DIY Book Remodeling


As my cousin Fran has reminded me, when we were kids I drew layouts of houses. Our grandad was a building inspector, and I rode with him sometimes when he went to construction sites. Then I listened when he commented on what he had seen. I remember his complaints when he found stall doors in public bathrooms that opened in, not out for easy egress. I still notice that feature. And the bigger I get, the more I appreciate his concern. This early fascination with building design, this wish for the perfect home, might explain why, when the living gets easy, I watch HGTV. I sit for hours watching the demo and redo, delight in the big reveal when homeowners come back to a magically rebuilt basement, bathroom, or rental unit where a fairy godmother has created a new world in which they will live happily ever after.

And now that I’m redoing a novel I started years ago, and believe me, I need a sledgehammer and a nail gun, a drill and a table saw to dismantle and rebuild the narrative. The entry way was dull and took up too much space, did not invite the reader to come in and stay. Ripped it out and replaced it. No magic, but a lot of reconstruction, a la the advice in Les Egerton’s set of book-building specs, Hooked. He’s my general contractor for this remodel, but I’m the crew that swings the hammer. The building inspector is my writing coach, Lori DeBoer, and she’s kind but firm in pointing out any paint drip or missing trim. 

This rewrite will, like most remodeling, take longer than I had hoped, and probably go over budget. I’m only into Chapter Four this morning, but I’m beginning to understand how this novel might look when I’m done. And when the big reveal comes, I hope there is a rapt audience reading right through to the final page. As the hardware store ads remind me daily, “Never stop improving.” Now, where did I leave that tape measure?

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