by Nicole Seitz
I have a secret, and it’s something that scares my husband a little. He never knows what he’ll find when he comes home because…
I’m a furniture mover. A re-arranger. Every now and again when the mood strikes me…look out! Boom! BAM! I can move couches around in a single bound. I can wire and mount pictures on the wall. I can haul heavy things that might not be humanly possible for someone of my stature except on that special day when I am driven to move and move again until I get it RIGHT!
Before I go too long, I want you to know this is an important message for writers, and in fact, I see how my furniture rearranging and writing go hand in hand. Let’s take a look:
1. Move it and reuse it!
Some people plan their houses and where they will put their furniture before they move in. On move in day, they instruct the movers as to where to place the furniture and once placed, they never move it again. They got everything perfect on the first try. THIS IS NOT ME. I have both planned my houses and have bought houses already built and tried to fit in my furniture. The placement of each room will no doubt undergo many re-arrangements in it’s lifetime with me. Why? I don’t get things just right the first time, or usually not. I have to live there a while and be ready to move furniture when inspiration and revelation strike! The same with writing. The house is my overall story, but very often, I need to move scenes around, words around, in order to create better tension, flow, and excitement!
2. Lose it.
Sometimes the furniture is just old, worn-out, or out of style. We all have it, that piece bequeathed to us from a parent. Back when we had nothing, we welcomed any hand-me-down, but now, it just doesn’t work. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET RID OF WHAT DOESN’T WORK. Yes, I know you had the piece since college and the memories are great, but maybe it’s time to let go. In writing, this is called “killing your babies”. I’ve never liked this term. You’ve written something and you really love it, but your story’s gone a different way now. You don’t need that scene. That sentence. Those extra words. A character, even. Dump it. I know it’s hard, but the story could be better for it.
3. Add something new.
Don’t be afraid to add something new and wonderful. Buy (or borrow) something new if you think the room needs it. Your room needs to come together. What is your focal point? I just redid my living room, and I used my large colorful marsh painting as the color palette. To me, light is crucial, not only in my house but in my novels as well. Light makes me feel good. I’m drawn to it. In order to face my furniture toward the windows, I needed to move everything around. I got rid of some old furniture that was worn, dark, and outdated, and added lighter furniture and a teal rug to pull it all together and define the space. Yes, it was an investment, but my overall enjoyment of the room will be much greater now. And I won’t mind inviting others to come in and enjoy it too. After all, I want to feel good about inviting people into my rooms (and books).
4. Stay strong!
Don’t be afraid of heavy-lifting and stay in shape for when the time comes. I like to use my thighs and rear when lifting. It makes me feel like their girth was actually for a purpose when I’m backing a piano across the floor like Atlas. Likewise, don’t be afraid of the hard work of editing your manuscript. Editing is the hard part, yes, but unless you are the perfect writer who starts at page one and finishes the novel without editing (yes, I have met one of these!!) you will need to become friendly with rewrites.
5. Rework the entrance.
The entrance is so, so, so important. Your first impression is crucial. Sometimes you can’t do much with the outside of the house (that’s the publisher’s job), but you can make the entryway as enticing as it can be. A good hook and first sentence in your novel is key. Just because you wrote chapter one first doesn’t mean chapter one should be there. Maybe you need to write a new chapter one now that you’re done with your novel and you know what it’s all about. Maybe you need more pops of color, more light, more intrigue. Styles of writing have changed dramatically over the years, and so has the human attention span. Your first page has to sell your novel. Give the reader a taste of what she’ll find in the rest of the book, and she’ll gladly come in and sit a spell.
6. Don’t go it alone.
You don’t have to move that furniture all by yourself. Although sometimes it’s unavoidable, it’s often helpful to ask for assistance. This can come in many forms. With furniture, you can ask a friend what he/she thinks about the room. You can read magazines and get ideas from other designers. When it comes time to physically move things around, a spouse, child, or neighbor works nicely. This way you don’t break your back and your floors don’t get scratched. In writing, we often choose to go it alone, but we don’t have to. We can find a writing group or community. Or we can browse the library and skim pages of other books to see how people are writing these days. No, don’t copy, but you can get ideas as to what works for you. Ask someone in your critique group their opinion. You can listen to the suggestions of your editor. Remember though, everyone is human and has opinions. At the end of the day, you have to go with your gut.
7. Know the rules, then break them if needed.
Sometimes rules are too restricting. Do you really have to go all feng shui? You really won’t have luck or health if you don’t place your sofa just right? Hmmm….Read a book on structure, sure, but don’t get too hung up on the rules. The same goes for writing. Too much focus on structure can dry your words and prevent “magic”. Don’t be afraid to add your artsy flair!
8. Take a vacation.
Getting away from the house will remove that feeling of familiarity and help you to see things anew when you walk in the door. You may just love what you see! Likewise, take a little time away from your book and then come back and see how it strikes you. Chances are, a little distance will help you be more objective and you can make better editorial moves.
9. Remember, when you get stuck, move something.
This furniture/writing relationship can be a good one. When you get stuck in your novel? Go move the furniture in the den! Or scoot your desk closer to the windows. You’ll be writing again in no time. Tired of that worn out look in the bedroom but don’t have any ideas to fix it? Try tackling a new chapter in your book! Sometimes something that seems so unrelated is the perfect thing to get your creative juices flowing again. Before you know it, you’ll have a polished manuscript AND a snazzy new interior!