Do you write like a tortoise or a hare?

May was a stressful month for me. The fun and excitement of self-publishing my first novel the month before had worn off, and I was hard at work. I spent the month working daily to promote my book in various ways, which is a requirement for all authors, no matter how their books were published.

All that time, I kept reading how important it is to get my next book ready for publication. The gurus say that the secret to great sales for indie authors is to fill a “shelf” with your books. The more books you have to offer, the more your fans will buy.

In traditional publishing, it usually takes at least a year and a half from the time an editor buys your book to the day it hits the bookstore shelves. That means you have a good amount of time to write and polish your next book. Traditional publishing suits a tortoise writer.

I think self-publishing works best for hares. If true, this is bad news for me. I’m a tortoise. I’m writing again. I’m working on the next book. But it will be awhile before it’s ready to publish. I don’t write fast or I should say, I don’t write well fast.

That frustrated me. In fact, I was so stressed, I couldn’t write at all. I thought the problem stemmed from what I was writing, so I switched to something else—something I thought I could write faster. That only made matters worse. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to write that. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to think about publication for a while.

Now, I’m writing what I want to. This new novel will take a while to be publish-ready. Not as long as The Brevity of Roses did, but it will take several months, at least. This time, the hare will win the race. I’m all right with that. I’ll cross the finish line eventually.

Which kind of writer are you … tortoise or hare?

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31 thoughts on “Do you write like a tortoise or a hare?

  1. I’m a Jackalope (I would be a jackatort but I don’t know if that exists). This means I’m both … I write the first draft fairly fast, but because of that pace, it’s a *mess* and the re-drafting, re-writing, editing process takes quite a lot of time.

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    1. Jackatort is funny, Cathryn. The fast first draft just isn’t my thing, but I still take a long time with next steps. The only time I write fast is when I’m deep in the “dream state.” I could use some of that about now.

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  2. I think I’m a haretoise, because some writing comes fairly quick light footed and somewhat sporadic, other times it comes by way of slow cautious and solid steps. BUT … I realized quick (for me) equals a story that is not as well thought through.

    My meaningful, deep, sometimes gritty stuff – the good stuff I don’t let but a few people that I genuinely trust see – drips out slow. It’s more palatable and far more satisfying. It’s like the difference between pouring raw sugar on toast, or waiting for the honey to drip. Sugary toast is also sweet, but nowhere near as enjoyable to eat.

    So when I write quick I recognize that it does serves a purpose, but I’ve learned that purpose is not aligned with my publication goals. For me, slow and cautious wins a far greater race – personal satisfaction. In short, my quick writing is the stuff that people will often see, but my slow writing, the novels and the stories that I personally savor, those are the stories I hope to publish some day. Those are the stories hidden under the tortoise shell.

    Man, I babbled. Sorry. 😀

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    1. LOL “hartoise”, does that rhyme with turquoise, T.A.? You write the most literary post replies! You have permission to “babble” on my blog anytime. 🙂

      I think I’m a lot like you in my writing method. Only my quickly written things are just the posts for this blog.

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      1. I don’t know about literary, unless by literary you mean long winded and at times pompus. 😉

        I do know that writing for publication is not a competition in which only one person can win. The number of revamped vampire stories in the market is proof of that. If it were a do now or die sitution, blood-sucking novels would have ended with Dracula (was that the first?).

        I wouldn’t worry about your speed. I think the readers that jumped at the opportunity to read Brevity, and have given it such rave reviews, are willing to wait. You’re focused on craft and that is where your focus should be, with time you will most likely gain some speed due to pure repetition and the learning curve.

        Besides, you’ll never be as slow as me. Hence the reason I never edit my blog post or comments, they’d never make it too the screen. LOL

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        1. That’s not what I meant by literary, Trista. 🙂

          I hope you’re right about the speed. I’m indecisive about structure right now, so I’m just writing disconnected scenes.

          I edit everything. If you ever have a live conversation with me and hear me muttering, I’m probably revising what I just said. 😉

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  3. I’d say I’m a tortoise. I really only work on my actual book when I’ve got the inspiration to work on a part of it. Usually that happens if I look at a part and remember how much I love the character here or what I liked there. As long as I have time to do that, I can write fast, 1500 words doesn’t take me long at all and it usually never even has to be revised. Once my work is down, the raw format is always the best I will write. Don’t know why, but if I polish it at all it’s usually ruined.

    I do need to stop letting my wish to elicit certain responses from characters be the big factor in what I write though. It would be better if I worked out my plot (which was figured out and now is in terrible knots) first. I’m getting there though. It’s coming. =D

    I can’t wait to read your next book, Brevity is still spinning through my mind. Your characters were amazingly real to me.

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  4. Sorry, I didn’t mean to write as Anonymous. I hit the Post button too early!

    Definitely tortoise! I took me 5 – yes, that’s FIVE – years to write my first novel from the initial thoughts to publication. My second novel took “only” one year BUT I had a draft of an earlier manuscript which I could use as a basis. While I work on a novel, I don’t focus on publication. Sure I think of possible readers, but I really try to enjoy the process and if it takes a while, well, so be it.

