelessness. So, yeah, this blog falls in with the rest of the motivational stuff I read that doesn’t help. Take away the pain that goes from the base of my skull to the tip of my toes, and then maybe I can talk about it without anger, bitterness and hopelessness. Or, maybe I am just a loser. One of those people that have too much negative energy and are too much of a drain for anyone to deal with. That is always a possibility. Talk to you later, or not.
#25 by nancysegovia on July 21, 2015 - 4:31 pm
I sincerely and humbly apologize for the post I made above. You are a remarkable person who has overcome tremendous challenges and achieved victory. I am so sorry, I just don’t know how to handle chronic debilitating pain and I lash out at times. I simply cannot rise above. I don’t know how. Heck, some days I cannot even rise out of bed to use the bathroom. On those occasions I just lay there and pray the pain will ease before my bladder bursts. So far so good. However, that is no excuse for my wallowing in self-pity and for taking it out on such a goodhearted and kind person as yourself. I guess when it comes down to it, when I read a motivation blog like yours, I just feel like a loser in comparison. Anyway, I sincerely hope you will accept my apology and believe me when I say it will not happen again.
#26 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 21, 2015 - 7:35 pm
Oh, Sweetheart, I could never be mad at you. Trust me, when I broke my back, all I wanted was to punch Zig Ziglar in the FACE. I have been there. I had nerve pain for years (ergo the cane). It does grind on you, wears you down and steals your hope. And then SHINGLES. I just about got momentum and then down again. I guess I write this stuff for me, too so I don’t quit. Motivation often is like physical therapy. We yell and scream and curse but we trust it is good for us. And if you are in that kind of pain, take extra care of your spirit. ((BEAR HUG))
#27 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 21, 2015 - 9:42 pm
Just remember we have to start where we are. When we are suffering an illness, injury or debilitation our “GOING FOR IT!” might just be getting out of bed. That is a hard lesson. When I had Shingles, air hurt. I was super critical of myself because I was comparing myself to a healthy me and to others. It took time to give myself permission to be pissed off, to cry and to appreciate that sometimes, just wearing a BRA that day was a major accomplishment. I know where you are, Hon and you are not alone (((((HUGS)))) …but gently 🙂 .
#28 by Kelly Marshall on July 21, 2015 - 3:27 pm
Yours is the only blog I read anymore. Always, relevant and funny as hell
#29 by nancysegovia on July 21, 2015 - 3:29 pm
Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia.
#30 by handikwani02 on July 21, 2015 - 3:32 pm
A great post Kristen, if I had known all you have shared in this post I would have dared to take risks perhaps my life would not have been what it is today ( it is not bad but I did not push myself enough ) vaguely I am aware that I have natural talents but never had courage to develop them because I did not want to do anything outside my comfort zone because of fear of failure. Now I feel it is too late to try and develop them as I am past my prime. Thank you for this post I have learnt a lot from it.
#31 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 21, 2015 - 3:51 pm
Never too late. Georgia O’Keefe, Colonel Sanders, Stan Lee, Vera Wang, Julia Child, Ray Kroc and on and on and on. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. The only day that matters is today, THIS day 😉 .
#32 by handikwani02 on July 21, 2015 - 6:28 pm
Thank you for the encouragement.
#33 by Deborah Makarios on July 21, 2015 - 6:30 pm
I find that every time I take a step forward, there’s another step in front of me I couldn’t take before, but that now seems possible. Know what I mean? You can’t take life two stairs at a time, but you can keep moving onwards and upwards, one step at a time.
Lately I’ve been reading “Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande. An oldie but a goodie. Aimed at newbies, but I guess I’m still enough of a newbie to benefit from her advice on how to discipline your life to make the best writer of yourself that you can.
#34 by acflory on July 21, 2015 - 6:34 pm
-sigh- I was never a pit bull, as you put it, but I did learn the power of persistence. For me, moving forward is one tiny step every day. It’s also forgiveness, because I do procrastinate and I am terrified of failure, so when I wimp out I forgive myself, and try to take another small step. Is it working? Yes and no. I’m not making any money from my writing but I am still writing, and that’s enough for me. 🙂
#35 by David Villalva on July 21, 2015 - 6:50 pm
My first story coach offered me a refund (when I first began learning the craft). I’ve been grinding ever since. Well said.
