I'm working on (the first draft of a new novel | the third draft of my first novel), and I have encountered a few story problems that I'm sure I've bumped into before, but about which I don't think I've ever been quite so decisive. My characters had just escaped an evil underground puppet king, and they were trying to figure out where to go next. The conversation went pretty much like this:
Kid: The hotel?
Zooey: We know that's compromised.
Kid: A different hotel?
Zooey: He'll probably find us there too.
Kid: Your parents' house?
Zooey: no. They're terrible.
Hollyseed: The underground safe house we were just at?
Zooey: No. I don't want to lead puppet dude back there.
You see my dilemma? Or: You see my mistake?
I have been trying pretty hard to power forward in this draft, not go back and change anything on previous days' work, just keep moving forward no matter what. But that was where I left off the other day, and when I picked it back up again, I realized I had a problem. All that was left for me to do was to make up a new place, with new significance, containing new characters, and moving my people farther away from the story.
I ended up just cutting Zooey's last objection. The house underground is, after all, pretty safe. And that's where the characters are who know what's going on. And that's where the plot can keep happening. And, at a time of particularly extreme turmoil in her life, that's the only place in the city where Zooey is going to feel at all safe.
In the first draft of this novel, I had eight peripheral characters attached to the main plot. In the second draft, I cut it down to like five. In this draft, it's three, but mostly only one, and the main characters from the first one have been cut completely.
I think I need to do the same thing with places in this book -- keep it minimal. Go back to places I've been, rather than inventing new ones over and over.