Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, July 18, 2014

Snowflakes and commas in July . . .

I'm about 35,000 words of a meandering draft into Rivers of Stone, Book 3 set in the Pacific Northwest between 1842-1847. But I'm just now starting to work out the underlying structure. I know my characters and where they're going, but the ending eludes me.

"Crater Lake" by James Everett Stuart (1852-1942) (Wikipedia)

So I'm working with Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method that builds on a simple outline of set-up + three disasters + resolution to dig more deeply into story structure before jumping back to drafting. 

I'm finding the disasters easy to plot. After all, things go bump every day. The issues of abandonment and perseverance in the wilderness and frontier settlements with their rough code of justice are fun to work on. The plot thickens as I throw in a volcano or two, bears, a fiddler with a broken-heart, and a woman disguised as a boy. But coming up with a resolution that is true to the characters and the theme is more difficult.

Even at 35,000 words, I'm still at the beginning.

The other issue of the week is simply punctuation. A writer recently apologized for the editing of her draft, saying, "I'm just not very good at commas." Aargh!!! And, I'm wordless.

Punctuation is the warp and weave
of all words, that balance point
between order
and meaning
that we writers use with intention
in all seasons,
as sure as quail tracks in the snow,
or lines of geese heading south
under a cloudless gray sky.

So I want to say: Start small. Master just one form of comma -- perhaps the lowly interrupter comma that offsets any person being spoken about or to, as in:  "Hey, pa, I'm over here." or "My best friend, also known as a writer, insists on commas being used in far too many places."

I want to say: Write freely. Tell your story. But then take responsibility for being the best editor of your own work. Editing for punctuation is a skill that can be learned, even if you take a class or study a handbook.

But I am quiet.

What would you do?

More about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method HERE.


  1. Anonymous7:54 PM

    I tend to use too many commas and have to edit a lot of them out. Good luck with your story! It sounds like a good one!

  2. An e-book writer commented last year that she didn't care about commas at all -- and neither did her readers. Yet over and over, I see comments that critique e-books for sloppy editing with calls for those 'gate-keepers' in publishing that at least ensure we readers won't be distracted from the story by egregious errors. So, thanks for commenting. Too many commas? I have to go check out your blog! :)