#36 by Kathryn Jane on July 21, 2015 - 8:18 pm
Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
This one is worth reading… at least once a month! Thanks, Kristen 🙂
#37 by cleontico on July 21, 2015 - 10:16 pm
Hey Kristen! Thanks for another great article. I have so many ideas and goals I want to achieve and things I need to do. I’m in the beginning of highschool now and I’m trying to balance exercise and studying, fun and academics. Your advice is awesome!
#38 by ugiridharaprasad on July 22, 2015 - 1:33 am
Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.
#39 by ericamilesx on July 22, 2015 - 4:25 am
You’ve got such a sharp way of saying things, a unique way of showing love. Your unusual talent for language combined with your gritty slang make for an inspiring metamorphosis. When I read the truth in your blog, I no longer feel so alone or defeated, though I am mobility impaired and mostly homebound. But when my helper comes, if the weather’s okay, I’ll drive out on my scooter. And, of course, I’ll keep trying to market my novel, Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art and Desire. My work, too, contains both wisdom and profanity. I think that makes a great combination. Thanks so much for your encouragement! I’m a new subscriber, an now I’m hooked.
#40 by ericamilesx on July 22, 2015 - 4:32 am
Reblogged this on authorericamilesblog and commented:
Kristen Lamb’s unique take on love, survival, and writing.
#41 by Ileandra Young on July 22, 2015 - 4:59 am
Once again, Kristen, without even knowing me, you’ve said exactly what I needed to hear at just the right time.
There is so much going on in my life right now and all I feel is the brick wall I’m constantly butting against. All I see is the the cold, creepy dark of the yawning tunnel ahead of me with no light at the end.
But . . . GRIND. That’s what has brought me through before and that’s what will bring me through again. Things are harder than ever before, yes, but that’s because I’m doing more and yearning for more and reaching for more than ever before. As you say . . . that’s a good thing, right? 🙂
#42 by Arul on July 22, 2015 - 5:18 am
#43 by Mira Prabhu on July 22, 2015 - 6:08 am
Another great post, Kristen, reblogging, thanks.
#44 by Mira Prabhu on July 22, 2015 - 6:15 am
Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. ~Rocky Balboa
Kristen Lamb nails it again…yes, no success without the Grind. For instant, writing a novel is a monumental undertaking – not just in terms of work but in terms of receiving not just positive but negative feedback and making the most of it, of reworking, rewriting, and moving forward nevertheless – until one has a product that rings true. And the same principle applies to all aspects of our lives…read on…and thank you, Kristen Lamb.
#45 by ariefarnam on July 22, 2015 - 6:35 am
It’s a way of life. I may be pessimistic about the odds for serious writers these days but this is just how we live. You keep going, keep improving, keep risking. For most people it doesn’t end in any kind of achievement or victory, except that you live a life that feels good and you don’t have regrets. And that’s worth something. It would be great to be able to hear “not yet” instead of “no” when you are rejected. But even if you can’t muster the fantasy for that, you still keep going. It isn’t about outcome.
#46 by TraceyLynnTobin on July 22, 2015 - 7:18 am
Reblogged this on and commented:
I thought I’d reblog this post today because it full of TRUTH, of the variety that is sometimes difficult to remember. 😉
#47 by lonestarjake88 on July 22, 2015 - 7:43 am
Reblogged this on Lone Star Inspirations and commented:
This is a great article from Kristen Lamb! Check it out!
#48 by Jennette Fox on July 22, 2015 - 8:01 am
Thank you, Kristen for lighting a fire under me. I needed that.
#49 by Walker McKnight on July 22, 2015 - 8:01 am
“No to now or no to later” – just perfect.
