Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Old Dog, New Lessons #3

A friend joined me in walking my dog, Tux, in our local park the other day. When she noticed me glancing at him often, she asked, “What are you looking for?”

I had to think a moment because, while I knew I checked on him often, I wasn’t really aware of what, exactly, I was looking for.

I told her that I was looking for a hitch in his gait as he walked, I looked to make sure he wasn’t limping, I wanted to see if he was at the end of his lead or was he walking closer to me (which tells me he’s not feeling well), and I wanted to ensure he didn’t pick up something he shouldn’t. It was on one of our walks, as I checked on him, that I first realized that Tux was losing his hearing. He was no longer responding to a dog barking in a nearby neighborhood or a child screaming in delight as his mother pushed him in a swing.

After we got home, I began thinking about our walks. I noted that what I look for in Tux every morning is the same thing that I look for in my first edit of a completed manuscript. Once I finish writing a manuscript, I get it printed out. The things I’m looking for in that first edit are the same things I look for in Tux.

  • Is there a hitch in my writing? Does my writing flow or are there hitches in it? I think of a hitch in my writing as something that will stop a writer dead in her tracks or anything that will distract the reader.
  • Is my writing limping? If the story isn’t moving along, it is limping. If the reader isn’t turning the pages like her hair is on fire, then the writing is limping.
  • Am I moving along at a leisurely pace and not at the end of my lead? I want my story to feel vigorous and eager. I want the reader to want to know what’s going to happen next.
  • Finally, I want to make sure there that I hadn’t put something into the manuscript that would stick in a reader’s mind as an irritant throughout the story. I want to make sure there are no loose ends. Did one of my characters promise to do something on page 26 and at the end of the book, that promise was still not kept?

Tux is an old dog who prefers to be called “older” rather than old because the word “old” has such negative connotations in this country. Regardless of whether he is old or older, he is still able to teach me new tricks, and he brings joy to my life because he finds joy in his.

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