At the risk of being too obvious, preaching to the choir, falling back on a cliché, this notion:
A book is a journey. 350-plus pages, 350-plus steps in a single, dedicated direction. The characters may take separate paths to get to that direction. They may climb hills. Or ice-covered mountains. Or wade through leech-infested swamps. They may backtrack. Or wander. Or march purposefully. They may, as the Radiohead song says, travel “15 steps and a sheer drop”.
Survive or perish in the long walk, the characters must not be the same at the end of that journey as they were at the start. At page 300 they must be clearly and profoundly changed from who they were at page three. In small ways and large, the world must be altered from what it was.
Approaching each of those steps as an individual challenge is a useful tool for a writer. Sure, taking this walk becomes a case of “what have you done for me lately”…but that’s a writer’s ask of herself every day, isn’t it?
Of each individual step, each page, we must ask ourselves, where did you take me? What is changed in the surroundings, the mood, the movements of plot from where we were one step ago…five steps…a dozen? How will the path turn to reveal a little about what has happened and give me an even more tantalizing glimpse of what’s ahead?
As in every campfire story since the beginning of time, a leap of faith exists. We will jump at the end. Or sigh. In this voyage, this passage, we truly can’t go home again. If we could, what would be the point of reading? Or writing?
Walking with our characters as they go and grow…that’s why we read, isn’t it?