As the title says, we’re building a house in this blog post. And by “house” I actually mean a “novel.” That’s because writing a novel is like building a house. There are a lot of similarities between the two which I think can be instructive in the construction of a novel.
Right now I’m working on the third installment of a trilogy of science fiction novels. I’ve just finished the rough draft and am now beginning the first revision. It’s in going through this first phase of revision that I realized how similar novel-writing is to house-building. The first phase of each is to set up a skeleton, a rough framework that gives the basic outline of the eventual result. In my novel, I’ve written a rough draft that gives the essential story line; in a house the framework of the walls and roof do the same thing. Next comes the first revision which is like adding the drywall and the roofing. In the novel, I’m adding more and more details to the rough draft, as a home builder would finish off the floors and ceilings. Eventually, I will go through another revision which will add even more details and perhaps rearrange things to make the novel more readable. Likewise, the home builder will add the electrical work and plumbing, paint the inside and outside, and add the shingles and siding to make the house a home. It’s the little things that count.
A novel writer may make many revisions to his blossoming novel, though a home builder may finish after the street numbers are tacked to the outside and the keys are delivered to the new owner. And so the metaphor at this point may break down. A home can be built in a few months; a novel may take years. Mine usually do. Some revisions in novel-writing may actually involve removing excess material, something that wouldn’t usually be done by a house builder. But the underlying idea is the same and I like to compare my novel to a new home where my characters can reside and thrive. They live longer in the minds of the readers, of course (should anyone choose to be so daring as to read one of my yet-unpublished novels). But the novel-home is the place they always come back to.