If you’re a planner, the image below might be a trusted and beloved friend. If you prefer to wing it in your writing, it might induce mild nausea.
As November—otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month—appears on the horizon, I offer this travel advice for all brave adventurers: Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, make your peace with the noble mountain. Make your pilgrimage regularly. Planners, you’re already outlining that plot, of course, but keep a simplified itinerary near to hand to keep your daily writing on track. Pantsers, perhaps just a sticky note on the edge of your monitor would be a lovely decoration while composing.
Either way, Manuscript Mountain isn’t just for the early stages of writing. Once you have your first draft and are ready to dive into a second and third and tenth, map out the route your story is currently taking. After an initial hike, the summit might have been reached, but the journey might look a little more like . . .
While, yes, the image shows a rather arduous slog, this information is incredibly useful. Does each scene and chapter trudge farther up the slope? Where are there plateaus and craters? Is your climax identifiable? Does your falling action and resolution satisfy without trailing on and on and on and onandonandonandon . . . ? A visual of a draft identifies the areas most in need of attention as well as prevents even the most renegade explorer from becoming entirely lost.
You’re making the journey whether you map out your path before or after you arrive, so why not make the record of your travels work for you?