Is writing a book like building a house?

When I was working on my house, I added about 1100sq. ft., about five years ago. The first parts of the project were fairly easy in terms of planning. First a contractor came in and set the foundation, then I put in the floor joists and sub-floor of the first story, rolling straight into wall framing and sheeting. After that, I took the roof off the existing structure, and put in the floor joists and sub-floor for the second story. Once that was all in place, once again, I was framing and sheeting the walls, which was followed quickly by installation of roof trusses and roof sheathing, which led immediately to shingles. Having all that done, the real work began and the strategy started to become more about preference. Living in Alaska, I opted to focus on insulation, windows followed by interior framing, and then wiring. Normally, this would have occurred in a slightly different order, but if I wanted to continue working that was how it needed to be. Now, once I got that sorted, it was really a matter of preference.

It seems to me that this is where I’m at with my story. I’ve got a few chapters near the end to move from outline to draft, the first major revision, and polish, to the subplot, and of course I still need to go through again and really get that main character nailed down. He needs to be strong and charismatic, and he’s not there yet. I feel like where I’m at in my story is analogous to the point at which I walked into my newly dry house, and looked some 28 feet up the empty stairwell into the trusses of a hollow shell of a yet-to-be dwelling. It hit me like a physical pain back then. I have so much work to do, was my thought. I’d just spent every free moment of my summer getting it to that point and it wasn’t even half-way. I was right, the struggle went on for another 18 months. I tried to tackle things in a certain order to make life easier when I got to the next part. I’d like to approach my story in the same way. My intuition is telling me to just get the whole damn thing written, and worry about the details later, but another part of me says, don’t waste your time on the end because you don’t know all of the details that got him there yet. I suppose in the example of building a house, revision really isn’t on the table. With a book it’s just the nature of things. So, with all of that rubber-ducking and reminiscing out of the way. I’m going to commit myself to drafting out the last few chapters, leave the sub-plot revision until the end, and see if the end of the story doesn’t help me get a better sense of my main character. Is this a good strategy? No idea, never done this before. Anyhow, no I’m off for a run before the night gets away from me.

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About 6 years ago, I started working on my house. I doubled the size of it, actually, raised the roof, ran the plumbing, heating, drywall, framing… you name it, I did it. It took 2 years, and I finished. It’s not totally done, I suppose. There are a few things here and there that could use a bit more work, mostly odd bits of trim. When I started, the largest project I’d ever worked on was a very big Lego set. I had no training or experience in any aspect of construction – I work at a desk, but I did it anyway. I made a plan, spent countless hours on research, and jumped in with both feet (it was very much like jumping into a large body of water, actually. It rained all summer and on one particularly memorable occasion, I was telephoned to be notified it was raining in the bedroom)

I like to think of it as being too stupid to know when I couldn’t do something, so I did. There were a lot of stupid parts to it. Lots of mistakes and mis-measurements, but I got it all sorted out in the end. This is basically how I feel about writing. I’m not a professional, lots of mistakes and revisions have occurred and it’s nowhere near as good as I want it yet. However, I’ve been cracking away on and off for a long time (because I’m also too stupid to give up, even after an extensive tantrum stating: ‘I give up, I’m too stupid for this nonsense’), and I see now that I can finish this story. I’m realistic though, it will probably never be published, most aspiring writers aren’t, but I will have finished, and that will be one more thing that I can tell myself: “I did that.”

I didn’t know I couldn’t