It's the Ikea Store not the Idea store


Here’s the thing, I’m a writer not a carpenter or an engineer but I built a piece of furniture this weekend. That’s it in the picture—an entertainment center. Pretty sweet. My sisterfriend, Rebecca helped. She went to Ikea with me, helped me choose it and then helped me lug it home. Which let me tell you was hard. It was quite heavy but we are women, hear us roar. Then we unboxed all the pieces and started to build. Fortunately Ikea packs their stuff in ways that are amazing feats of engineering unto themselves and the directions are pretty easy to follow—for the most part.
We assembled and screwed screws and tightened bolts—don’t you love those little round, grommit, do-hickey things they come with? Geeze if only everything in life is that easy. Insert part A into B, turn a quarter turn to tighten and voila—you built an entertainment center. But alas nothing is perfect. I did end up with two pieces on backwards, not that you can tell, but I know it and someday I might take the thing apart and fix it but not now. Imperfection has its own rewards.
But the experience got me thinking, if only writing a novel was so easy. Wouldn’t it be cool to go to the Idea store (notice I said Idea, not Ikea—ha! I crack myself up) choose your story package from among millions, bring it home, open the box and all the parts are neatly nestled inside. You get seven characters, three subplots, one main storyline, two needs—one hidden, one obvious, a small packet of metaphors, five hundred scenes, one beginning, one ending, a few panels of laughter, a romance for support, and a tiny little self-editing tool that helps you tighten it all together.
Would you buy one? The thing is that novel writing is like Ikea furniture in a way. It takes having all the parts of the whole and then fitting them together in a way that makes it entertaining, functional, attractive, sturdy and just like my new entertainment center, a little quirky. But also, like Ikea furniture, you can’t leave any of the pieces out—it just won’t work. It will fall down. Sometimes writing a novel really is about technique, the system and not so much about talent.
So, are you writing a novel? Do you have all your pieces in place or are you still shopping? I will admit that I assemble my novels piecemeal, I keep running back to the store to snag a plot twist or find a new character, or dig up a new scene. But the system stays in tact and all the pieces must fit together to form one beautiful whole.
How about it? Are you stumbling over the directions?

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