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Building a story vs building a house

My latest book!

Dear Writer: 

Writing a story is somewhat similar to building a house. Or not!

Remember this:

when we give a piece of our story to someone to read - we expect them to see the whole.

It's like building a house and offering a single piece of lumber to another builder. “Here, see the house I'm building.” SOME CAN SEE IT AND SOME CAN’T. Here's the thing: MOST CAN'T.

This step is as necessary to me as breathing. 

I need to give you single boards as I create them. AND I expect you to be a visionary and say, “Why yes. I see.”  

I need you to see how special the piece of lumber is that I'm using and to see that eventually I'll add more pieces to make the whole. 

Choose people to read your work who like the kind of stories you write. 

There are as many kinds of stories as there are houses to live in. If you give a brick ranch to someone who only appreciates a cape cod then he'll have a hard time fitting himself into what you are offering.

Don’t rebuild your house or story until it's built. This is where I fall short. I try to restructure in the middle of structuring. After many years, I'm finally changing the way I work.

DO talk to other "builders"  ie "writers" and let them see your structure and let them make comments but keep in mind what each particular builder builds and pick and choose what he offers making sure that what you take is helpful to your story.

I have people who can't read my work until it's finished because they can't see at all what I'm intending - although they may like the finished piece. 

Others can be with me from start to finish. They are the visionaries.

DON’T take every piece of advice you get and nail it onto your structure - otherwise just as in house building you will have boards nailed every which way and end up with a structure that would not pass inspection. 

Take heart and keep writing those stories. Take what you can from each reader - you're the builder/writer and you have to decide what you can use and what you can't - and build that sucker.

Good luck with your current project. And most of all, don't give up.



  1. What words of wisdom! Yes, piece-by-piece we build our stories. Foundation and structure and (verbal) materials to make it whole. Thank you Barb for these inspiring words this morning.

    1. Thanks Sher. I stumbled on this yesterday when I was cleaning out files and thought it appropriate for where I am not just in my writing life but in my life in general. Appreciate comments.

  2. I believe your building analogy is spot on. There is one thing I would add to the structure--reading, reading lots and reading a variety of works, seeing how other writers structure their house. Writers can learn a tremendous amount (both positive and negative) from other writers by taking time to physically read their pages. I suppose reading could fall under advice as well.

    1. Right you are and we continue to learn all our lives. I've been reading two or three books a week. I've been on a roll. This will slow down as I find a writing project for winter. Some people write books without ever reading them. Now sure how one can be successful without reading and breathing reading, but some are. I'm excited about the fall and where we each are with our work. Have a great week. Hugs, B

  3. Lovely blog. Thanks for sharing with us.This is so useful.
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