Constructing a house, constructing a book
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that building a house is like creating a book.
My hours at the moment are divided between:
- researching tiles and researching the setting for my book
- making decisions about where to place powerpoints and making decisions about my antagonist’s background
- daydreaming about pendant lights and daydreaming about my protagonist’s main need
- checking out lots of ovens and checking out lots of street art (my 12yo protagonist is a street artist)
- googling well-planned laundries and googling information about twins (my protagonist has a twin sister).
See how diverse my life is?
Our builders have almost finished framing the ground floor, so we can see where the windows are in the rooms, and where the walls start and finish. There’s a chipboard floor in place, too.
I’m concentrating on going back to basics with my second children’s novel. I’ve written the first draft, just like the builders have the final plan. But now I’m going back to the framework, to make sure my book has the support it needs to sustain the story over 50,000 words. That framework includes a protagonist with his needs and his obstacles, an antagonist with his own needs and motivation, a setting which is more than just a backdrop to the story, minor characters who are interesting in their own right … The list goes on, just like my list of kitchen appliances …
I have to say that I am impressed by the progress of our house, more so than my book! The analogy ends with houses and books here, because the house construction progress is so tangible, so visible. While I can spend a few hours working on my book, I can end up with only a few notes to show for it. That’s why it’s more tempting to spend time working out the cost of tiles because it’s productive.
One of my favourite books on writing is C. S. Lakin’s The twelve key pillars of novel construction. The author uses the house construction, novel construction analogy as her husband is a builder.
Just as building a house is a very complex undertaking, building a novel requires a similar holistic approach. When a builder looks at blueprints, he sees “the big picture”. He has to understand every single aspect of the process and think ten steps ahead …
And this is what a novelist must do as well, and what few (if any) writing craft books teach. For a writer to write a great novel that is constructed soundly, she must work with the “big picture”. All the elements in a novel – plot, premise, theme, characters, etc – must work holistically and fit together perfectly.
Building and writing, the tangible framework and the invisible threads – I’m deeply engrossed in both.