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Editing your story

Start Writing Fiction | Week 7

As I get ready for the last week of the class, I am asked to revise my story. To do this, it’s helpful to read other stories. Below, are the questions that helped me edit my own story.

Note: they came from the online course, linked above.

Editing your writing is very important – some would say the most important aspect of writing. It’s often said that anyone can write but only writers can edit. Now that you have written your first draft and left it to settle for a while, you will need to go back and reflect on what you have written, and make changes accordingly.

  • Don’t be afraid to cut large parts of it if necessary.
  • As we have already discussed, you might find that when you have got into the story you can go back and cut out the opening sentences. Some openings may well have been used as a way to get into writing the story, or a particular passage, but the story might be more vibrant and enticing without them.
  • Remember that you are aiming to develop a character who is complex and not too predictable.
  • Remember that you are aiming to make the story as interesting and intriguing for the reader as you can.
  • Reflect on all your reading and any tricks or techniques that you see in the novels and stories that might help you.
  • Also reflect on the reading you’ve done that displays techniques and approaches that don’t seem, to you, to be working.
writing

Building a new character

Start Writing Fiction | Week 6

This week’s coursework, from the online course listed above, brought the opportunity to build one of my main characters more on paper. There is still room for growth, but it gave me a great start.

Physical/biological: age, height, size, state of health, assets, flaws, sexuality, gait, voice.

Mia is a 14 year old female who is a freshman in high school. She looks a lot like her young mom: 5’5” with brown tiger eyes that draw you into a pretty face, and petite 125 lb body. She uses a dark eyeliner application that shows off her long eyelashes, and she maintains her blonde hair highlights with straight hair that falls over the shoulder. She is soft spoken, and usually hides behind her notebook that she journals poetry or thoughts throughout the day. Her wardrobe of choice is jeans and sneakers with a black tank and black hoodie. Her smartphone usually goes in her hoodie pocket, or gets stashed in her backpack while at school. Never carries a purse, just a notebook. Mia is interested in boys, and now that she’s in high school they are starting to catch her attention as her mom has dialed up the sex talk more and more recently. She is usually questioning another character in return or avoiding the answer somehow. Typical teenager?

Psychological: intelligence, temperament, happiness/unhappiness, attitudes, self-knowledge, unconscious aspects.

Mia is not doing well in school because she is not applying herself in class or completing homework outside of class. Writing poetry in her notebook makes her happy, so that is what she focuses on in her free time. Her mom is usually never home, and if she is she’s holed up drinking in her bedroom closet. Mia feels empathetic towards her mother and takes care of her when she is at her lowest with men and alcohol. She longs to have a father, and has seen many men come-and-go dating her mom. She takes out her pain and frustration in her notebook, so using words out loud is harder for her. She is usually quick and to the point when she speaks, but most times too soft to be heard and is cut off.

Interpersonal/cultural: family, friends, colleagues, birthplace, education, hobbies, beliefs, values, lifestyle.

Mia lives with her mom in her deceased grandparents’ home, a ranch mansion. She was nearly five years old when her grandma and grandpa tragically passed away in a car accident. While that shapes a lot of her lifestyle today, she refuses to speak about her grandparents being dead with her mom. Mia has no relation with her dad, he is not in the picture and never has been. She longs for a male relationship that is father-like. While she is failing all other classes, she is excelling in English. It’s an easy class for her, and her English teacher is pushing her to be a better writer. He pushes her like a father would.

Personal history: major events in their life, including the best and the most traumatic times.

Mia was raised by her grandparents in her infant years, while her mom homeschooled to finish high school. Mia was almost five, and she was living with her mom (who was taking college classes) in a small 2 bedroom apartment, when her grandparents visited to lecture her mom about failing or dropping college classes…and it was that night they got into a fatal accident. Her mom did not go back to college, but almost immediately moved them into the ranch mansion and they were set with finances through trust funds and life insurance. Life seemed more normal living at grandma and grandpa’s house, surrounded with rooms of old items and bookshelves full of books. But, Mia was alone in her room a lot so she would create stories of her own that include imaginary friends and imaginary grandparents. Mom is boss, and when she comes around for discussion or consolation—Mia drops what she’s doing to make mom feel like number one.

Portraying your character—in the 3rd person.

Mia is like a very delicate flower, but her roots are strong and hold her up. She prefers the shade, or shys away from the sun as a retreat to her notebook where she writes. She has raised herself, as her young mother is very absent. As soon as Mia was old enough to write, she would write stories in her notebook about traveling around the world with imaginary friends–just like the stories her grandparents used to tell her about their travels.

