I have encountered new terrain on this writing journey of mine – a sort of No Man’s Land, with no signposts and a bewildering tangle of paths. Some, no doubt, are dead ends. Others hold land mines and other booby traps designed to hinder or possibly even blow the unwary writer into fragments. But somewhere in the maze I believe there are paths that lead to a publishable novel. As I stand here, bewildered, afraid to set my foot to any path lest I go astray, it is tempting to believe that there is only one right path, one chance out of a hundred, a thousand, of reaching my destination.

I am lost.

A voice of wisdom reminds me of something drilled into me since childhood: when lost, stay put. Don’t go aimlessly wandering about, thrashing through the bushes and falling into swamps. You’ll only get yourself more lost. You might even drown or get eaten by bears.

This seems to me to be good advice. I have, for the moment, set Swimming North aside.  I have too many ideas of where a revision could take me. There is no clarity. My heart and my head are not lined up. Anything I do in this frame of mind will make matters worse. I suspect there is a simple solution to my dilemma that is staring me in the face.

The best solution, I believe, is to just set up camp here in this wilderness until I’m clear about which path to take. I have resources, helpers, and guides, which I fully expect will be of benefit to me. Here is my plan:

1. Write something every day that is related to the story but not part of the novel.  A character snapshot. An idea. A scene fragment.

2. Read a good book. I have selected Stephen King’s The Dark Half.

3. Learn something. I’m reading Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, which has already inspired me with the words, “anything can be fixed.” Maybe this needs to be taped above my work station, along with “Before the beginning of great brilliance there must be chaos” (I Ching) and my favorite rejection letter.

4. Give myself permission to stay here for awhile. This too is writing. I’m not under contract, there is no deadline to meet.

5. Freely brainstorm the possible options. Explore them and see where they go.

6. Remind myself that this is only temporary. I will write other books. Better books. This is an educational opportunity, if nothing else. In fact, I hereby give myself permission to enjoy the stay.

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