Anyone who tracks knows that it begins by reading--yes reading--the various type of tracks. The tracker looks at the size of the print, the number of toes, whether or not it has claws, if it walks on the balls of its feet or on its toes, and the print pattern. He learns to identify the tracks of a cat versus a dog, or a cougar versus a wolf, because one day his life--or at least his success in tracking--depends on it. But just knowing that two lobed pad with four toes is a cougar and a one lobed pad with four toes and claws is a wolf is not enough. The tracker also has to know about patterns--walking patterns that is.
Animals, like writers, have different gaits. Wolves and cougars are diagonal walkers meaning they lift their front and hind legs on alternate sides leaving a staggered set of tracks. Rabbits are gallopers meaning they hop and land with their back feet in front of off to the side of their front ones. It's important to identify which is which because it will help you determine their direction of travel. Why does this fascinate me so much? Simply put, it is helping me to identify what type of writer I am and why I chose to write.
As a writer, I have found that there are more tracks to follow than I can count. Some have led me to whimsical stories of knights and princesses. Some have led me to quilts and lost kittens. Some have led me frogs and snakes. And still others have led me to lost girls and evil orphanages. Each and every track has a pattern. Is it historical? Is it romantic? Is it adventurous? Is it mystical? Is it fantasy? Is it real-life?
I write each and every day on one project or another, but none are near completion. Despite my three half completed novels and five picture books waiting revision, I continue to track--I think all writers do. Every time a new idea, a phrase, or an unspoken word lights that portion of my brain that asks, "Is this a story?" I am searching for the patterns those tracks leave. And therein lies my dilemma. I get so caught up in the tracks accumulating in the snow that I've lost sight of the pattern directing me to the finish line. That is where I have been for the last two months, but that is about to change. I want to be the etcher on the wall. So, here and now, I am challenging myself to choose one set of tracks to follow. That means I will complete my historical novel, and I am setting my deadline for its completion to be December of this year. That will get me back on track to my original goal which is one novel a year. Do you think I can?