Straight blonde highlighted hair falls over her shoulders, dark eyeliner shows off her long eyelashes and when she bats her eyes at you, her brown tiger eyes stare back longingly. Her pretty face and petite body gets her a second glance from most guys when she is noticed in the highschool lineup. Who is this freshman girl? Her wardrobe is basic, and when she takes off her black sweatshirt to reveal a black tank, with jean capris and sneakers, it seems like she has a fashion-forward maturity level of basic beauty.

She sat on the edge of her bed, hunched over, leaning into her notebook–scribbling away. She was writing words of love and wishes for intimacy. She hears a sob outside her bedroom door, so Mia closes her notebook and opens her door to find her mom with her hands over her face, mascara running down her fingers, “Mom, what’s wrong?” asked Mia, as she gave her mom a big hug.

Mom lowered her hands away from her face and she drunkenly muttered, “I just–it was–”

“Another bad night?” Mia asked sternly, and with that: mom raised her hands to her face and started sobbing again. Mia took a step back and continued her stern voice, “I don’t think you’re dating the right guys, and you’re trying way too hard. It shouldn’t be this difficult–”

“Difficult to what?!” Mom snapped back, “find true love? I don’t think I’ll be taking advice from my teenage daughter, who just writes about true love.”

“Grandma and Grandpa were true love! I’ve seen it too!” Mia raised her voice back, and then slammed her bedroom door and retreated back to her bed. In the hunched over position, she leaned into her hands and cried softly into them.

Meet the Main Characters HERE

writing

Challenging expectations

Start Writing Fiction | Week 5

Note: this is an exercise for the online course, listed above. Some material may be inappropriate for younger ages, I have rated it PG-13 due to sex talk.


“You can’t just–give in and have sex with any guy–ever!” My mom went through her whole hand motion routine too, as she was pacing back and forth in my bedroom. I was sitting on my bed with my notebooks scattered around my bedspread.

I pulled my knees into my chest and hugged them with my arms, “Would you just leave me alone? I don’t need to hear about your teenage problems and not knowing about safe sex and committing the dirty deed with a guy on the first date.”

She got stern and started pointing, “my parents did not have this, very uncomfortable, sex conversation with me until I was too old to hear it, and you know what?” She stopped in her pointing-tracks and looked right at me.

I knew the answer to her question, her pain and agony, so I sounded snarky, “you were pregnant with me and you didn’t know it yet.”

There was a dead silence that hung in the air and crept over my words. My feelings are usually hidden within a notebook, so saying this out loud is uncharted territory.

“Why would you say it like that?” Asked my anxious mother, now-turned soft and weepy. 

As I fumble for the words to say, “Yo-ou have had this conversation with me a million times.”

“I know, but I never want you to make the same mistake as me. I lost out on so much, I didn’t go to highschool or prom or anything that normal people my age were doing,” she was holding back tears.

I pushed my face into my knees and gave a muffled response, “I know. No sex is better than safe sex.”

“That’s right.” She walked over to my bed, kissed the top of my head, and exited quickly to sulk down the hallway as she walked to her own room.

I quickly grabbed a notebook and opened it up to a fresh page. After scribbling a date at the top, I started writing:

I should be doing my homework, but my mom sidetracked me…again.
She’s going on another first date…will he be the chosen one?
My dad was not the one…

I slammed the notebook shut and tried to fight the tears that were finding their way out. My mind was racing like wildfire: visions of my mom being my age and having sex and visions of my mom going out on first dates throughout my whole childhood.

I had a list in one of these notebooks with names of men–guys who came around the house. Some stayed longer than others, but no one has stayed forever. There’s only one guy I feel like he could be a good father figure, if he ever came back.

I started to think about the chant my mom ingrained in my brain: “No sex is better than safe sex.” But, my mom doesn’t follow the no sex rule, why should I? As long as I’m safe, I won’t get pregnant the first time like her...

Meet the Main Characters HERE

learning

Start Writing Fiction | Coursework

Here are some of my notes from the Start Writing Fiction online class. I completed this course alongside writing my first novel, so a lot of the links below are the beginning notes for my novel in progress!

Week 1 – Developing a Character

Week 2 – Ideas for a Story

Week 3 Assignment – Generate Something New & Read the Feedback

Week 4 – Writing Character

Week 5 – Challenging Expectations

[BONUS] Week 5 Assignment – Character Sketch & Read the Feedback

Week 6 – Building a New Character

Week 7 – Editing Your Story

Week 8 Assignment – 1000 Word Story

Meet the Main Characters HERE

writing

Writing character

Start Writing Fiction | Week 4

I decided to use my coursework this week and further develop one of my main characters, Mandy. Including some What If questions that really got me thinking.

Mandy finds little interest in anything outside of drinking or men. She has a teenage daughter who is very self-sufficient and Mandy finds herself going to her daughter for support when she is intoxicated and having a bad time with men. Her handle on reality is skewed because she is an heiress who doesn’t need to work for anything, and she has a drunken perspective on life ever since her parents died.

