Monday, March 14, 2011

Shortcuts Aren't Always Quicker

The sign at the fork on the trail read:

LOST LAKE 3 miles
MINAM LAKE 7 miles

I really wanted to hike to Lost Lake because I can be lazy and it was a shorter distance. Dad wanted to go to Minam Lake because he hiked there each summer as a child. My cousin couldn't decide. He pulled out a penny and we flipped for it. I was secretly hoping it would land on TAILS and we'd be off for Lost Lake.

TAILS it was. Careful what you wish for! It took us four hours to reach the lake. Turns out, shorter isn't always better. While the scenery was beyond fantabulous, the hike itself was strenuous - the switchbacks weren't much of switchbacks. We seemed to be hiking straight up the mountain for most of the trek. Turns out it's an elevation gain of close to the 3,000 feet on that short 3 mile trek. Oh, and the foot bridge was washed out last year so we had to make our way across quite a fun little section of the river without it. Thanks to my dad and cousin, I made it across without falling in. Thanks to me, my dad made it across with wet feet, ankles and calves having to take one for the team in order to keep me dry.

Had we hiked to Minam Lake, we could have made that hike in less time despite the distance because the elevation gain is half that of Lost Lake. The trail is not as steep. There are many beautiful meadows to traipse through along the route and the views are equally as breathtaking. Lesson learned - shorter is not always better.





I think this is true of our writing as well. I'm a plotter. I start out with an indepth outline that includes dialogue snippets or chunks for each chapter. When I stay true to my style, I can finish a 300+ page book fairly quickly and it will turn out decent.

However, if I stray from my path and choose to jump in early because it seems like the shorter route, I end up creating more work for myself in the long run. The road is much, much steeper. The rewrites are endless. I have to put together an outline just to map my way through all the brush. I can run out of steam, have to take many breaks, sometimes get lost.

Shorter isn't always better and shortcuts can lead to extra hours. I thought of this many times as I crawled up the side of that mountain, over the saddle and into the valley that hid that beautiful lake! I suppose as long as we get there in the end, it doesn't matter which path we choose. Ultimately, we have to find what works best for us - the long, steady path or the shorter one that can take more time.

What about you - which path works best for you?


  1. I did the jumping in too early, pantsing thing with the March mini-NaNo last year and about the only salvageable element of that little experiment was the characters. This time around I'm saddling up with an outline and character arcs and interviews so I know where I'm going. We'll see how it turns out!
    - Sophia.

  2. I like to plot too, but my tendency is not so much short cuts, but making the normal path way, way too long. Too much filler.

    Great post. Those picts do make it seem worth all the effort!

  3. Geogeous pics. I'm a plotter. Sometimes it still takes me forever, especially on certain parts.

  4. Oooo! Pretty pictures!! I'm a pantser but as such I'm prepared to go through it a billion times fixing and tweeking. It's probably WAY less put together than your finished first draft! But, like you said, you gotta do what works best for you and straying from the path might mean even more work in the end. Great post!

  5. Beautiful pictures.

    I am changing my path. I do not like my current path, the one that meanders and has no sense of direction. It is NOT working for me. I plan for my future books to be plotted - not necessarily in detail, but I need to have some clue of where I want to end up and the best route to get there. It might not be sexy and spontaneous, but I'm all about the practical right now.