Introducing Hamish

The timing could have probably been better (though who could have predicted the house flooding?!) but last Thursday we picked up our new collie puppy, Hamish. We were going to get an australian labradoodle but after much deliberation, we decided on a collie. Followers of TKZ may recall that we had to put down our previous collie but now we have finally welcomed a new puppy into our hearts and home. It’s been a while since we’ve done the whole puppy thing and I’d forgotten how much like having a baby it can be – crying in the middle of the night, potty training and, of course, all the delightful curiosity and playfulness. I’m so glad we got a puppy! I’ve been reading articles on websites like to get some tips on how to keep my puppy happy but he seems to be enjoying his new home!

Despite the potty training trials, Hamish is an lovely, friendly, mellow puppy and hopefully his presence will bring the same comfort our old dog, Benjamin, brought to our home. More importantly I hope he heralds the normalization of my writing schedule (finally!! Please!!) – Jim’s post yesterday actually made me a bit depressed as I would love to type faster but life seems to be getting in the way lately (sigh!). In fact it feels rather like trying to walk up a slippery slide…but enough about me…back to Hamish…

I can’t say I am a huge fan of pets in mysteries – especially not the pseudo-detective types – but I do believe pets can be excellent muses. My old dog was always happy to sit and listen to me talk about plot issues or offer me a ruff to hug when the middle of the books started to sag. I think pets provide writers with a myriad of support services – and besides who else would sit by hour after hour as you type, asking only for a small tummy rub now and again in return?

So do you have a pet ‘muse’? Do you have a cat, dog, horse, guinea pig, chicken, fish or exotic pet that supports you as a writer?

The “O” word

By Joe Moore

theletteroI love being a writer, I just don’t always like writing. I find first draft writing to be painful. So much so, that I don’t know how I’ve managed to finish a single book, much less four novels. Some writers love the process and have an easy time at it. But many of my fellow author friends are like me—we fight for every word. It seems to be the nature of the beast for many of us. But what I do love is the process of rewriting. There, the pain is replaced with pleasure and fun as more and more meat is added to the bones.

One of the methods I have to cope with first draft writing is to use the advice I received from one of my beloved mentors who said, “A bad plan is better than no plan.” To equate that to writing, I believe you must have some plan of action before you can start. There are many writers who claim they can sit down and start writing from the first word, and complete their book in a stream of consciousness. I can’t do it. It rarely comes out freely like water from a hose. So I always create a plan of action. I hate to use the dreaded "O" word: outline. But that’s what it is. Some writers complain that outlining inhibits their creative muse. For me, it’s no different than taking a trip and using a roadmap. You might take a side trip now and then but the destination is always predetermined. I just keep it simple, basic, easy to understand—enough to have a general idea where I’m going at any given time. That way I always know what I’m working towards.

Someone once said that first draft writing is a lot like looking out over a fog-shrouded sea with only the tips of mountainous islands pocking up. With a plan of action, I know enough about the islands to realize that I must navigate to each one. What I don’t know is what will happen in the fog. My plan helps me get through it.

Do you outline? If so, how basic or extensive is it? Or do you just wing it?