Standing next to her daughter: they are the same height, both have brown eyes, long hair, and their wardrobe is similar with a black tank, jeans and sneakers. Some would guess they are sisters. Mandy is very aloof but her beauty makes her approachable, and as you begin a conversation with her long and dark eyelashes, you begin to see her tiger eyes that hide behind a curtain of bangs. Her eyes tell a story and you want to hear more, but only if you indulge her with a drink first.

What if Mandy woke up and all her money was gone? I don’t think she would know what to do at first, so there would be a panic. Her money is what provides her lifestyle, and unless she’s ok being homeless with a teenage daughter she will have to go out and get a job. One of her first “woe is me” calls would probably be to her financial advisor, Vinnie. 

What if Mandy woke up and found herself in rehab? She would be in denial about having a problem. Not being able to have “a drink” is a problem and if she found herself in a rehab facility, I don’t think she would be willing to try sobriety today. She would probably try to find a way out, and calling her driver, Ferdinand, would be her first attempt.

What if Mandy woke up as a sixteen year old again—and she could redo her first date with Mia’s baby daddy, what would she do differently? If she doesn’t have sex at the end of the date, that would mean Mia would not be conceived. Is that a change that Mandy would be willing to take? While Mandy has wished many times for that night to have never happened to avoid an unwanted teenage pregnancy, difficult young adult years, and inability to keep a man around…not having her daughter there to take care of her today would be a huge loss.

Meet the Main Characters HERE

sahm

My First Baby

Every mother has a birth story. This is mine. (Published 2016 as SAHM who blogs.)

It was 5 days after my due date.  My husband and I arrived at the hospital a little before 6 pm and went straight to the birthing center to check in. We were actually pre-checked in, so they were expecting us and took us straight to the room.

I would be induced at 6am.

The night was…uncomfortable. Bed not so comfy, tubes connected to me were awkward, and I had to get up and pee a lot.

I was hoping for any sleep, and I got about 3 hours.

I was already awake, so they induced me a little earlier than 6am. It was an easy morning. Easy for me meant: no contractions (that I could feel) and I was able to stay amused watching TV with my husband. I kept being told by the nurse, “No changes, we’ll just keep upping the Pitocin.”  I was dilated barely a 3 all morning.

The doctor came to check on me at 1pm, and my water broke.  “We’re having the baby today!”

I still wasn’t feeling any contractions, so I was hoping dilation would speed up and I’d start feeling something.  My husband and I decided to watch Disney’s Frozen. I hadn’t seen this movie yet, and we’re having a baby girl, so why not?

We made it about halfway through the movie before my contractions got very bad and frequent, I was on the waiting list to get an epidural…stat!

This was about 3:30 pm

My husband was asked to leave the room while I got the epidural. This was the first time we were apart from each other since we arrived at the hospital. The contractions were so strong (and happening every 30 seconds) the nurse had to put her forehead against mine and tell me to breathe before they could poke me with the big needle.   

I am happy I decided to get an epidural!  It went from pain and tears to no pain and being able to talk on the phone with my mom about how to turn on streaming TV shows at my house.  This means family was starting to arrive, and they were all patiently waiting for baby girl to make her arrival.

Right around 5:15 pm I could feel an enormous amount of pressure, like I needed to start pushing!  The nurse checked my dilation and I was finally ready, so they called the doctor to come back to the hospital.  

Every contraction was time to push.  It was my husband and the nurse coaching me through it…there was one time the nurse left the room and it was just my husband and me. We looked at each other like: what if the next contraction is the push where the baby comes?  Luckily, it wasn’t (and I’m sure the nurse knew that) but the realization was that this baby is coming and we were not ready to do it on our own!

About an hour went by.  It felt like I was doing a lot of pushing…I was tired, running out of energy, and looked forward to the rest time between contractions.  But, this is one thing in my life that I was not able to give up on, so I held onto every positive thing my husband and the nurse were telling me.

Eventually another nurse was called in, and around 6:30 pm my doctor arrived.  This must mean the baby is coming soon, right?

I kept being told her head was visible during my contractions, then it would disappear when I wasn’t pushing…how frustrating is that!?  Putting my frustration aside, there was a moment during pushing where everyone was cheering and the doctor looked ready…this was the moment my daughter was born.

Charlotte Jean was born on August 21, 2015 at 6:53 pm, weighing 8 lbs 12 oz, and measuring 21 inches.  Labor was a total of 13 hours, and I pushed for about 1.5 hours. 

It was an experience I will never forget.  Sharing the details is hard for me, because I do not usually share these things, but having a baby is something to be proud of!  If sharing my story can help another mother or expecting mom get through their own birthing story, I’m all about sharing it! 

What makes me even happier?  This birth story is only the beginning of our life together.

Read her little sister’s birth story HERE.