Thursday, January 09, 2014

Writing Examples - First Person Past Tense

So far, I've learned a few things about myself and my writing style. First, it is really hard for me to free-write without editing. I always knew that, but now it's obvious. I'm used to writing a first draft for school projects or college essays and just turning them in without re-writing or editing much at all. Generally, this is because I edit as I go. So, I will say that what I'm including as my examples of writing below are as "free write" as I can make myself be right now. The second thing I've learned is it's really hard to stick with writing in the first person past tense - I tend to want to throw in some present tense, and it gets really awkward. I'm hoping I was able to keep it all in the past tense, but feel free to comment if I'm incorrect!

I'm about halfway through my goals for this week. I still need a 30 minute block of free-writing practice for third-person past tense point of view focusing on character development.

Here is my work so far this week:

One paragraph free writes for both points of view:
  1. 1st person past tense:
    When I woke up that morning, it was dark out. I glanced over at the clock and saw that it was nearly 9am. Why was it still so dark? I pulled aside the lightweight curtains near my bedside window and looked out. The sky was deep gray, nearly black, and large snowflakes drifted slowly to the ground. Snowflakes? In May? I looked again, more closely, and eventually recognized that large pieces of ash were drifting down, even some burning embers, and a deep red glow lit the horizon.
  2.  Third person limited omniscience past tense:
    Jason watched the large pieces of ash drifting in the wind, and wondered what was happening. Could it be a volcano or a forest fire? He lived in the Midwest for crying out loud! What could be causing such a strange phenomenon? He saw that the wind was blowing the ash towards his house from the direction of the glow. Whatever was out there, was headed closer to him and everything he loved.
30 minutes of character development for Jason in first person past tense:

I stayed in bed for as many hours as I could stand, watching the hands of my watch tick past 1am, 2am, then 3am. The glow of the flames reflecting from the lake and the thick smell of smoke in the air kept me from nodding off. I glanced at my reflection, stopping to run my fingers over the dark circles under my eyes. Everything I ever cared about was in danger. How could I sleep at a time like this?

I knew in my head that the flames shouldn’t be able to cross the lake towards the house, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my animals. Could they breathe with all this smoke in the air? Did I do enough to try to get them out?

The fire had been burning for almost a week. At first, it was just a few hints of smoke, and didn’t even make the morning news. Then, my neighbors evacuated. A day later, the power lines burned. I was struggling through each day without any updates from the local news, relying on my own brainpower and limited brawn. The simplest of tasks took twice as long. Instead of a quick shower every day, I was now braving the nearest section of lake with a fragment of bar soap left over from a hotel trip as often as I could stand it. My clothes now smelled permanently of smoke, so I didn’t both trying to wash them, but the drifting ashes formed a grit on my skin that I tried to wash off whenever I could.

I had spent two days making sure my animals were as safe as possible. The lake formed a natural firebreak before my house and personal yard, but some of the goats were fenced in on the other side of the lake. Rather than risk stranding myself if a rogue fire started near the road, I took the small rowboat back and forth across the lake rescuing them a few at a time. The ones that didn’t come near enough to the lake, I had to assume would either fend for themselves or may have already succumbed to smoke inhalation.

The backyard was completely fenced, so I brought the goats in and locked the gate. The vegetable and flowers gardens were the first casualties, but at least I didn’t have to worry about keep the grass trimmed. I took a few buckets of water at a time from the lake and wet down anything flammable within sight – the wooden storage shed, the woodpile, even last fall’s leaves that were still composting. I spent another day chopping down any trees that were nearby, and tossing the wood into the lake. Every so often, a burning ember would drift into my backyard, so I kept my eyes open as much as possible.

I tried not to think about where the fire would go once it passed my property. I knew it had to pass my property, otherwise everything I ever cared about would be gone. This wasn’t what I signed up for when I bought my small farm. I thought it would be a utopia – no people around to distract me from what I wanted to do, working in the dirt, with the animals, raising a better breed of goats for the sheer difficulty of it. I had increased their milk production by 5% with the second generation. Now I wasn’t even milking everyday, much less tracking any information. Even when I did milk them, there was nowhere to store or process the milk since the power was out.

Before my cell ran out of battery, I received a call from one of my local distributors. He was concerned about being able to promise his local store a certain amount of organic milk and cheese and wanted to make sure I would fulfill my contract. I told him to stick his organic cheese in his ears if he didn’t want to hear me curse him out. I hung up on him, just in case he really wanted to hear me curse, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

2014 Goals

I think that I've finally decided to pursue writing as more than a "someday" goal and make it a "now" goal. I haven't written in my blog in years, but I do want to start using this blog as a way to track my goal progress and publish short stories on my path to my main goal: self-publishing a novel.

So here are my goals for this week:

  • Decide on two main writing points of view that I would like to develop
  • Practice developing a believable character
  • Commit to 30 minutes of a free-write in each point of view developing the same character
As I make progress, I plan on publishing more posts which include examples of my work from the week. My overall goal for this year is to finally finish one of the myriad of novel ideas I have floating around in my random brain. The random brain is that portion of the brain that operates mainly while sleep deprived. Because I have a 10 month old baby that still wakes up in the middle of the night, that portion of my brain has been running rampant for the past few months.