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    1. As you can see, Christa, I deleted your Anonymous comment. 😉

      You beat me on time spent on a novel. But I think a novel should take how ever long it needs to take before you’re satisfied it’s the best you can do … minus a missed typo or two. 🙂

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  5. Hmm, I think I’m a bit of both. It depends on what I’m writing. If it’s something that has complete control of me then I’m a hare. I have one novel I’ve been working on since October and I still have yet to complete the rough draft.

    I am definitely a tortoise when it comes to editing. There’s no doubt about that. I go through it so many times looking at different aspects each time, that I wonder if I’ll ever finish.

    Good luck with the new project. I’m sure it’ll be wonderful. 🙂

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    1. Oh, Heather, I’m so hoping I will soon be in a hare phase with “something that has complete control of me”. That did happen to me with Brevity, so I probably gave the wrong impression in my post. I’m ready to be whisked away like that again. Hear me, Muse? 😉

      And thank you. Wonderful is my goal. 🙂

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  6. I think I would be a hare if it weren’t for the fact I’m only a very part time writer 😉 Once the kids are in school I might be a hare again. At the moment, definitely a tortoise.

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  7. Depends. I can be a hare writer when the story’s stuck in my head and all the sentences are already perfectly constructed–usually these are creative non-fiction stories because I know all the background details about myself and the event I want to write about already. I lived it. With fiction though, I’m definitely a tortoise because I don’t know the characters as well and the plot is less set in stone.

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    1. Welcome, Hannah, and thank you for commenting. 🙂

      Although there were some surprises in writing Brevity, I did write a lot of it as though I had “lived” it. I haven’t had enough quiet time with this book to get to that stage, so I understand what you mean. Thanks for reminding me that I need to find that quiet. If I do, maybe I’ll be able to write more like a hare and less like a tortoise.

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  8. Sometimes I am a hare when I write something reasonably short. I can also be a hare when I first start a book, then I slow to a tortoise. So I’m a little of both.

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  9. This is one of the things to be cautious about when going the self publishing route, I think. In the rush to follow up the first book quickly, many writers may publish book 2 before it’s really ready to go out into the world – before it’s been edited and revised enough. Have you heard about authors in this situation?

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    1. With all the advice to hurry, hurry, I can see why that happens, Jacquelin. I’m new to self-publishing, so I really only know one author who published her first a few months before I did. But she has already followed that up with one novella, and has plans to put out another novella and her second novel by the end of the year. She claims not to be a “hare”, but she certainly is when compared to me. 🙂 I haven’t read her novella yet, but I would be shocked if it’s not well done. She’s very professional.

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      1. Okay, Linda, I’ll speak up 😉

        First of all, I’ve been writing for the public eye for over 12 years, so I’ve probably developed some efficiency in my work habits (I do know how to summon my Muse on an almost daily basis). Part of that is that I write and think about my fiction every spare waking moment (which makes me boring not so much fun at cocktail parties! … and also makes me somewhat forgetful in other areas of my life.)

        The novella series character has been kicking around in my head for 5-6 years, so I didn’t just whip that out in a weekend. It took me 6 years to write Demise, and I wrote the first draft of Buried By Debt in 2009 and it won’t be out until the fall of 2011 … the novel that’s coming after that was written in 2008 😉 … so, I think the time required for writing, re-writing does shrink over time (at least for me it has). I think the tools of the craft get integrated into your writing the longer/more you write.

        I agree that rushing out new fiction is ill-advised, and I think those who do will regret it in the long run. On the other hand, some writers possibly have more stamina as well as more free hours and so it seems they’re hurrying, when actually they’re just pounding at that keyboard, wielding that red pen, 8-10 hours a day.

        Didn’t mean to get so preachy, but I don’t want to give the impression I’m working at some super human speed. 😉

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        1. Thanks for correcting my impression, Cathryn. 😉

          Still, when you say the novella character was kicking around in your head I would assume you weren’t actually writing any of the stories down. Were you? I live with my stories for a while (not 5-6 years!) before I start to write, but even then, translating the story in my head to words on the screen is a laborious process. So absolutely you have “developed some efficiency”!!! 🙂

          Clearly, I’m not an efficient writer at all. 😦 I need to make that skill a priority.

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          1. Don’t be hard on yourself! For me, the efficiency happened over time on its own. I don’t think “efficiency” is the goal, it just gets a little smoother, for example, you become acutely aware that you keep using “just” and you don’t need to spend an entire day editing it out. 😉

            I started a story with that character, she just (!!) didn’t seem suited to a novel. Her voice was extremely strong, so that made the story come together more quickly.

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          2. True, Cathryn, writing Brevity was a learning process. I won’t repeat the same mistakes this time — I hope! 🙂 I’m shooting for a 60% faster rate from draft to polished.

            I did read the first few pages of Fatal Cut last night, and as for the strength of Madison Keith’s voice, I agree. And I’m disgustingly envious! 😉

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  10. I’m new here but glad I found this blog. I’m still new at writing and am also a hare at times and a tortoise at others. When it’s creative nonfiction and about myself as others have said, I’m a hare. Editing and rewriting is hard for me and I’m a tortoise. This does seem to be the norm. Thank you for this fun post, Linda, and thank you, Cathryn for commenting on it.

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    1. Welcome, Clar. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Yes, it seems we’re all a bit of both hare and tortoise … tortares or hartoises. I say writers are just fascinating! 🙂

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