Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

IWSG, a Snippet of a WIPpet, and Doubt

Last week, my quilting buddies and I were headed down to lunch in an elevator, when one asked, "Beth, when will that book you're working on be done?" Another chimed in and said, "And will it have a happy ending this time?"

I guess I'm well past that visceral flash of self-doubt that seems to emerge from time to time:  How-do-I-say-I'm-a-writer. But new doubts seem to flicker awake without me even trying. These last several months, my recurring doubt has been:  Will-I-ever-finish-this-story!

I'm a pantser with plodder tendancies who writes historical fiction. What that means is I have a germ of an idea, begin reading research, write every day but in no order, build outlines as I go, and continue research and writing until I reach that happy point where I have enough words. Then begins the editing -- mostly a 2-3 year stretch of digging into the story to make it stronger.

Right now, I'm rereading scenes for continuity and transitions and to catch doubled words (common in my first drafts), the usual work on editing that surfaces when my overall strategy is rather like that of a flea, not always good when writing historical fiction. But past the surface, I'm asking what kinds of story structure issues affect this section? What are the deepest concerns Cat (my heroine disguised as a boy who's traveling across Canada in 1840)  has at this point in this story?  

For example at the editing level, I could have known when they switched from York boats to canoes. But who wants to worry about which conveyance when Cat gets lost in the woods? It would be silly NOT to worry about it now. Thank goodness for search & replace, the intuitive writer’s friend. 

Which brings me back to the elevator and my friends. For I had no real answer for them, no exact date. I only know this: One day, this story will be finished and another will beckon. That is part of my identity as a writer, my promise to myself -- and to my readers. 

WIPpet Wednesday: Some of you may know that every Wednesday (or most Wednesdays), some writers post a snippet from their work-in-progress (WIP). Here's mine, based on the date this way: 12 sentences for the two sixes in the 6th of January and 2016.

I'm celebrating a new character that emerged this week. Finally, a M├ętis wife. I had missed her and she's a bit shadowy in the story, but suddenly, the brigade had just started paddling upstream, and there she was, Mary, mixing bear grease up to repel mosquitos. 

"Take some of this," called Thurston. He held out a handful of thick salve.

“What is it?”

“Bear grease from Mary. It will keep the mosquitos off. Rub it everywhere you can.”

Cat took a handful. The salve stunk to high heaven. "Thanks, I guess."

Thurston smeared his face, beard, neck, and hairy arms liberally. "By St. Anne, you don't want the mosquitoes biting your ass all day."

“Maybe the smell will scare them off,” said Cat. 

And so the writing goes, sometimes slowly, with uncertain starts and stops, and sometimes many words on the page. The process of writing is unique to each of us, and we each will face doubt as we write. 

May 2016 be the year your writing sings!

Check out what other WIPpet Wednesday writers have posted HERE.

Read what other writers in the Insecure Writers Support Group are thinking about this month HERE.


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