Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Life As A Book

I did a complete gut-rehab on a 500 square foot lake cabin a few years ago. I bought the place in a rundown state, but knew I would have to live there eventually. Divorce. Long story.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I bought books and videos from Home Depot on wiring, plumbing, roofing and siding, flooring, framing, decks, everything you can imagine that goes into building a house.

The demolition came first. The demolition was fun. There’s not much skill involved in tearing shit up. You just have to be careful not to kill yourself while doing it. If you’re going to rip out all the old wiring, for instance, please be sure to cut the power first. If you’re going to smash walls with a sledgehammer, wear gloves and goggles. If you’re going to saw away termite-damaged areas of bottom plate, brace the top plate so the roof doesn’t cave in on top of you.

Demolition was fun, because I had a vision of what everything would look like when replaced. I knew I would put cedar shingles on the gables, French doors where that old crank window used to be, board and batten siding (Little House on the Prairie style) on the exterior walls, stucco walls and tongue-in-groove pine ceilings inside, with faux exposed beams. I had a vision, but it had to come one nail at a time.

And that’s how we have to approach our fiction.

One word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page, one scene at a time.

Sure, we have a vision of the final product, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about three hundred blank pages in front of you. The same way it was easy for me to feel overwhelmed facing all those naked two-by-four studs when demolition was complete. Doubt creeps in. Am I good enough? How can I possibly fill all these pages with something someone would actually want to read? How can I possibly build a livable house? How will I ever find an agent? What publisher would want to pay money for my drivel? How am I going to make this four hundred pound iron claw foot bathtub fit into that little space?

Then, we work through all that and write the story, but the doubts still haunt us. I spent six months writing this thing, and it sucks. I suck. I’ll never make it. Just look at this mess!

Hammer time.

Time to tear it down, and build it back up according to the original vision. As writers, we call this revision. Gut-rehab. To me, it’s the most important part of the process. You have to be dedicated to making every word count, every sentence sing, every scene saturated with conflict, emotion, movement, sensation. The story, the original vision, is there. It just needs perfectly aligned cedar shingles on the gables.

When you’re faced with doubts, smash a wall with a sledgehammer and put up a new, clean, textured one. It’ll feel good, and you’ll have something you’re proud to live in.


Blogger lainey bancroft said...

Very eloquent, Jude. And so true.
Although, gut-renovations are grounds for divorce around my house :D
I'm a demon with a sledge hammer, but I must confess I'm still struggling to find the patience for the finer carpentry work. Knowing the way you want things to 'look' in the end product is a mere baby step in the process of actually making them look that way.
So far, when I'm faced with doubt I tend to pack up and move into a new ms!

8:25 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Lainey:


It does take a lot of patience to hammer all those little finishing nails, the detail work. But if you have a good foundation (the characters) and good framework (the plot), you can do it. Just realize that no manuscript (or house) is ever really perfect.

I like what Hemingway said about it: "A book is never finished, it's just due."

10:26 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. Inspiring!

9:03 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Erica!

I'm in the process of remodeling my wip now, trying not to smash my thumb too many times with the hammer! :)

11:09 PM  

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