The House the Author Built

Throughout my years of blogging, I’ve compared the writing process to a variety of things. While I was recently editing my upcoming novel, I stumbled on yet another metaphor that I hoped could help my fellow authors as we all craft our works. Though I’m not much of a DIY kind of girl, I’ve witnessed enough projects in my family to see the similarities between renovating a house and reworking a story.

When you set out on a house or a book, the concept often seems easy and you’re tempted to schedule a finishing date before you even get started. In fact, I thought I could write a whole novel during summer break when I was in high school, which didn’t happen. Obstacles almost always arise and impede your progress at one point or another. If they’re major, you might question if the universe is telling you to quit. I failed that test the summer I wanted to complete a whole book, ruining a floppy drive when I encountered my first minor setback!

Building a new house or writing a first draft is daunting and time-consuming, but renovating what’s already there can be a bigger challenge. When it comes to a house, you may start a project with the intention of just adjusting an existing feature but discover a hidden problem that requires an entire overhaul. Or an inspector may locate the issue and recommend modifications.

I’ve met with this very scenario numerous times in my writing, as well. Early on, I tried to preserve a lot of my work even if I saw that it needed improvement. Gradually, however, I realized that sometimes a “cease and abandon” is the better course of action…as much as it may hurt. Unlike with a house, you rarely have an exact blueprint of the finished product, and the plot evolves in a different way than you imagined months or just weeks ago. Thus, your story merits the best developments in order to flow well, and that may well require you to delete a scene you really enjoyed.

I ran up against this in my latest round of edits. There was a scene in the book that I considered entertaining—and boosted my word count nicely. My editor, however, knew from personal experience how inaccurate a lot of it was. She gave me a few tips on what I could do if I wanted to keep some of it intact but strongly encouraged me to strike it altogether. I debated the options, and in the end, I followed her recommendation. I saw that fresh content would better suit the story, whereas trying to make the old fit somehow would likely create a clunky scene.

House and writing projects alike can be long, grueling endeavors. No matter how long it takes, though, the payoff makes up for it. You’re left with the satisfaction that accompanies making something with your own hands and mind that you and others can enjoy for years to come.

Also See

Rewrite? Say that Again?

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