Standing on the Precipice

A damp chill slithers through my clothes and settles deep in my marrow. There is no shaking it. The bleak landscape is the charred grey of skeletal ashes. The sickly black-green clouds are a sure sign the storm front is here.

"Ohhhh, Merry, we're not in The Shire any more. That's for sure."

He does a nervous little Hobbit dance and says, "We could always turn back. Look behind us, so lush and green. This place speaks of evil, death. No good can come of moving forward."

But we must soldier on. There is no turning back on a hero's journey. Forward momentum or death. Besides, the Shire is near idyllic, but how many picnics can you go to? All that Hobbit foot hair getting in the potato salad...

We stand on the precipice, toes hooked over the edge of the cliff. You can sense a deep chasm before us, but it is shrouded in a dense fog. No way to see if there is a suspension bridge to the distant land beyond. Lightning illuminates the giant cloud head above. Should we search for a trail down and hope there is one to climb up on the other side?

"Who wants to plunge into the creepy chasm first?  Valley of the Shadow of Death, anyone?"

This is where I am in writing my current novel. The first four chapters came to me with a big red bow on them, straight from the Muse herself. The lush green prose of the Shire. I also know where the story ends... a long way from here on the other side of that scary chasm.

I have no signposts, no map, no way to know how I'm supposed to get from here to there. It is daunting. I owe my characters so much. They are fully-formed, breathing, trusting me to do their tale justice. They want me to chronicle every painful but necessary step from setback to ultimate victory. I can't let them down.

My loyal beta readers are clamoring for more. They want to know where the story goes from here. "Do you have any new pages for me?  I'm desperate to read the next chapter." Gratifying to know I have them hooked, but rushing things at this critical juncture could be rash. We could all plummet to unseen rocks below. Hurling ourselves to an untimely death is no fun, even if it's fiction.

"Merry, have Sam help you set-up camp. Pitch the tents, find some firewood, we're spending the night here." Hopefully, by morning, the fog will have rolled out and we'll have a better view. If not, my high-strung companions will have to wait a little longer.

Sometimes you just need to take a moment and assess. Let your mind wander. Distract yourself and let your subconscious figure out the best plan of attack. Good advice for life and literature.

Where did we pack the chocolate for the s'mores?

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