I’m at the base of a towering mountain. My tour guide stands before me, telling me about the beautiful lake 10 miles up the trail. It sounds perfect.
“I forgot my glasses, my compass, my map,” says the tour guide, “And I’ve also never been here before.”
Not so perfect.
Five miles in, the tour guide spots a cave and decides we’ll do some spelunking instead of continuing the hike.
“Well, the cave is here, and it seems like a shame to waste it,” the tour guide says. “And some people really like spelunking, so this will be okay.”
I’m out. I don’t mind some twists and turns along the way, but I want what was promised to me.
The next weekend, on the same trail, I give it a second shot. This new tour guide smiles at me with easy confidence.
“I’ve my map, my compass, spare supplies, and I’ve been hiking this trail since I was small. We’re heading for the lake, and we might see some other cool things on the way. Trust me.”
If you don’t have a clear vision, you don’t know where you’re going. On a trail, on the road, or writing a novel, vision is critical. If you are constantly dipping out to pick up add-on ideas and random, interesting elements, are you really in control of your narrative? Are those things strengthening the foundation of your story or are you flitting around like a magpie, stealing away with shinies and filling up your nest?
If it doesn’t help your story, let it go. If it clutters up the thread of your vision, just cast it aside. Those distractions are about fear; somewhere inside, you’re afraid your story isn’t enough. The only thing more damaging to a story than bad construction is bad confidence. Believe in what you’re writing. Keep it neat, keep it lean, and make it serve your vision.
Cut away what doesn’t count, and keep writing.