When I got to about the 40k mark in Shark Punching (still the working title), I realized I had no idea how I was going to end the story. Worse, when I thought about it, the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know how to end it, it was that I hadn’t started it to begin with.
In fantasy in particular, I find that the plot where characters walk to places and talk to people is very easy to recognize and very hard to realize you’re doing it, too. Shark Punching was the story of two guys who walked to a river, and one of them swam it, punching a shark on his way. The world was there, it’s just my character didn’t interact with it.
Start to finish, from first draft to the end of the second, Shark Punching took me thirteen months to write, but only three of those were active writing. The distance between the first draft and the second gave me the time and perspective I needed to see the failing in the first draft.