…If Only You Could Live In Your Novel
November 14, 2007
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It struck me recently that owning a home is kind of like writing a novel. You might ask someone to give your precious possession a look over, to make some minor improvements to the pacing (or, say, to run a gas line to the backyard). Well, when they give it back, they say, “hey, did you know that your plot has a major discontinuity in it?” (or, say, that your hot water heater is leaking). And of course, as anyone knows, even a minor fix to a novel (or a house) inevitably ends in more than one trip to the reference shelf (or Home Depot), taking two or three (or ten) times the time (and money) you’d originally thought it would.
Both are complicated structures with a lot of dependent parts. The good thing about the novel is that its parts don’t degrade over time if you don’t touch them. However, like a house, all the parts are subject to individual taste and perception; it is nearly impossible to view either of them objectively at anything other than the most fundamental level (it has four walls and a roof/the language is technically proficient).
I wasn’t sure this post was going to have a point when it started. I just thought it was an amusing analogy. But I think it does have a point, and that is that whether it’s your house or your novel, you have to ultimately trust your judgment. You can bring in people who are experts in the big things, the foundation it’s all built on, but when it comes to whether it’s finished, that should be your decision. You’re the one who has to live with it. You could tinker with it endlessly–trust me, you will never run out of things to fix. But at some point you have to say, “Enough.”
Learning how to do that is one of the most difficult parts of being a writer. I would say it’s the most difficult part of being a homeowner, but I have a mortgage. And, now, a new hot water heater.