I’m the Hare — and Want to be the Tortoise

22 May

I’ve broken off from revision — still on Lesson 3 grinding through it at a snail’s pace, or that of a tortoise, i.e. slow — to write this post in the hopes it will help me come to terms with me and my process.

I’m like the hare; full of energy, wanting to race off and cross the finish line. Writing for NaNoWriMo was awesome because I didn’t have to stop and think. I just had to let those words flow out of my fingertips. Easy peasy. Work? Was that work? No way. It was wild, it was fun, it was a breeze. I was like a mad March hare leaping and dashing around in the spring sunshine.

Whatever else happened,  I got 50,000 words onto the screen. That was a huge turning point for me because it proved I could write that many words. It had seemed an impossibly large task. Climbing K2 without oxygen would be simple compared to writing number of words 😀

I got some great ideas as I was tap-tapping out those words. That part of the process seemed like magic. Where did those ideas come from? It gave me a huge buzz!

The problem in hare-ing off without a thought in my head was those 50,000 words were garbled, jumbled and without structure, form or, at times, meaning. I’ve been working on that dratted manuscript for a long time, trying to craft it into something worth reading (and learning much about the craft of writing along the way).

To do the crafting requires time, patience, and hard work. Staying with a scene and working at it methodically until I’ve answered the following questions:

What is the point of this scene? How does it fit in with the plot? Just who is the protagonist? And what part do they play in this scene? Just who is the antagonist? And what part do they play? Crucially, what the antagonist does must have some bearing on the protagonist — and I’m not talking about them getting on like a house on fire!

I’ve just written out a scene, condensed the information — that information which, if removed, makes the scene meaningless — and tried to write down the interaction between Protag and Antag. It’s like trying to stand up on ice with smooth-soled shoes. I’m slipping about all over the place! 😀

know I have a scene – by Holly Lisle’s definitition. I know who the Protag and Antag are (and I don’t always!), I know they are interacting. I know a lot about this scene on an intuitive level. It works. It’s good. It’s an important turning point in the story. But I’m **!#@><! if I can write down all those parts and produce an SFR which encapsulates the whole thing.

Which brings me back to the hare and tortoise. I’ve done my (very good) impression of a mad March hare and great fun it was. Now, I need to be the tortoise, going along at a much slower pace, giving myself time to sift through all the parts of the scene and produce an SFR which comes near (I’m not asking for perfection here :)) to the scene as it is written.

This sort of work takes time. My Muse gets bored with this. I get bored because we want to be off shooting through the Universe catching bright stars of ideas in our silver net.

That’s part of what writing is about for me. The other part is the slow stuff. It’s not as if I don’t like working out puzzles. I spent my career solving problems. Encapsulating a scene in an SFR is only another problem — and yet I’m not treating it as such.

This disinclination to stay with this part of the process bemuses me. I learn such a lot from it. Admittedly it doesn’t seem so exciting, and I don’t get as much from it — although I suspect I will when I’ve got through.

So another frustrating day. I’ve learned about my process. Two parts, the mad March hare and the slow, steady tortoise. I can do both. I prefer to be the hare. I need to learn to be the tortoise without feeling frustrated. How to do that remains a mystery at the moment.

Y’know, I think I can hear my Muse chuckling. What is that about? Don’t you just love writing? 😀

For those of you who want to join the ‘I’m a Tortoise and I Love it!’ club, here’s a logo


I found the clip art at


Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


13 responses to “I’m the Hare — and Want to be the Tortoise

  1. rae101049

    May 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Prue,
    I think everyone who writes is a weird hybrid of hare and tortoise. We want the glorious tight story, and we want it right now! Maybe we 21st century hurriers need to embrace the slow tortoise in all of us. This meticulous, cautious creature helps produce the wonderful and memorable stories we cherish.
    Onward, tortoises!! NancyD

  2. Prue

    May 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    😀 😀 😀
    Onward tortoises! Wonderful! Thanks for that, Nancy 😀

    You’re right. I want a glorious tight story – and that doesn’t just happen. It happens because we make it happen.

    Since writing the above post, I’ve found a number of scenes, small ones, which I didn’t see the first time through. It’s only by grinding slowly through the m/s that I’m actually seeing what is there.

  3. kindleforkids

    May 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I’m neither a hare or a tortoise. I’m a natural born procrastinator. Last Sunday I published Strictly Murder, the first 50K words of which were written for NaNo 2010. Without that impetus, it took me till April 2011 to write the final 25K and yet, you know, it was that last slow haul that needed the MOST editing and re-writing. The rest just needed a word or a sentence removing, or tweaking, here and there. Maybe I’m a hare too, then, because I think I produce my best work when I write at speed.

