Going Big

A writer took her Labrador puppy for a walk in the park across the street.  They were about to head home when a woman and her horse Great Dane wandered over and asked if they could meet the little one.


Oooooh, how old’s your baby?

This is JoJo, she’s 4 months.  Yours?

This is Boomer, he’s my 3 year old gentle giant. 

(the dogs tumbled and played, 26 lbs vs. 140)

Have you always had Great Danes?

God no.  He’s actually my very first dog!  My dad died 3 years ago, and he’d always loved Great Danes.  I got Boomer as a way to honor him.  

For your first dog.  Wow, you’re brave.

Nah.  I just figured if I was going to do it, I might as well go big.  What the heck, right?


The writer walked her puppy home, opened her manuscript and read through some of the dull parts.  She spent the rest of the day wondering what “going big” might mean.


20 thoughts on “Going Big

    1. Teri

      We’ve missed you, Jody! I hope you’re doing great.

      I’m finding it’s so much easier for me to go big in fiction than the memoir. There’s something about nonfiction, all that real blood spilling out, that makes me want to throw a tourniquet on. I’m realizing, slowly, that letting it bleed a little won’t hurt anything. But it takes practice.

      1. Downith

        This reminds me of that Kathryn Harrison’s comment that with memoir, she is attempting vivisection. And this comment:

        “Memoir, to me, is anti-narcissistic; it leans towards discomfort; it relies on self-scrutiny.”

        I found it damned hard when I did a bit of it for my assignment last year. Keep digging Teri.

        (Love that photo)

  1. erikamarks

    (First, a shout out to JoJo from Olive–and me too, of course.)

    Teri, I can’t tell you how many times I have this sort of conversation with myself about a manuscript. I KNOW it’s in there, I KNOW I can pull it out but it takes a pep talk. To me, going big means digging deep, giving a story the emotional umph to make a reader care deeply, feel compelled to turn the page, and the next and the next…

    Sometimes going big results in something overwrought, sometimes it’s not quite enough–I think we can always pull back, but the BIG can be so elusive sometimes.

    So what did you find when you went back in?

    1. Teri

      Something I’ve been learning (the hard way): it’s so much easier to go big when I’m writing about someone else. Exposing my own wicked witch moles are harder to blast out into the universe.

      Hugs to you and your beautiful Olive! I hope you’re surviving the book launch. I can’t even imagine (though someday I hope to!) what kinds of emotions such a thing calls up.

  2. macdougalstreetbaby

    I love this, Teri. And I love how hard you work. You really are an inspiration to us all.

  3. Laura

    I don’t know, but lately I’ve been thinking that “going big” should entail me getting a hotel somewhere cheap and remote, and writing my ass off for two days straight. I’m seriously considering it….if I can just find a free weekend!

  4. amyg

    this is one of the most difficult parts of writing for me—the going big thing. it makes me constantly question if i’m going big for the writing or for the response. it’s the “am i exploiting my stuff or working through it” question.

    in the end, i’m not even sure it matters. the writer slice of me says that if it keeps people reading keep writing. fuck everything else.

    of course, i have other slices that are bit more..discerning…about what i write.

    (i like the story connections you make here.)

    1. Teri

      I know what you mean, Amy. I’m to the point now that I’m putting Everything in because I can take it out.

      I also see now why I wasn’t happy with the version I submitted a year ago as my thesis. 2 professors loved it, 1 hated it, I was lukewarm — it just didn’t feel like the book I wanted to write. I wasn’t ready to be that open in early drafts and have my teachers read it. There’s too much I need to stuff in there and then pare back before it’s ready to be read.

      I recall Kathryn Harrison, and even Alexandra Styron, saying they didn’t let anyone read any of their memoirs until they’d re-written them several times and had the right story, the right tone. I now get exactly what they mean.

  5. Lisa Golden

    Chloe is home for fall break and spent the day in my room reading and checking her iPhone texts and using it for the web because she busted the screen on her laptop. I was grumbling under my breath and trying to get used to working on my WIP with another human in the room. I don’t like it.

    At one point I must have made a loud enough grumbling noise for her to hear and she asked what was wrong.

    “I’m finally figuring out what it means to dig deep.”

    She tossed her phone onto the bed and stretched out her legs. “What’s scary is that I know what you mean by that.”

    Did I mention she’s seriously considering an MFA in creative writing?

  6. lizisilver

    I have no idea what going big means, either. Let me know if you figure it out. I’m a big dog girl, but otherwise, I go for small.. My dream house is a bungalow. Same reason I’m drawn to poetry: palm-sized morsels. (Speaking of which, I LOVE the Kathryn Harrison morsel Downith shared above). For some reason I don’t see digging deep as BIG; I see it the opposite way, the buried minute details, long secreted away, covered in a film of dust and blood that bring the story to life.

    1. Teri

      You’ve got it exactly, Lizi. A lot of going big means being willing to dig for the smallest detail. The devil being there and all. It’s the small ‘tells’, those secrets revealed, that illuminate the big story.

  7. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    I’m not exactly sure what it means in terms of my own book, but I can guarantee I haven’t done it. Not even close. Someday, when I return to that neglected ms, I’ll be thinking exactly along these lines… This may be just the little nudge I needed. Thank you.

    1. Teri

      Sherry, in every revision I “think” I’m going big. And then I go back and read it and think “who gives a shit about that?” Which tells me I’m holding back. And in memoir, there’s no greater sin than holding back. I need to serve the story, which means you only tell what serves it, but I tell has to be worth it. Or why bother.

  8. jess

    Sadly, “go big” for me means “go overboard and take on too much.” I have four books in progress, three magazine articles, two newspaper articles, and I have to accomplish my day job as a teacher as well. It’s all too much.

    I may have gone TOO big. But in other news, I really want a Great Dane.

    1. Averil Dean

      Geez, Jess, I’m exhausted just reading that.

      I know about going big. It’s something different for everyone, of course, but for me it was an enormous leap to first write erotica, and then to offer it to readers. I’ve always been such a private person, so to suddenly have these stories out there with my name on them (sort of) made me really squeamish. But I’m glad I did it. Now I feel invincible when it comes to what I’ll allow myself to say.

      Like leaping into cold water. It’s a shock at first, but you get used to it.

  9. Lyra

    Go big. It means write the story to one friend, the best friend, the one who knows most of it and judges none of it. Write it in a way that will have her begging you to finish the story before lights out at camp. Write it so it is a secret between two friends, no fucking holds barred.

    Write it as if it will never be read. And write it fucking huge. Write for that one safe person, the rest be damned.

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