#50 by KarenGordonAuthor on July 22, 2015 - 8:31 am
This also came exactly when I needed it. I lay in bed last night going over all the truths that I needed to hear and I realized that the things that are knocking me down and holding me back are all in my head. I’ve been letting the tape of negativity I learned in childhood play as background muzak for too long. This morning I consciously turned off the tape and did an entire destruction ceremony on it (in my head). Your story reminded me that there will be outside forces that might force me to take a step (or two) backward and I sure as hell don’t need to add to that with my own self-defeating thinking. I’m creating a “Read When I’m Down” file and putting this article on top. Thank you!
#51 by peaceablekingdomliving on July 22, 2015 - 10:12 am
This hits home with me right now. Powerful words that just helped jumpstart my day. Will repost on my brand new blog PeaceableKingdomLiving.com
#52 by newfsull on July 22, 2015 - 10:37 am
I get it. All the hard work, dedication, persistence, and doing things that better one’s ability to write; what I don’t get is the need to “cut to the chase” even before the race is announced. I accept that folks today live on a train that is going must faster than the old steam locomotive of yesterday; and I allow that the riveting influx of data, information, dare I say knowledge, is nothing less than living in a one story house without a roof, and forced to look up in the middle of a hail storm.
I don’t get the idea of having to hook a reader in my first few sentences; or finding it necessary to give them the essence of some inexplicable calamity that is about to lambast my central character, who I must by sentence five have the reader already fall “in love” with. Unless I accomplish such, I might as well have given the reader a blank set of pages where only the tears of my useless efforts lay smeared into the digital morass.
Yes, I believe some authors go way beyond that, and some are successful at doing so – the late Robert Jordan was a master in my opinion; thought many say he was too verbose. Maybe rather than cater to a public that is too busy to read a book, we might begin to peddle our trade as a means to slow down the masses who need slowing down. No one tells a songster to speed the song up cause they are in a hurry. If I announce at the beginning of my book that it will take someone ten hours or so to finish; why should they be in a tizzy to find out what the BIG plot is by sentence five?
I know, I know, I ponder all this at my own peril. Not to…..oh to hell with it….I will compare. I try and support indie writers and I buy, and attempt to read many of their books. More and more I find some incredible opening, a flurry of activity; sex seems to be popular; not a description of an ornate door knob on any page I turn to. The action just keeps on coming like one of those ridiculous Megatron movies; not a sentence out of place, yet, none have the ability to make two synapses snap at the same time. No poetry, no setting, no ambiance, no vast mental escape; just the dull snap of the machine as it becomes some other machine, neither capable of soul.
#53 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 22, 2015 - 1:38 pm
You don’t need the big plot by sentence five, but we have to feel connected and care. Pretty prose does not fiction make. And to say modern readers don’t want anything but sex scenes and explosions is inaccurate. We can look at some of the greatest writers of our time and see how they hook and do so with beautiful prose that is well spent weaving stories, not simply images.
Cormac McCarthy writes Pulitzer stuff (not sex and giant robots), but he hooks hard and hooks early. In “The Road” we start right off with Man and Boy in a problem; “When he woke in the woods in the dark and in the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.”
That is GORGEOUS writing and I am hooked. Why is it so dark? Why are they in the woods? What happened? Within three pages, we get they are filthy, cold and are starving. They are also hiding from “something” or “someone.” That piques curiosity.
“No Country for Old Men”‘s FIRST TWO LINES are: “I sent one boy to the gas chamber at Huntsville. One and only one.”
When we meet the protagonist after the opening, the FIRST sentence is “The deputy left Chigurh standing in the corner of the office with his hands cuffed behind him while he sat in a swivel chair and took off his hat and put up his feet and called Lamar on the mobile.”
We start right off the bat with a lawman in his office with a criminal cuffed in the corner. What is going ON?
Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” begins with the line, “My father has asked me to replace my mother, whose seat at the mah jong table has been empty since she died two months ago. My father thinks she was killed by her own thoughts.”
