This was the first time, in twenty+ years of writing that I couldn’t find a place to end the book. What was going on? Every new adventure that LaVerne had in the wilds of Alaska suggested another story thread.
It took me three years to write this saga.(87K words) I didn’t know it at the time, but I was letting it ‘rest’ at certain points and I think it’s a better story for it.
I have learned over the years to let it flow organically; when characters come busting through the door, I welcome them in. They always tell me their story and it always fits with what I am writing. The indigenous people in Song of the Yukon joined me early on. Black-eyed Joe was sitting in the back of the village store and LaVerne (heroine) and I were both surprised to find him there. Then I went on to meet Joe’s brother, Elk-tail and his mother Edna.
Without exception, at some point (early, if I’m lucky) my characters take over the story and I become the typist. I interview authors on my blog and so many of them say the same thing, so, with relief, I find I’m not as crazy as I thought I was.
Research: The story about my auntie LaVerne running away to Alaska is a true family tale. So all I had to do was pull from the many stories my mother told me as a child. But, living ‘off the grid’ in Alaska, in the 1920’s? The Internet is a writer’s best tool. Can you believe that we used to have to go to the library and do all this research, pouring through books? With a couple of clicks I was able to weave the Athabaskan (native American) language, their folk lore and their customs throughout the story. I was able to build a dog sled, from scratch using only wood and rawhide lashings. I was able to set a fur trapping line. I was able to build a cabin with only hand tools. (think about it) I was able to train puppies to become a dog sled team. I was able to describe, accurately, a funeral pot-latch.
My advice to other writers is: write every day. If you get stuck, let the story rest; go write something else. And never, never give up!
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