All About the Transitions (plus Ice Cream in Hell)

Most of you know that I edit manuscripts and queries and synopses. I’ve had some great times with those, let me tell you. But less well known are my epic adventures in college admissions essay-editing.

A few hours ago, I was working with one of my students on one of those very essays and was dismayed to find that his first drafts were stiff, stilted, and just altogether uninteresting. This student is a great conversationalist, so I was surprised that he couldn’t make his amazing “I-got-my-life-back-together” story more interesting on paper. After a few sentences, though, I noticed a distinctive pattern to his writing.

He was just listing facts in order.

“I did this. Then I did that. And also I did this. And then I felt this way.”

When I typed him a response back, I stumbled upon my own little nugget of wisdom. (See conversation below)

Student:  Dang. You’re an impressive woman

Me: People pay me to make their words sound better. I sure as heck better be. But I’ll tell you a secret. It’s all about the transitions. A lot of people just write declarative sentence after declarative sentence. “I went to the movies. Then I went to ice cream. Then I went to hell.” Boring. “I went to the movies when I was suddenly struck by the urge to consume ice cream. Little did I know that my favorite ice cream spot had been swallowed up by an earthquake and had descended straight to hell!” on the other hand . . . . Also, I made that up. Just now. That will be my new flash fiction story: “Ice Cream in Hell”

Student: Instant classic

Me: HELL yes (See what I did there?)

Student: You’re hilarious. I guess I’ll work on the next one. I’ll send it to you when I’m done.

(ten minutes elapse)

Student: YOU’VE RUINED ME

Me (now very worried): ?????

Student: NOW I HATE MYSELF FOR NOT WRITING GOOD TRANSITIONS. I CAN’T DO IT. IT’S HARD.

Me: That’s why you have me

Student: I’M UPSET. HALP. PLZ.

Me: I will help you, you dork. Just word vomit at me, and we’ll fix it together.

Student: FINE

I think my work here is done, no? So there you have it. I’m all about them sexy transitions. Use them well, my young apprentices. Use them well.

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