Writing is like Tuna Fish . . . sorta

When you are a writer in the midst of a project, everything in the wide universe relates to writing. This past weekend I was left in charge of feeding my friend’s two cats. Yes, somehow I managed to make this all about my book because the Work In Progress, as every writer knows, is the very hub of the solar system.

One of these fluffy felines (they’re both built on the dandelion-puff model of fur styling) has the yowl of a sumo wrestler. She also has the fastidious food preferences of a dyspeptic restaurant reviewer. When presented with dinner, she either screeches like I’m attempting murder or turns her back with a sniff of disdain. Yes, thinks I, she’s just like certain individuals posting on book-related web sites. Nothing pleases.

To raise the stakes, my understanding this past Saturday was that the anti-food campaign had been going on for some time. “Great,” I say to myself. “It would just be my luck if Miss Mew keeled over on my watch, accusations of cruel starvation to follow.” I could see my future: All the other cats would be laughing behind their paws as I was carted off in manacles, branded as the Cruella de Ville for kitties.

And hence the gauntlet was thrown down. The wretched furball simply had to give in and eat before I strangled her.

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If all else fails, there is bribery. I noted that the rattle of the treat bag perked her right up, so I did the only thing I could think of. I stuck a treat in her food dish, burying some of it beneath the squishy food so she had to eat her way down if she wanted to get it.

She did.

So I stuck another treat in, burying this one a little deeper.

And she ate her way down to this one, too, forgetting herself enough to have a few extra mouthfuls along the way. What seemed to happen, though, was that she easily lost track of what she was doing. Distracted, she’d forget to eat until I rattled the treats, bringing her back to the task at hand. Only as long as I was on the job, tempting her to the next mouthful, would she keep going. But, with us working together, she cleaned her dish for the first time in ages.

When I came back the next day, we carried on with the same routine, and she ate everything again. The secret was that she needed frequent incentives.

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Which brings me back to the Work in Progress, as it relates to a bowl of cat food. “Eureka!” I think, jumping up and down. “We writers need to bury treats in every scene! That means action, sexual tension, hooks, story questions and all the thrills and spills we can dream up packed in there thick and fast. Riddle the prose with payoffs galore! Readers will eagerly consume everything in between!”

Which seems obvious now that I say it, but a brain beleaguered by the dreaded WIP is a little dim.

I just hope my prose smells better than raw fish.

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