What A Depressed Dog Can Teach You About Revising Your Writing

How’s it going? Hope you had a great weekend.

My aunt and uncle went to a wedding over the weekend, and my mom and I went to stay overnight to take care of their dog, a miniature Pinscher named Maggie, and their calico cat named Pooky (and yes, she’s named after the teddy bear of Garfield, the cat from the comics).

Anyway, this was a bit of an education. We had to walk the dog, which I’ll save for another post.

Toward the end of the evening, Maggie looked a little bummed—a head on paws kinda thing. Not really looking around too much.

Mom told me it was because she couldn’t figure out where my aunt and uncle were, and I agreed. So we told Maggie that they were gone, but that they’d be back.

And the next morning, they were.

We had a blast taking care of the dog, for sure—oh, and the cat, too.

Disappointed dogs aside, what’s the point?

Well, dogs can sense when things are different, out of whack, or otherwise not right. So can people. Especially editors at magazines and publishing houses. If one editor tells you to fix something—maybe you should. If a couple editors tell you to fix something—you DEFINITELY should. But that’s only if you get a rejection or notice that says something to the tune of “X didn’t fit,” “I didn’t get Y,” and not just a generic “it didn’t work for us” (although that’s a help in its own right).

But that won’t always apply in all cases—especially if you have longer projects—like novellas and books. That requires more give-and-take on both sides, but that’s beside the point.

On the other side of the spotting of things out of whack, readers can also spot something that’s not right. I even had a story that I thought I had ended—but folks who read it wanted to know what happened—so I hadn’t told them, even though I thought I did. So I had to go back and change things (one of my more depressing endings to a story).

Here’s a tip for both you copywriters and fiction writers out there (and why this is a Decode): ask questions. I couldn’t ask a reddish-brown dog what she was feeling or thinking, but you can ask your readers.

Step one: if there’s any aspect that’s complex, or a little detail that you think readers might miss, make a note of it. That goes double if it’s something like the strength of your offer, your P.S., or for you fiction writers, character motivation. Anything that’s make-or-break to a solid understanding of the story or copy.

Step two, ask your readers about it. Something like, “Was the dialogue on page X too choppy?” or “Was it clear why character A did thing Z?”

Step three, take that advice into consideration—especially if more than one person gives you advice about the same thing.

And step four, invite comments in general on the story—and clarify those by asking if anything was confusing or hard to grasp. You may get feedback on something you thought was fine (like my ending I mentioned before) that needs adjusting.

It’s the last day of September, today. Make it a good one, all right? Even if you didn’t have to chill out with a nice dog last weekend.

Until next time,

Ty

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About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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