The book is about her resolving her anger with her mother who left two twin girls to die during wartime. She never forgave her mother, was always disconnected and her mother went to her grave guilty. Will the protagonist when faced with the story problem learn to forgive her mother and HERSELF? OR will she carry the past to the next generation. We get RIGHT to the story. This book also won a Pulitzer.
“Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell begins with: “Ree Dolly stood at the break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat.” The next few sentences describe carcasses hanging from saplings near shacks and Ree is outside when snow is coming in nothing but combat boots and a sundress (characterization). It is clear from description she lives in an area SO poor they can only eat what they manage to hunt and kill.
Within a couple pages the law shows up to tell her that her father skipped bail and they will be homeless in three days because he put their trailer and land up for his bond. See, we are in a PROBLEM. Woodrell does a beautiful job of scene setting but it is with PURPOSE. It isn’t a travel brochure or an essay. It isn’t written from afar where he relays a problem. We are PART of the problem. He wants us to know Ree is almost destitute with no food and winter is coming hard and fast and finding her father is literally life or death.
Fiction is not essay writing. Fiction is about problems, plain and simple. No problem no story and if we take twenty pages to get to a problem, we become like that relative who takes twenty minutes to get to the point 😉 .
#54 by newfsull on July 22, 2015 - 1:52 pm
Using Cormac McCarthy is unfair; as one can take only one chapter per week – but, yes he is genius of a sort.
Perhaps I was not without hyperbole in my remarks. Thank you for taking the time to scold me properly.
Maybe I love the grand prose too much
#55 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 22, 2015 - 2:05 pm
I do recommend going and looking at the best-sellers and the literary listings. How do they open their books? Even if it is literary, which is notorious for heavy description and lofty prose, it is almost always opening in a PROBLEM. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel is current literary fiction and an actor playing King Lear drops dead by page TWO.
You can love the grand prose, but it has to serve a PURPOSE other than description. It has to HOOK us into a PROBLEM. When I read your pages, your problem wasn’t description or prose (your writing is actually lovely), only you were describing the WRONG stuff and everything was going too nicely. Feel free to describe the snow and the dogs and the mountains, but then let storm clouds curdle on the horizon and WORRY the protagonist because it will worry US. Or let someone warn that it is too warm and they just came back from working an avalanche. There HAS to be PROBLEMS or we are just reading an essay.
#56 by newfsull on July 22, 2015 - 3:26 pm
Oh sure, bring my personal writing into this. I am sooooooo embarrassed. Not.
I am taking too much of your time, and I thank you for the input….seven pages in She ends up in a raging snowstorm and stranded on a pack of Ice moving into the coal and expansive North Ocean – and that is the least of her problems – I just took too long getting there.
#57 by newfsull on July 22, 2015 - 3:27 pm
#58 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 22, 2015 - 5:23 pm
Not necessarily. Just “hint” that something will go amiss. Then the pretty weather makes us even more tense. But there was no foreshadowing that something might go wrong 😉 .
#59 by newfsull on July 23, 2015 - 6:25 am
Sorry! Meant to say – 7 pgs beyond what I gave you – that is what actually happens. I was late it would appear
#60 by wideandawake on July 22, 2015 - 10:59 am
wow….this is the very first post of yours that I have read as I am new..
it was really very inspiring and I am speechless about how it is working on me..thank you very much and I wish that someday I turn out to be a writer like you:)
#61 by Will Pennington on July 22, 2015 - 1:44 pm
Excellent post! I especially like giving back. My life is so blessed; although there have been ups and downs, I’ve never been dashed onto the rocks by outside circumstances and had to hit bottom. I think my personal rock bottom, though, was my almost complete lack of self-worth for many years. Somehow, I managed to keep an optimistic view of the future that eventually became reality. I’m not rich, I still have a mortgage, but I’m happy and feel that my life has been successful.
So many parts of GRIND accompanied me in life that giving back has become important.
Great post. I love this.
#62 by sbjamestheauthor on July 22, 2015 - 8:02 pm
So great! I needed this as I move forward and plan to take my writing to the next level!
