House Training a Novel

I knew house training a puppy would be challenging, but I didn’t think it would be akin to writing a novel.

  • Patience: The number one goal of training a puppy and for writing a novel. Patience with self, with the dog, with the book. It will get there, one way or the other, but you need to have a whole lot of patience.
  • Motivation: Another challenging aspect of house training a puppy and writing a book. You could argue that a puppy pissing on the floor is a lot different than not meeting your deadlines, but that’s a matter of opinion. Both stink, and both make you feel really stupid and annoyed when either occur, especially when you know that it was entirely preventable in the first place.
  • Focus: Yeah, a puppy whining drives you nuts. So does that one character who demands to be written despite not being in the book. He wants you to write another book before the first one is complete. The puppy wants your attention and is willing to yowl bloody murder to get its way. To avoid pitfalls one must focus on the task at hand. Eventually the character/puppy will fall silent and understand that they will get their moment.

What other ways can you think of that make the two similar?


  1. Bad news, “whining for attention” doesn’t stop when the puppy becomes an adult dog. 👿

  2. Getting up in the middle of the night and stepping in something/having to write something. Hard to say which mess is the hardest to clean up.

  3. Consistency. That’s number one with animal training. If it’s bad to be on the furniture, then it must always be bad to be on the furniture. “Well, just this once…” is a formula for neurotic dogs. Whatever rules you decide on have to be the same all the time, with the same consequences for breaking them. A guest might think they are giving your dog “a special treat”, but that’s not a kindness. A dog who knows that the rules are firm and consistent is a content and relaxed dog.

    In the same way, novels must be consistent. If unbelievium is an unstable compound that will explode if jostled, then the hero doesn’t get to throw it across the room without going boom. One of the most annoying tricks that a writer can play is suddenly changing the rules during the final battle.

    If reversing the polarity of the unbelievium makes it suddenly stable you had better tell me that before the hero needs to do it to save the world. (Dr. Who, I’m looking at you here.)

    1. Yep. ‘Zac’ly. [Pro dog trainer here.]

      And once the dog/novel is trained, you can sell it at a profit.

  4. Not going to play here today, since my writing is far more like herding cats…

    1. As one who has raised cats, I can tell that it *is* possible to herd cats. You just have to have the right tools and know what you are doing. (being able to move very quickly helps) 😉

      1. Summoning is far easier than herding. . . Until you try to explain to the cat(s) that you opened a can of garbanzo beans, not a can of t—u—n—a.

        Ah, or so I’ve been told. *licks chops*

        1. I am saddled with one of those narrow “efficiency” kitchens. When I had three cats, they learned to block the exit until something worthwhile went through the can opener.

      2. We once had a dog with strong herding instincts — and two cats. Fortunately (for the dog) one of the cats thought the dog was his best buddy. The other cat — not so much.

  5. Oh, and there have been a few of my stories that compare unfavorably to dog barf.

    But they’re usually cute when they’re young.

    1. Puppies seem so cute and little and fluffy. And then they get big feet. And then you have 100 lbs of “puppy” and no idea quite what to do.

      It started as a one off story/a quick experiment in [genre]/ a joke. Three boxes sets later with readers demanding more/editor insisting on a parallel series/a 400,000 word tome that desperately needs something . . .

  6. Puppies have little needle teeth and don’t know not to gnaw on you. Some characters are like that.

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