Stepping Stones

Working from my outline gives me a hollow sense of security.

All the scenes for this draft are laid out in order like stepping stones across a raging river; all I have to do is step from one scene to the next until I reach the triumphant end, right?

Of course, in that metaphor, I’m the one who placed the stepping stones to make this path. I’m well aware that the river is dangerous, that some of my stones are too far apart or dangerously slippery or set in deep water, ready to shift underfoot.

There are lots of metaphors for writing a novel. Some people talk about crossing a tightrope or driving down a highway at night. Even when it’s going well, it’s a precarious, lonely journey through the dark.

I’m faithfully following my outline, writing scene after scene, day after day, but I have so many doubts: What if my subplots are too confusing? What if my characters aren’t consistent? What if my backstory is too convoluted? What if nobody wants to read this mess?

I have to keep swallowing my qualms and moving forward anyway. Instead of looking too far ahead, I try to focus all my energy on each scene as I work, doing my best to make the setting clear and the characters come alive. I have to keep faith in the structure I’ve created and trust that these stepping stones are going to lead me safely to the other side.