Disappointing the dog.


A year ago, I decided to have a go at writing a children’s book. This was something that I had always wanted to do ever since I was small but I had never had time to try, with work, children, and everything else keeping me too busy. It seemed that I would never get a chance to have any free time, but when my husband and I moved to a different part of the country a year and a bit ago, I had to give up my job. We decided that I’d have a bit of time off before looking for another job – I’d spend some time concentrating on settling the children into their new school, and sort out any building work needed on the new house. I thought it was a nice idea, and the dog was excited too – there would be plenty of time for extra walks, and we could widen our search for the perfect dog biscuit. But, taking a gap between jobs seemed like the ideal chance to give writing a go – after all, I had time on my hands while the children were at school, so if I didn’t make an effort at this point, when would I?

I’d had an idea for a children’s chapter book floating around in my head for a few years, but I hadn’t pinned down the details. I knew that it would involve a child meeting a mysterious, retired person, who would turn out to have some secret that involved magic.  As a friendship developed between them, the child would be let into the secret, and the two of them would have some magical adventures.

It all sounded fabulous and I was excited to get started. I chose a day in my diary and in large letters wrote ‘writing day’ across it. Nothing else would happen while the kids were at school that day, apart from writing! I took a trip to a local stationary shop, and bought notebooks, pencils, memory sticks, and anything else I could think of that a ‘writer’ would need to keep handy. I finished the trip by buying a nice smart folder to keep it all in – I was all set to start. I just needed to take the next step – actually try to write. I was going to have to sit down with a pencil in my hand and face the possibility that I might not be able to string a story, or even a sentence, together.

I felt strangely nervous when I went to bed the night before my first ‘writing day’. What if I couldn’t think what to write? What if I couldn’t develop the characters into likeable people? What if I couldn’t finish the first paragraph? I didn’t sleep very well that night, but when I opened my eyes the next morning, amazingly, the first sentence was already waiting in my head.

I leapt out of bed, wrote it down, rushed the kids to school and then settled down at the dining-room table with a note book and pencil in my hand, and the laptop in front of me. The dog sat expectantly next to me, licking his lips – surely I was about to make myself a coffee and get him some dog biscuits out of the cupboard, as I always did straight after the morning school run? He was disappointed. I worked hard all that day, and the next day. By the end of the week, I had a chapter plan drawn up and I knew the names of the main characters. Three weeks later, I’d finished the first draft.

I printed it off and let my children read it. On the whole they were encouraging – they liked the story and the characters, and they wanted to know what happened next. But they also pointed out a few mistakes and suggested some changes, my daughter wielding her red pen particularly enthusiastically. I was surprised and slightly offended at this – surely what I had written was great, wasn’t it? Did I need to re-write or edit it? That sounded like hard work.

I started the process of re-writing and editing, and the dog got used to me sitting down at the table every morning. He still raised a quizzical eyebrow if I went into the kitchen, but otherwise settled down for some long, boring stretches of time at home. Little did he know that there would be plenty more of that ahead…


3 thoughts on “Disappointing the dog.

  1. Your writing process is marvelous. My main writing room is shared with our guinea pig, who is just as expectant for treats. Why else would I be in there, right?

    I love how you woke up with the first sentence and took off from there. It IS hard to get critique, even constructive critique, from loved ones!

    Best of luck for keeping that fire going and making your dream come true.


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