Category Archives: Writing

Jesse the blind dog

 

As Harris passed Jesse, she faced the wall across from the goat and sheep pens, her nose about six inches away from it, wagging her tail. Harris just looked down at her, then followed Tom. “What’s with your dog?”
Tom looked at Jesse, wagging her tail, staring at the wall.
“Come on Jess! Over here!” Jesse looked in Tom’s direction and the bounded towards him, tongue flopping about. “Slow down girl!” He put his hands out to stop her, but she crashed into his legs anyway. He patted her and she whimpered, while he grunted, since she’d crashed straight into Tom’s shin. “She was born with congenital cataracts. She’s been blind since she was two.”

So then you would be her seeing-eye…family?”

“Pretty much. Generally she copes well on her own, it’s just she’s still not very good at judging distances, so she tends to crash into things. Like my legs.” Now Jesse was staying close to Tom’s side. “There’s not a lot of gray matter in there either.”

Excerpt from A Vintage Year

Why bother making things up when life can bring you interesting ideas? One of the minor characters in my book is a blind black labrador named Jesse. We humans don’t often come across handicapped animals, especially dogs all that often. In fact, normally it’s the other way around and they look after us.

One of my friends had a dog that was born with congenital cataracts and gradually lost her sight starting at the age of 2. The vet told the family that he could operate but that they would just grow back. The dog was happy and managed pretty darn well without sight for the rest of her life. It was funny watching her sometimes, wagging her tail, staring at a wall. If you didn’t know she was blind, you kind of looked at her like she maybe didn’t have all her marbles. She adjusted to her lack of sight very well, comfortable going for walks even in the city. You had to tell her where the sidewalk curbs were, but other than that, she coped just fine.

She was a great dog with a gentle temper who led a long and happy life. She died not too long ago of old age.

 

Favourite Writing Books

Writing is a very personal thing and how it’s approached differs widely between writers — at least that’s been my experience. I have attended many courses over my writing career, some online, some through local continuing ed. programs.

But when I’m between courses, or starting a new story, I will refer to the writing books often. They remind me of how to put together a story so that it flows, how to achieve the right amount of tension, develop characters so that they are three dimensional. Below are my personal favourites (in no particular order):

On Writing cover 1. On Writing by Stephen King. One of the easiest reads and best books on writing from an overall “how it’s done” perspective. I found it thoroughly entertaining.

 

 

 

Hooked  2. Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers and Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton. I refer to this book every time I start a new story. It helps me remember the important factors in developing plot.

 

 

The ARt of Fiction 3. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardiner. A classic writing tool. Almost should be mandatory for all beginning writers (I would say “emerging” writers is a better term than young).

 

 

 

Bird by Bird 4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. An engaging book that helps you break down a story into its parts and not make it seem like the daunting project you might believe it to be.

 

 

 

First Draft 5. First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner. This is my bible. If you writer commercial fiction, this is a great book to help guide you through the process of constructing a story. I can’t write a first draft in 30 days, but I still follow her guidelines and find it extremely helpful.

 

 

The Plot Thickens 6. The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman. Another good book on developing stories. Most notably, the author points out that the middle is the hardest part of writing a book because most authors have an idea of how it begins and where it will end. It’s the middle stuff that’s the hardest to write.

 

 

The First Five Pages  7. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. The same author discusses the important factors in pulling the reader into your story so that he or she can’t put it down.

 

 

 

The Artist's Way  8. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. While not about writing per se, it is about the process of creativity. If you’re having writer’s block, this is a great book to begin using — it will help you get through the block and come out writing and creating like you never have before.

 

 

The elements of style 9. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. A necessary and short read on creating effective writing.

 

 

 

Self-Editing for Fiction 10. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford or can’t find an editor to edit your novel (and even if you can), this book will help you learn how to edit your story.