I assume most writers know—if only instinctively—that a story is built around turning points. In romance, those points are often emotional discoveries that lead to the characters setting out in a new direction.
In my writing, I have an unfortunate tendency to digress from storylines, following interesting paths that have no clear relation to the story other than that they’re fun to explore. So occasionally, my turning points get lost in the brambles and thickets of my mind.
One of the things I’ve learned when I go back to prune the thickets is to focus on the turning points. If I clear out all the debris around a turning point scene, up the emotional ante, and focus on the direction, I can see a clear path to the next step.
Sometimes it’s easier to start with the climactic scene and work backward so I don’t get lost wandering down those unclear paths again. I concentrate on what the character has learned at the end, and what changes he’s made to accommodate that learning. Then I go back to the next turning point and figure out where he is on that road to learning and how to emphasize it in terms of the climax, so the change becomes more noticeable.
Which sounds very nice in theory, until you actually get into the brambles and thorns start stabbing and you just want to rip out the whole blamed bush. But writers have to learn to keep their garden neat one way or another, and this is my process.
Come to think of it, that sounds like how I tend my flowers—wait until the weeds take over, then hack them down!