Mapping out the territory

Swaledale Barn by Andy Coulson

A few years ago, we went on a giant pub crawl around the Yorkshire Dales. There was lot of laughing, rain , sheep, quaffing, rain, sheep, drystone walls, scenery and rain. My part in this adventure ( Four Go Mad in Swaledale sort of thing) was to mark out the route.

I freely admit that I am a bit belt-and-braces. I took a laundry marker to the waterproofed OS map and drew a neat dotted line all the way from Grassington to Muker and back again. I then had to do the same on the SatNav. Well, not with laundry marker – but you get my drift.

I can now reveal that I made quite a bit of it up. I didn’t really know which way the path went. I made arbitrary decisions, we committed to them on the ground – and we made it work. To my surprise and relief, we only had a bit of bother with one bog.

We also made room for changes. One day in particular of persisting-it down rain, the walking got cut a little short. There was also the footbridge that had been swept over the waterfall which rather called for a detour.

We didn’t go in for many short cuts. ‘Short cuts make long delays – and inns make even longer ones…’ to quote Tolkien. We had an objective for each midday meal and each evening but we could digress if a place took our fancy. We were wandering but not lost ( like Strider).

There were times for me, at least, when only the smallest of short term goals kept me going. Buckden Pike springs to mind. It was one of those wearying ascents where the summit you think you’ve reached turns out to be the foothill of another and another and another. I jolly near crawled the last of it.

It strikes me that writing a novel is like that. There are so many routes through the story world you could take – but you have to plump for one. There are times when a diversion proves fruitful – and times when you need to just keep going. And certainly I have moments, hours, days even, of just slogging from point a to point b.

Oh, but the view from the top!

I’ll tell you when I get there.

4 thoughts on “Mapping out the territory

  1. Wow I must have missed this piece when it first came out. So absolutely true. I have to remind myself at every false peak that it’s okay to celebrate because I’m in it for the ride as well ad the destination. Happy trails!

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