I need to get those ideas out of random and put them into a format that other people can understand. Why do I feel this need? One of the reasons I've never been committed to finishing a novel (other than my general lack of commitment) is that I don't really feel the need for other people to see my work. However, after reading approximately 500 free e-books, I've realized that maybe other people need to read my novels. I've read too many novels where the main voice is agnostic or atheistic because of some "Christian" theme which is incorrect (for example that God doesn't love gays, which is completely untrue). I've also read too many "Christian-themed" novels that don't develop any type of Christian theme, but just say that the characters are Christian. If you claim to be a Christian, your character should develop over time in some way (and also have some type of moral imperative such as not sleeping together before marriage). Yes, we are not perfect, but we should at least be striving for something.

I plan on focusing mainly on writing fiction books with Christian themes, not Christian books. I feel like many of the "contemporary Christian" novels are sappy and cheesy and don't really have much story. I want the story to take precedence, and use that story to convince readers of the inherent worth in the Christian point of view without browbeating anyone... I know that's an insanely high standard to hold myself to, and I will likely fail to some degree. But I have determined that the benefits outweigh the risks and can't wait to get started! Look for more to come as I make progress on my weekly goals.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Money Saving Mom

The Money Saving Mom blog is one of several that I read that help me stay on track. They motivate me to do my best and save money while being a better Christian example of a good mom and wife. Crystal Paine, Money Saving Mom blogger, has recently come out with a new book, The Money Saving Mom's Budget. I'm looking forward to reading more about what she has to offer in this new format.

Pre-order Now!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cloth Diapering Journeys

I've determined a few things while starting my cloth diaper journey. Picking one method and sticking with it is much cheaper, unless you make the wrong choice. Here are a couple of the methods I've tried with the pro's and con's. I will have a few follow up articles with my suggestions as far as brands/prices/places to buy.

  1. Pre-folds and covers. This is by far the cheapest route to go when cloth diapering. I didn't find it that difficult to fold the prefold and put it inside the cover (we used velcro or snap covers, so we did not need to pin). However, my husband vetoed this idea as being too difficult. Since I do want him to at least know how to change a diaper, I went with his decision. If my husband were okay with it, I would definitely go this route.
  2. One-size pocket diapers. This is probably the second cheapest route, if you find a pocket diaper that really works for your baby all the way from birth through potty training. My recommendation (especially if you have a very small newborn) would actually be to buy newborn size diapers (either pre-fold or pocket or even disposables if you prefer for the beginning) and then use the one-size once the child is about 3 months or so. This will help with a better fit. However, I have used one-size diapers since my baby was about 9 pounds.
  3. Sized pocket diapers. One method I have not tried. More expensive, but probably get a better fit.
  4. Fitted cloth diapers and covers. Another method  I have not tried. Presumably less folding, but I'm not sure it's worth the added expense.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Birth Story

I've been writing and editing this post for almost 5 months now! This is Daniel's birth story. We'll start at about 6 weeks before my labor actually started. At that point, Daniel was head down deep in my pelvis with his head turned slightly to the left. The doctors actually ordered an ultrasound because I was measuring "small for dates". Everything checked out fine and he actually weighed 5 pounds 6 ounces at that time (approximately) which was a little ahead of schedule. I figure the low measurement was because he was literally that low in my pelvis.

Well, he stayed that low in my pelvis, head down, for the remainder of the pregnancy. It was great news for labor, because he was unlikely to be breech. However, I did start to have terrible hip pain. I suffered through as long as I could, but finally begged my doctor for a note to get off of work so I could rest up. I managed to get the note at my 38 week appointment and my last day of work was August 13th. I had been going to see a chiropractor, but it was not helping. Sometimes I could actually feel his little hands poking me in my hip joint.

I lost my mucus plug a little at a time during the 38th week. For Thomas's birthday, we ordered a pizza. I went to pick it up, and even checked the box in the car to see if our toppings were right (all pepperoni with half tomatoes and half onions). I saw the tomatoes and onions and figured we were fine. When I got home, we saw they had left the pepperoni off of the entire pizza! I had a serious meltdown. Crying, wailing, could not be comforted. Thomas had to call the pizza place and get them to send us a new pizza. When I told my mom later, she said she thought I would go into labor soon.

At my 39 week visit (technically I was 38 weeks and 6 days) I was "2.5" centimeters dilated and 70% effaced. The cervical exam was painful (which was not normal for me) and I had spotting after the exam for the rest of the day, which I had never had before with any of my prenatal exams. The whole rest of the day I felt very icky. I went out to dinner with some friends, despite feeling bad. I was planning on going the next day to a date night at church and told our friends that we would most likely be there unless we had the baby. When I got home from dinner, I went straight to bed at about 8:30pm.