#63 by Hannah Murphy on July 22, 2015 - 10:43 pm
I stumbled upon this while my baby is refusing to sleep without me in his sight. I only recently got back into the groove of writing, but I feel like a fire has again been lit inside me. I have no intention of putting it out. This article is so on point. Thank you for sharing.
#64 by angelalovesbooks on July 23, 2015 - 2:38 am
From South Africa, I send your compliments on your relevant and useful blog for writers.
#65 by Rachel Thompson on July 23, 2015 - 9:27 am
I had a worse time than you, things were so bad I attempted suicide several times and that was before I crashed a motorcycle, got run over, and was set on fire. I started life poor became almost a millionaire and lost everything twice. Waxing philosophical, struggling so hard for what you want is overrated–it eats away your life. One should not have to kill yourself over something you love. Doing is the pleasure, not achieving a goal per se. Living well is all that matters ( Having nearly died I can say that now). Writing well is a good goal; working at becoming a best seller is a soul crusher. Run yourself ragged for what? Life is too short to fritter it away in pursuit of ego confirmation–that’s what sociopaths do. Yeah recognition is nice but it’s not the end game– enjoying the moment while writing well is much better. “Blood sweat and pain,” Is not a life style I’d support. I did it ,it wasn’t pretty, it cost me far too much living and in the end, it was pointless.
#66 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 23, 2015 - 10:19 am
Well, we have to make sure we are sacrificing for the right things, that our WHY is solid. Too many people just want success to drop in their laps. Whether that is being a successful spouse, parent, writer, or whatever. That is a myth. It is a lot of hard WORK. We have to give up to gain. Life is not a scratch off. “Living Well” includes putting up boundaries, saying no, walling off toxic people and ideas, giving up fluff for what is meaningful.
#67 by kellylmckenzie on July 23, 2015 - 1:06 pm
Rejection isn’t no. It’s not yet. Brilliant. Thank you for this.
#68 by mdellert on July 24, 2015 - 7:25 am
Reblogged this on MDellert-dot-Com and commented:
“the span of suck” That time when everything you do, everything you say, everything you are, just seems to suck. And then you get it. It all makes sense. You’re an “expert.” That’s what the GRIND is all about. Getting through one’s “span of suck” to emerge successful on the other side. Great article from Kristen Lamb.
#69 by valentinelogar on July 25, 2015 - 9:48 am
Reblogged this on QBG_Tilted Tiara and commented:
Finding new inspiration, always a great way of starting any day. Struggling with writers block, blogger block .. hell everything block then reading this brings things into focus. Worth the read.
#70 by thestressedmess on July 26, 2015 - 6:36 am
hey! your blog is so inspirational. i only just started out on wordpress and i was hoping i could get an unbiased opinion on my first post? i would really appreciate it. everybody else, please feel free to give it a look!
#71 by Joanne Tailele on July 26, 2015 - 6:52 am
Great article and perfect timing as I am querying agents for my latest story.
So true how things hit you just as you think you are getting up.
Working hard on homing my craft, I was so excited about attending the WFWA conference when unexpected expenses came up that made that impossible, But I am deep in the GRIND and not giving up.
#72 by James Cornwell on July 27, 2015 - 4:05 pm
Thanks for the extra-great blog post today. We’re in the querying process for getting an agent as well–and we’re published authors already! Getting turned down or ignored so often is disheartening, but this post gave me a little extra oomph today. Thanks again! –James, Cornwell Creative Studios; Chico, California
#73 by betterhopebetterme on July 28, 2015 - 7:21 am
Reblogged this on betterhopebetterme and commented:
Her blog never disappoints!!!
#74 by aurorajeanalexander on July 28, 2015 - 3:36 pm
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Kristen Lamb published an amazing motivational post that it definitely is worth re-blogging. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. She is a great person and an expert who know what she talks about. Thank you Kristen!
#75 by Christie Wright Wild on July 28, 2015 - 5:44 pm
I just love all your posts! Even though they’re long. Yours are the only LONG ones I ever read. All the others have to be short or I won’t read them. Kudos. And by the way, I highly doubt you are chubby the least bit.