One word at a time…
Writing a novel can seem like building an 85,000 square foot house…with toothpicks. Millimeter by millimeter, inch by inch, the mansion we’re trying to construct takes shape, but there are times, at page 10 or page 100, when the task we’ve set for ourselves seems hopeless. Either the blue print is smeared or our materials haven’t been delivered or, worst of all, the foreman (our muse) has run off to Las Vegas with our only tool box.
There are times when making it to THE END seems almost impossible.
For me this feeling always hits right at page 100. At that point, the foundation is poured, the skeletal walls are in place and the whole thing is under roof…but there’s so much more to be done. Wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, flooring, plaster and it’s at that time that framing up something much smaller like a sweet novella cottage seems much more appealing. You could be planting pretty geraniums in window boxes on that cottage before you know it!
My father was a builder. I’ve often thought of him and all the houses and projects he completed—from cottages to mansions—when I’ve hit that 100 page barrier. What did he feel like standing at a job site looking over the blue prints when there was still so much work to be done? Did he ever imagine the children that would run up and down the stairs he hammered into place with his own two hands? Did he ever close his eyes and envision the completed project all shiny, smelling like paint and fresh lumber, just waiting for a new homeowner to step inside?
When asked about how he took on such daunting projects he always shrugs and replies…
“One board at a time.”
Roanoke, Virginia is filled with homes my father built. To this day, they sit in neighborhoods throughout the city, a lasting testament to his perseverance and hard work. I remember him coming home in the evenings tired and hot and dirty. I remember his calloused hands and the sawdust in his hair. His hard work is made manifest by those houses just as a writer’s hard work is made manifest by books.
Books that will never be if we don’t persevere all the way to THE END.
Every time I finish a story—novella or novel—I think of my dad. He wasn’t perfect. There were failures in his life and weaknesses he never overcame, but he built a damn fine house, again and again and again.
I can only hope and strive to do the same!