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  • Sue Hawley

Writing lessons from Pup

As much as I hate to admit it, our son’s pup has inadvertently taught me a lot about writing. Yes, writing! I take her on morning walks every day, weather permitting. Ok, on really nasty days I make the decision to stay home. But most days I simply enjoy being outdoors watching the various birds tease pup (she's convinced she will one day actually catch one of those flying things). Watching her, at least once a week an ‘ah-ha’ moment strikes and takes me by surprise.

The first 100 yards of our walk is frustrating as she needs to sniff every single blade of grass. I don’t believe that much has changed since the previous morning but she sure seems to think she’s discovering brand new territory. And that's a bit like the kickoff of a new book. As writers we have to feel our way through the characters, old and new, and make tentative decisions--which we may have to revisit tomorrow. If someone is writing a series, as I do, re-introducing characters, locations, and personalities must be a priority. Reminds me a bit of pup investing the same stretch of grass each day.

The next part of our daily journey is easy as pie. She happily walks near me, no pulling on the leash or becoming so distracted she doesn’t follow the rules. As she explores the bushes or sees a mouse scurrying away she is thrilled with the experience. Books take on a life of their own and it’s almost as though we writers are simply along for the ride. The plot unfolds as our fingers fly over the keyboard. It’s exhilarating to know the story is on solid ground. We pace ourselves, but more importantly, we pace the storyline.

The final hundred yards of daily walks with pup are a challenge. She sees the car and knows that’s exactly where we are headed. The pulling begins and I find myself needing to slow the walk to a snail’s pace to force her to behave. Her daily excursion is almost at an end and she’s ready to chew the dog toy in the backseat. The last fourth of any book I write is almost exactly the same. All the plotlines need to converge, the characters need to behave as we near the end, and it’s hard not to rush to the finish line. I have to remind my self that pacing at this juncture is as important as it is throughout the story. But just like pup, I find myself pulling on the leash, wanting to get back to life as normal. I have to hold myself in check and remind myself it’s worth the effort.

Who knew I’d learn so much from a puppy?

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