A little after midnight, I woke up to pee. I noticed that I was having contractions. I had not had any noticeable Braxton Hicks, so this was my first experience with contractions. The contractions weren't painful, but I noticed that they were pretty regular. I tried to go back to sleep, but it was really distracting knowing that I was having contractions every 5 minutes. I knew the first part of labor could take awhile and I could still walk through the contractions, but I was getting a little worried that I wouldn't know when I was in late active labor since the contractions weren't very painful. My mother and her sister both had natural labors and births and said that contractions were "a little like menstrual cramps" or "like a backache" and "then you go to the hospital and get a baby".

I played on the computer for a little while to distract myself, and then finally decided to go wake Thomas up and let him know. I woke him up (he had stayed up late playing video games, so he was pretty tired) and we started to finish packing our hospital bag (I know, we should have done this earlier). We were planning on going to walk around Walmart for a little while until the contractions got too bad. By this time it was about 3:30am. We had to stop to get gas, and sitting in the car was making my contractions feel more uncomfortable, so we decided to go ahead to the hospital.

When we got to the hospital, there was nobody at the check-in station for the Labor and Delivery so we had to wait about 10 minutes. The on-call secretary had apparently had to step out for a few minutes. We got checked in, and I had pre-registered, but it still took awhile to check in. It was about 4:45am when we were taken back to the triage area. They said I was 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced and strapped me to some monitors. They said they would monitor for an hour, but it actually ended up being an hour and a half.

My contractions still weren't very painful, but they were about 5 minutes apart and after the hour and a half of monitoring, I had made some progress (4 cm and 80%). So, they took me back to a room. They knew I was doing natural labor, which I guess is why they assigned me to the room at the FARTHEST end of the hall. It took forever to get there, because I kept having to stop and relax against Thomas every time I had a contraction. They said they were very busy that night because of a low pressure system and a full moon coming up.

My doctor popped in to say "Hi" when she came on shift. The nurse was wonderful. She was an answer to prayer. Considering that the epidural rate at this hospital was about 98%, she was very supportive of natural birth. The only thing she asked was whether I wanted to be asked if I wanted drugs or if I would ask. I told her I would ask my husband first if I really thought I needed something and if we agreed, then we would ask. She reminded us that once I got to 8 cm I wouldn't be able to have anything. I thanked her, and she didn't mention it again.

I had discussed the monitoring with my doctors and they said they would have to do at least minimal monitoring of 20 minutes every hour. The nurse said that they did have a telemetry machine so that I could walk around and still be on the monitor. It took over an hour to track the machine down and another half hour for them to figure out how to set it up (Thomas actually had to help them set it up), but I was finally able to walk around during labor. We walked around for about an hour, until about 11:30am. At that time, my contractions were starting to feel a little stronger, so I asked for the nurse to come check on me. Basically, we were left alone unless we asked for a nurse to come. She came by and said I was 7-8 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I had only been about 4 centimeters before we started walking, so this was huge progess. My water  hadn't broken yet, so I asked if it needed to be broken to help get me through transition more quickly. The nurse said sometimes breaking the water can help move things along, at other times it can slow down labor. About five minutes after she left, my water broke on it's own.

Less than an hour later, I said that I felt an urge to push. It wasn't an uncontrollable urge yet, but I wanted to check on my progress. They said I was about 9.5 centimeters dilated. I was 9.5 centimeters dilated for the next 3 hours. At one point I did tell Thomas that I couldn't do it anymore, but I knew in my head that I could. I never even mentioned drugs, that was just transition talk.

Eventually, the nurse said it was really just a lip along the top of my cervix. She let the doctor know and the doctor came by and held the lip of the cervix and said I could go ahead and push. Daniel came over the lip of the cervix with no problems. This was at about 4:00pm and I started regular pushing to try to deliver Daniel.

After about an hour of pushing with the nurse monitoring things, little progress was being made. I was having minute-long contractions, so I was generally averaging four big pushes with every contraction. I wouldn't say the contractions were painful, but if I stopped pushing they were uncomfortable to the point that I really wanted to push through the whole contraction.

When the doctor came, she thought the baby might be a little crooked because I had been pushing for so long without much effect. They could see the baby's heart rate go down during a contraction, which they said was normal, and meant that I was pushing effectively. She tried to turn the baby a couple of times while I was pushing. That was pretty painful, but I managed through the pain. After awhile, she left again and I pushed some more with just the nurse there. About forty-five minutes later, the doctor came back and took over. She kept reaching in to try to turn the baby if necessary and brought the mirror over so I could see the baby's head. It still took quite a lot of additional pushing, but we eventually got him out. The doctor's were more worried about my health than Daniel's at that point, due to me actively pushing for so long. I was exhausted. The heart monitors wouldn't even stick to me because I was sweating so badly.

When he was born, I didn't feel the crowning, but I did feel his body coming out. It felt pretty weird. Then they plopped him on my lower abdomen. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Oh my gosh, he's huge!" I guess since he had been so low, he didn't seem like that big of a baby when he was inside me. 8 pounds 2 ounces and 20.5 inches long. Not bad for being born a week early.