Sunday, August 8, 2010

Growing Your Story

I was organizing our pictures on the computer and came across this one of Lily as a puppy. She was SO tiny. I think she was less than 20 pounds in that first picture. When we got her, we were aware that puppies are a lot of work. Sleepless nights for a few weeks as you crate train and housebreak, attend training classes, socialize socialize socialize. It was a bit overwhelming and exhausting at times. We were committed, though. We didn't miss a puppy class, training class or chance to socialize her with other dogs and people of all ages. We took the time to raise her right, as any new puppy owner should. Your dog is a reflection of you - all the time, effort, reinforcement you have poured into this being. Hard work up front pays off later.

It made me think of the process of writing a book. We start out with our little Lily - our idea. So fresh, so cute. A blank slate! Just like a puppy. Then we brainstorm, we write, we spend every waking moment obsessed with the idea. It grows. Like a puppy, it's only as good as we make it. All of our time and effort pay off, but we have to put in the hard work. It's not going to grow if it never leaves our brain; if we never put it down on paper; if we don't continue to brainstorm and write. We have to help it.

We end up with this - a bit bigger Lily. The idea is now on paper. The book has been written. But it still needs work. It's a constant process. Writing, like training, never ends. You constantly reinforce the training with your dog so they don't forget. You polish your dog's behavior. As writers, we polish up that manuscript. The classes we may have taken, the books and articles we may have read, are all applied to this manuscript in an effort to nurture it along towards it's full growth. We take the feedback we get and apply it.

Until we get to this point - the full grown Lily. The dog that always draws attention on the street. People always comment on her manners - "What a good dog!" "I wish my dog were that well behaved!" All that time and effort is evident in the finished product. Friends visit and can't believe how she dashes to her bed on command and stays there until she is released (or not). A people loving, dog loving, cat loving, kid loving, fun loving goofball of a dog or a captivating, adventure-filled, romantic, mysterious, heart stopping tale that everyone loves. All that potential recognized - in book and in dog.

With patience, consistency and work, work, work, you end up with the polished gem at the end. In this way, I think growing a story and growing a puppy are very, very similar. Daily training sessions, daily writing sessions. There are days when I would have given anything to have Victoria Stilwell ('It's Me or the Dog') in my office whipping me into shape and getting my writing focused! I can just hear her voice as I bring up the internet to check my email or my blog..."Bup! Bup! Bup!" Drawing a malt ball up to her eye to get my attention, then holding it out to screen and my manuscript. How funny would that be? Probably annoying after awhile as well!

Do your characters behave the way you want them to? Where is your WIP on the Lily growth scale?


  1. well I have no current WIP, I tend to write poetry and short stories. So my growth scale is much smaller. I think I'm my own worst critter though, and my characters tend to do do what they want. lol

  2. You always come up with the best comparisons. :)

    Happy Monday!