I wanted to write a novel and the Klamath River helped me do it.
I always wanted to write a novel. I wanted it so much, I made many attempts at novel writing during the years I was busy being a mother to young children. However, until 2001 I never finished one of my novel attempts.
River Girl wasn’t my first finished novel first draft, but it was the first novel I worked on after I moved to Happy Camp on January 11, 2000, right after Y2K, our millenium computer glitch scare. Y2K had nothing to do with why I moved north from the San Francisco Bay Area. I moved because the area I was in was a terrible place for my children. I searched for a perfect and small home town, and found Happy Camp.
Perhaps it was the air, the trees, the oxygen… or perhaps it was the beauty of the Klamath River, and the relaxation of continual river sounds, but here in Happy Camp I was finally able to complete a novel first draft. That happened in 2001.
If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, try doing it next to a river. The Klamath River winds through the scenic and remote Klamath River Valley. Here in Happy Camp, a place as isolated as you can get in Northern California, there are lots of writers and artists. A remote place far from civilization calms the mind and nourishes the soul, making it ready for creative work.
To write a novel, you need only do one chapter at a time. Start with an idea. A time. A place. A few characters. Imagine a background for your characters. Where do they come from? What do they want out of life?
In River Girl, my main character, Claire, was a young girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Antioch until her father decided the family had to move to Happy Camp, California, far to the north. She’s traumatized by that, but worse things are to come.
What she wants, more than anything, is to have a friend. She left her best friend in Antioch and had a hard time finding one after that.
Once you know something about your main character including when and where he or she lives, start writing a list of chapters, with descriptions.
Chapter One – Antioch – Claire’s father gets a letter telling him he inherited a house in Happy Camp, California. He decides to move his family there.
Chapter Two – Eureka – The family is stuck living in Eureka . . .
River Girl has only seventeen chapters. I wrote them one at a time. Each chapter tells a distinct story about Claire’s life. For example, one chapter is about her opportunity to learn to pan for gold. Another chapter tells about learning to make a quilt.
Start with chapter one, and tell the story. Write until that story, or that part of the story, is done. You don’t need to worry about word count unless you want to. In general, chapters have about 1500 to 4000 words. More or less.
When the first chapter is done, set it aside. Next time you feel like writing (hopefully the next day) you will write the story of chapter two.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Just keep going. Each chapter is a building block. Once you make enough of these building blocks you can put them together and call it a novel.
Fiction writing is magical. It can take your imagination wonderful places, but more than that, the story will take on a life of its own. It may bring you to a finish you didn’t expect, one that will amaze you as much as it will surprise your readers.
That happened with River Girl.
You never know what to expect.
The book can be found at Amazon in Kindle or paperback formats:
River Girl, by Linda Jo Martin.
Linda Jo is currently revising a series of four novels, the Antediluvian Adventures.
Learn more: Happy Camp History