    Good luck with it Prue. I wish you well with it – I also wish I knew what the heck an SFR was :>)

  4. Prue

    May 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Lynda! Thanks very much for your good wishes.

    A Big Congratulations on publishing ‘Strictly Murder’! Good for you 🙂
    Nice to hear that you didn’t need much revision of the first part. Perhaps you did some planning, or you have an orderly mind?

    I did no planning and the result was an awful mess I’m still untangling.

    An SFR is a ‘Sentence for Revision’. It’s part of Lesson 3 of Holly Lisle’s ‘How To Revise Your Novel’ online course which I did after NaNoWriMo. I don’t like to say too much about it on here because there are copyright considerations.
    If you want to find out more you can do so on Holly’s Website There’s quite a bit of free stuff on there too.

  5. Kirsten

    May 23, 2012 at 5:23 am

    It’s funny, I always knew I was a tortoise, until I did NaNoWriMo, when I discovered the hare within! Settling in with a stack of pages and a way to analyze them was right up this tortoise’s alley, but for me, the hard part was denying the hare its time to play once I had permission to write fast (–and badly if the need arose.)
    So what I ended up doing was giving in to that impulse and writing a draft on the side. Yes, it slowed down the process even more, but it gave me confidence that I could still write draft and have fun, even if most of the time I was slogging through scene cards, etc.
    I’m so grabbing that cute little clip art of yours! Love the green toenails. 🙂

    • Prue

      May 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Writing and revising at the same time sounds like the way to go, and you’ve found out how to do that. Somehow I haven’t, yet. Maybe I should be thankful I’m doing anything given all the distractions 😉

      You’re complete. You have your tortoise and your hare. I need to find the tortoise within – and some green nail polish? 🙂
      Those green toenails are what drew me to this clip. Awesome!

  6. kindleforkids

    May 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    And there was me thinking SFR was Special Fried Rice! Thanks for that, Prue. I’ve never done any of Holly’s courses but I do subscribe to her newsletters and her emailed ‘tips’.

    Yes, I dd do some outlining for Strictly Murder (thanks for your congrats, by the way), having learnt my lesson from my first NaNo.
    In order to get myself more organised and save me wading through long documents when I revise, I now use a free writing programme/software called yWriter5. Best thing I ever did. It’s available from Spacejock Software:

    Talking of which, i’d better get on with my own revision.

    Good luck with it, Prue

    • Prue

      May 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      😀 😀 😀 Special Fried Rice. P-riceless (pardon the attempt at a pun there) 😀

      Thanks for the link. I’ll check that out tomorrow. Cheers!

  7. Mike Schulenberg

    May 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Hi, Prue. It sounds like a tough place to be in, but I’m confident you’ll find a way to balance the Hare and the Tortoise 🙂

    My own revision has been held up for a while now. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my book is actually a piece of a larger concept that I intend to use as the foundation of my entire body of work. As part of figuring out our gimmicks in Lesson 7, I’ve been trying to sort out the major elements of my meta-gimmick so that all the important parts make sense, and that’s been occupying my time lately. I’ve also moved to another part of the country so I can go back to school, which has been keeping me busy too.

    Hopefully I’ll get back on track here soon.

    • Prue

      May 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      Moving house – especially if you’re going to a new area – is stressful. So I hope you’ve move, and are well on the way to settling down! Going back to school sounds interesting. I look forward to reading about that on your blog sometime. Life sure does get in the way of writing at times 🙂 Good luck with all your projects.

      • Mike Schulenberg

        May 28, 2012 at 1:46 am

        Thanks 🙂 I haven’t really moved to a new area. I moved back to the area where I grew up and lived until I moved to another state about 14 years ago, although so much development has happened since I left that I suppose in many ways it is like a new place. My worldly possessions were shipped separately, and will be arriving in a few days, so I’m sure things will be interesting until I get to where I can find stuff.

        I start my first class on June 4 🙂

  8. Prue

    May 29, 2012 at 10:42 am

    It’ll be great when your things catch up with you 🙂
    When we moved, we had all our stuff in storage for 5 months. It was like Christmas when we moved into this house.

    I’m really intrigued as to what you’ll be doing back at school. That’s a brave move. Good luck and I hope you enjoy it 🙂

  9. Journeywoman

    May 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    The pattern is a good one – brainstorm first, analyse later. Analysing too early in the process or trying to do both together can send the muse screaming for the hills. I’m wondering if you’ve gone too much into grown-up, analytic mode, though? If your inner child wants to kick back and play a bit, maybe find a bit of time for her to do that?

    (Says the woman who spent 4 hours this morning setting up a new blog, after my inner kid woke me up at 4am to do it – “well, you said you wanted to get up earlier, c’mon c’mon c’mon let’s go!!”) 😀


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