Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Beginning 706

I was dimly aware that it was a glorious morning and that I ought to be grateful for it. The waning moon hung low in the western sky. The east was streaked with pale gold clouds; the sun wasn’t up yet. Also the frost was thick on the windshield, and the goats (who had heard the door shut behind me) were bellowing to be milked, and I was hungry and I wouldn’t feel safe eating while driving so I had to get breakfast into me, and I had to be on the road by six-thirty. I’d been up since half past five, but I’d wasted half an hour restarting the wood boiler because I slept through my alarm at two o’clock when I should have tended it. And I was especially reluctant to arrive late for the meeting at Gloria Ormond’s house since she was no longer in remission.

The goats must have felt my impatience. They both dithered; one stepped in the milk pail. I started the car, cranked up the heat, ran inside to wolf down cold biscuits and fret about wasting gas instead of scraping and then had to scrape anyway to clear a patch I could see through.

Anyway, a little later than scheduled, here are this morning's news headlines . . .


Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Anon.

15 comments:

Evil Editor said...

If the wood boiler needs tending at 2 AM, I assume it needs tnending every three or four hours, so it seems a waste of time to start it when you're leaving rather than when you get back home. You'll probably need to restart it when you get back anyway. Just saying.

That "Also" in the first paragraph leads me to believe you're going to continue describing a glorious morning. Instead it's a list of annoyances. "But" would be better:

I was dimly aware that it was a glorious morning and that I ought to be grateful for it: the waning moon hung low in the western sky and the east was streaked with pale gold clouds. But the frost was thick on the windshield, the goats (who had heard the door shut behind me) were bellowing to be milked, I was hungry, and I had to be on the road by six-thirty. I was reluctant to arrive late for the meeting at Gloria Ormond’s house since she was no longer in remission.

I dumped the boiler because there's too much clutter in the paragraph. You need a transition from the goats to the car:

...one stepped in the milk pail. I finished the milking, then started the car...

If the car takes that long to heat up, you should start it before milking the goats. Then you can fret about wasting gas while you're milking, and you won't have to scrape, which will shorten paragraph 2.

Aimee said...

This was a rambler, for me.

Dave F. said...

It would seem to me that simply being late and rushed isn't enough to hold the reader. However, Gloria Ormond's situation might. So you have to strike a balance between the glorious sunrise, sleeping in, goats and furnaces and getting to Gloria's house.

When I first read this, I thought the speaker was sleeping in his or her car until I reached the line about being up since 5:30.

I also had one of those "gee whizzies what a wicked transition" moments when you breezed from the moon, sky and sunrise past the bellowing goats to eating in the car. Think of the scene as being viewed from above -- a farmhouse with a pen for goats, a car and a road leading to it. Maybe snow. The way you write this my attention jumps from west to east, from the goats to the furnace in the basement and back to the kitchen and out to the goats again.

Joanna said...

Yeah, it is a rambler. The narrator is upset about Gloria's cancer, doesn't want to think about it and is therefore distracting herself by obsessing about a long list of minor inconveniences. Maybe I can convey that better with a slightly shorter list and with the changes EE suggested.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

It's all good, there are just a few too many details that turn it into a list instead of a paragraph. Trim a bit and you've got a lovely opening.

Dave F. said...

If the character is trying not to think about Gloria's remission, then somehow put that at the very beginning.

Perhaps opening with "The glorious morning did nothing to assuage my concerns for Gloria."

You don't have to say "remission" at the start. It could wait for a few thousand words.

The pretty sunrise, the goats needing milked, the late hours, the wood furnace, the car frosted over are not distracting him or her from the concerns about Gloria and the meeting about (what I guess) is the next course of cancer treatments.

All those details play off against the concerns. Each detail brings the narrator back to Gloria and each return, we learn more information about the speaker and Gloria and their relationship.

vkw said...

Yep it rambled a bit.

Here is a few ideas.

We know the sun isn't up yet because the waning moon hung low in the western sky and the east was streaked pale and gold.

I would drop the part about the goats hearing the door shut.

And I was especially reluctant to arrive late for the meeting . . . .

I think that could be changed . . .to I didn't want to be late to Gloria's house, especially now that her death seemed immenent. The cancer had returned.

Or something like that.

Not sure what you meant by the goats.
. I fretted over wasting gas rather than scraping the windows.

I'm kind of interested but the rambling sentences left me wanting to kick the goats out of the way to get to the point.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a jumble of backstory, which leaves me searching for the here/now. Maybe it would be better to figure out what your inciting incident would be, put that first, and give us this info when we know who/what the story's about and have a clue why these details matter.

Xiexie said...

I find this difficult to me because of the rambling nature. Also, there are to many conjunctions adding to the run-on sentences.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Sure it's slow, but I like the writing.

Adam Heine said...

I agree with Dave, put the real tension near the beginning. I liked the first line, but about halfway through the paragraph I started getting bored and/or confused trying to calculate times. The long sentences made it hard for me too. So that by the time the important issue of Gloria's remission came up, I totally glossed over it looking for something to happen.

So maybe less clock times and shorter sentences would help too. But that was just how I read it.

Joanna said...

Thanks all fr the advice. Here's another try:

I was dimly aware that it was a glorious morning and that I ought to be grateful. The waning moon hung low in the western sky. The east was streaked with pale gold clouds. I started to hum the song Gloria taught me: 'Blessed are we in the morning, for we have been renewed...', caught myself, stopped. Did Gloria still feel blessed? Did she still sing?
I didn’t have time to think about it. The frost was thick on the car, the goats were bellowing to be milked, I needed breakfast and wouldn’t feel safe eating while driving, and I had to be on the road by six-thirty. I wasn’t going to show up late for the meeting at Gloria’s house now that she was no longer in remission.
The goats dithered; one stepped in the milk pail. I dumped the milk in the pig-bucket, ran to the driveway, started the car and cranked up the heat, ran inside to wolf down cold biscuits and fret about wasting gas instead of scraping, had to scrape anyway to clear a patch I could see through.

Evil Editor said...

Delete I needed breakfast and wouldn’t feel safe eating while driving. In fact, delete all references to breakfast. I guarantee someone will bring doughnuts to this meeting; plus, Gloria will bake muffins.

Start the car and crank up the heat before you milk the goats. Screw fretting about gas. Milk 'em, run to the car, you'll be able to see so you can skip the scraping.

vkw said...

Well your narrator wouldn't feel safe eating and driving - she isn't going to feel safe peering through a tiny scraped area to drive by.

Fret about the gas but get the car turned on before the goats get milked.

Or better yet - use the windshield wiper fluid and congratulate yourself you spent the extra $1.50 on the de-icing fluid but saved at least that much in gas and no doubt your life.

Life now seems precious that Gloria is well you . . . know not going to be making many more muffins. In fact, maybe rushing is no longer that important anymore. . .

It's better didn't like the last few lines though - someone who is too afraid to eat and drive is not going to drive with a two by two inch to see through. The person would be late before that happened.

in my humble opinion.

_*Rachel*_ said...

It feels like it changes paces twice: the start of the second paragraph, and the long sentence at the end. Revisit that sentence and see if you can't split it up to slow the pacing a bit.