Building Houses

Writing a book is like building a house. Okay, so you’ve heard that one before. So have I. It’s an old analogy. But there’s a part of it that I’d never really mulled over until this morning.

Some years ago, we built a house (not the one shown, but don’t you just love this picture?). Our builder kept us on track. Foundation dug, basement poured, structure framed, roofed, windows installed, and so on. After several months, our house was finished and we moved in.

But imagine if, after the cellar was finished, I’d decided I preferred a larger house. More digging, more cement to pour. Then, after the framing, imagine that I’d wanted to change it from a two-story colonial to a one-story sprawling ranch with huge windows. And, once the walls were painted, what if I’d said I wanted more wiring? Oh, and how about another bathroom just off the garage?

Do you see where I’m going? The house would have never been finished. At least not without a murder or two somewhere along the way (either my own, or the builder’s.) Not a good way to build a house. Not a good way to write a book either.

Houses need plans, and timelines. So do books.

As aspiring authors it is quite easy to start a story then just follow our wandering muse. Oooh, instead of a cop, what if I made the hero into a rodeo star? What if I changed the setting from Wyoming to New Zealand? It’s easy to be a writing pantser, writing by the seat of our pants, traveling where the mood takes us.

But published writers, those who are most successful, don’t allow themselves to do that. Not totally. Writing novels is a business. Successful writers make a goal, and follow a timeline.

If I am going to thrive in this business of writing, I must take a lesson from my old builder (and a few other worthy souls I’ve met along the way). Keeping my goal in sight, I must follow my timeline.

That’s how houses – and books – are built.

What is your philosophy of writing? Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a planner? Do you approach your writing as an art, or as a craft?

3 thoughts on “Building Houses

  1. Deb, I started off running butt naked into the mist, but I had too many false starts and unfinished books that went no further than chapter 3. So now I write an outline. Just a page or two where I force myself to work through the plot in broadstrokes to prove it is a worthy project and does in fact hang together. Since then, there has never been a book I’ve started that I haven’t finished.

  2. Thanks for comment, Michelle! I also have started more outlining. And as you said, even a rough outline is so helpful. My biggest problem is finishing in a timely fashion, even when I know where I’m going. Still working on that one but I AM getting there.

    Love your phrasing! Certainly describes where so many of us start out.

  3. Hi Deb

    I know this is an old post to leave a comment on, but this is the part of your blog that I’m interested in – the writing life and writing craft.

    Anyway, I do what Michelle does and I’ve written my first novel. It’s YA fantasy, called ‘Lethal Inheritance’.

    You can read ch1 of it at

    On the home page there are postings about writing, challenges of the writer’s life and getting publishing.

    I thought you might enjoy it.

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