Image from Morguefile
The end of your book is there, waiting for you in the distance.
When you start out, it is too far to see. You must know that it is there and trust that you will navigate the treacherous path, avoiding pitfalls like doubt, fear and dreaded writer’s block. Even as you go, a strange fog blankets the landscape of your work.
Whether this is your first time or your twenty-fifth, it is still unnerving. Will it be there? Or will this finally be the time when you are left standing at the edge of a canyon, staring at the gaping hole in your narrative where your ending should be?
Many writers solve this problem by simply knowing how the book will end in advance. In fact, they nail down every character, every plot point… every needle on every pine tree before they even begin. They carry a satellite phone, GPS and have Army Rangers on call. Nothing scares those writers. Nothing stops them. They power through and charge right up that mountain to the finish line.
If you’re anything like me… well, let’s just say that you didn’t even pack one of those cheap cracker jack toy compasses. The mystery of the journey… the adventure of not knowing what will come next… that is your calling. You are as addicted to it as an adrenalin-riddled, base-jumping junkie.
The reward amid the chaos is this: you can still be surprised by your own work.
Betrayal? Surprise! A hidden history? Gotcha! The bad guy isn’t really the bad guy? Well, you had me fooled.
That’s right, fool yourself, fool your reader. It doesn’t sound like a safe way to go and it certainly is the farthest thing from predictable. However, I can tell you this: Once you start, you will never go back.
There are risks from this kind of foolish behavior. You could kill your book. Your book could be terrible. You could wind up with a concussion after banging your head against the keyboard hard enough to knock yourself unconscious.
Instead of giving into this fear…
Build the Mountain
A sheer wall of fog lies before you. A string of events lay in your wake, leading to this moment. You know the mountain is there. So, you take a step forward.
Your foot could pass through the mist and hit nothing. You would fall to your doom.
Your foot could just as easily strike a nice clean path, right up that mountain to the most glorious of peaks.
The truth usually lies somewhere in between. Sometimes you must build the mountain yourself. But, how do you do that?
There is only one way. A single step at a time. Set your foot where you want the mountain to be, then put your weight down. Did you rise? Did the path of your story move a foot? Good. Take another step.
You are shaping the mountain now. Eventually the fog may clear, revealing details of the mountain all on its own, but the scary truth of the matter is this:
That mountain didn’t really exist. It wasn’t there to uncover. You actually built it in your mind, using your instinct of where it should be if it were there. It was just fog.
So, what path should you take? The safe, marked path? Or will you go for the fog? Only you know how your mind works. Just remember that, if you are lost in the fog, build your mountain. Create your own finish line. Don’t let the absence of certainty kill your book.