I'm getting close to the exit ramp on my current project. But, because my manuscript draft is the beta-reader stage, I know there is an approaching sign I must accept. The U-Turn.
U-Turns in writing happen while revising. This is the moment when we realize we have forgotten something and have to backtrack to retrieve what has been left behind. We may decide in the end that we didn't need it after all. But, if we don't go back, we won't know for sure. Once we get to our final destination--the final revision for the finally final revision--then we will know if that U-Turn was worth the extra time or not. Quite often it is even if we decide not to use that thing we wondered about, that thing we thought we had better get, that thing we might not need but someone else might. Maybe it isn't needed today for this project. Maybe it is needed tomorrow for the next one.
U-Turns in revision are when we figure out we were going the wrong way. This is not how we get to where we want to be by the end of the manuscript. We may have to get our bearings. We might have to ask someone else for directions. That's why we ask beta-readers to be part of the process. Sometimes we need a navigator to ride shotgun.
U-Turns in revision sometimes get us back on the one-way road we know we need to travel as writers. Sometimes we have to trust our sense of direction, throw away the map, and tune out the backseat drivers (which can be a beta-reader, but can also be our own counter-intuitive inner voice).
U-Turns in revision may feel like traveling on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. But, often like Frost, we realize we are on the road less traveled, exactly where we belong.