Writing Like a Builder (or Building Like a Writer)
When I’m not writing, I like to build things. Two years ago, my wife, Zoe Archer/Eva Leigh, and I moved into a house, opening up a new canvas of possibilities for projects. During this time, I’ve discovered how closely related my writing process and my building process is.
I’m a plotter. Especially in romantic suspense, I like to know where I’m headed so I can plan out the beats, transitions and pace through to the end. The same goes with building projects. After I find the inspiration (usually an area of the house in need of improvement or utility), I sit down and sketch out what it is I want to build. These sketches change and evolve as I think about the space and what construction techniques I’m capable of.
Once the plan is in place, I get down to the real plotting. This is where the measuring takes place. Cut lists are created so I know all the pieces I’ll need before starting. That’s what I like in the writing, too. If I have enough detail in the outline, then when I sit down to writing, I can move more easily into the words, knowing I’ve already done the work of figuring out the how and why of the scene.
But that’s not to say that everything always works out as planned. Once a piece of furniture is starting to be built, some of the dimensions change, and the cutlist has to be altered. Or the need for additional supports reveals itself and those have to be added. The same happens in the books. Often, the voice of the piece doesn’t get settled until I’m through the first two or three chapters, and I have to go back and adjust those early sections to fit. Or the characters move faster or slower through their emotional arcs than expected and their trajectories have to be altered.
That’s why I like to plan, but with enough room for the process to develop. If every angle is welded together from the start, then the elements will end up breaking, rather than flexing as the piece evolves.
In the furniture, like the writing, completing the first pass doesn’t mean it’s done. There’s still editing. It might be completed with an angle grinder rather than a red pencil, but it’s still the same idea of smoothing over rough transitions or anything else someone might get caught on. Then there’s the polishing, sometimes literally. The little details make the piece feel finished. Often, these are invisible touches. In the books, the reader won’t necessarily know how you moved their emotions, but your inspiration, work and revision is what got them there.
Here’s a short video to explain my process:
So what about you? Do you have any non-writing activities that parallel that process? Or is there something you do because it accesses a completely different part of your brain than writing?