Over Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to visit with extended family I hadn't seen in a few years, and it was so fun to see them! It was dark that evening when we met, as it tends to be when it's this time of year, and a little more challenging to find the home where the gathering was held.
Thankfully I had the address and a set of directions from MapQuest to help me find my way. From there, even though it was dark and my car's lights only lit a certain distance in front of me, I was able to find the home. (Well, almost. We knocked on the neighbor's door for a couple minutes before we realized we were one house south of our true destination. But that's another story involving a flip in house numbers.)
I find the same is true in writing, not knocking on the wrong doors, but having a basic destination of where I want to go with a story, with the details not being clear. These details, however, are lit or brought about a little at a time. I may not see clearly all the way to the end, but I can see clearly enough to get me through the next section. With this, little by little, I'll have a way to reach my writing destination.
But what can I do when I'm not sure where I'm going with my story? This happens sometimes, where I'll type out all I had originally intended to go, but once I'm there I realize there is another direction the story needs to go. For instance, in the story I'm currently working on, I have written to the point where it's beginning to build to the climax. Only now I'm finding myself with a really fuzzy climax. How can I go there when I don't know exactly where it is? I may have to pull over for a second and ask for directions, or simply figure out where, exactly, I want to end up.
So here are the questions I ask myself, a way for me to find my destination:
What are the goals of the main character?
What events do I wish to have happen in the climax of the book?
What events need to take place before the climax can happen?
What themes need to unravel that haven't yet?
Is there anything I'm missing?
By answering these questions and any others I find important to my story, I find new direction and a place to go so I'll be on my way again. Hopefully I won't be knocking on the wrong doors before I find my story's true destination, but even if I do, I know I will eventually arrive there. It's all fun.