I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are you a tortoise or a hare in your writing (or a strange hybrid of both)?

I've realized lately that I may be a hybrid of a tortoise and a hare when it comes to my writing. I'm not sure what it should be called though: a hortoise? a tortare? (though they both have a certain ring to them, *grins*).

Anyway, before I get distracted with names, and thoughts of what a tortare would look like...

I wrote my current WIP, FROM THE OTHER SIDE, in less than 3 months, and probably closer to 2. I pantsed the whole thing, I must admit, something I doubt I'll ever do again. But the words flew off my fingers onto the computer, the characters came to life before my eyes, and my plotline sprang into shape with remarkable ease (even if it did require some heavy shears/clippers/cutting implements/dynamite to prune it afterward).

I was a hare, and proud of it, and I didn't stop once until I'd crossed the finish line. I didn't even stop to rest under that nice shady tree along the way.

Then came revisions!

And I became a tortoise.


I've been plodding along in revision hell joy for 9 months now (and I won't draw any comparison to the pregnancy thing *grins*). Not a particularly long time in the scheme of things, but it feels long to me after such a quick first draft turnaround. Especially when I see others (including certain awesome CPs who shall remain nameless) who seem to whiz through writing AND revisions, with a speed and efficiency that leaves me amazed.

I've been thinking through the reasons why my revisions are taking me so long:
  • as mentioned above, I pantsed rather than plotted with FTOS, so I've spent a lot of time fixing things, getting the structure of the manuscript right, tweaking the plotline, getting to know the characters, and making sure I'm happy with the way the story reads
  • I have a limited number of hours during the day to write/revise, and those hours are eaten into by things like critiquing for my CPs, my Crusades, blogging, reading, and all the "daily life" stuff
  • I'm a perfectionist, and I want my manuscript to be the best it can be before I query (there are different schools of thought on this, and I may well do a separate post on this soon)
  • I want to give myself my best shot at getting an agent by learning as much about writing as I can before I query
  • my health has been very bad the last few months, and unfortunately this has impacted on my revision time (and my time for anything else, for that matter)
  • simply, I don't want to rush
I'm not quite chafing at the bit--not yet--and I'm taking comfort from posts such as this one from Mary Kole, which gives great advice about being patient. And I am enjoying my revisions, believe it or not. With querying in sight for me, it's all good in the end. It does make me wonder about the tortare though, and how it is for all of you.

How about you: Are you a tortoise, a hare, or a tortare (or do you prefer hortoise)? What's your experience with revising your manuscript versus writing it. Do you like writing or revising best? What things impact on the time you spend writing/revising?


mooderino said...

I force myself to be a tortoise even when I feel like rushing, at least i try to convince myself things will take longer than they will so it feels quicker than it might. Does that make any sense? Peobably not.

Follow me!

Laura Pauling said...

Honestly, I like both. But usually revising takes longer. And I plot. It's much better to go slow and be sure.

Sarah said...

I tend to be pretty fast, but there are times I've rushed things and regretted it. I think being a tortare (I admit to liking "hortoise" quite a lot) isn't a bad thing. And--I hope your health is on the mend!

Crystal said...

OMG - I'm sorry to hear you've been ill! I hope things are better from that end. HUG!

As for me, I also think I'm a hybrid (I like tortare best! Lol...). With my current WIP, I began by writing three pages per day and I stuck to that... until I got to around 40K or so. Then I started writing more than my allotted three pages, and the forward momentum has continued. As for revisions, I have a feeling I'm going to be slow at that. Just, I do NOT like revising, plus, even though I didn't pants it, I've already noticed a few spots that are going to need some major work. Oh, the joy!!! ;-)

Cally Jackson said...

Considering I had the very first ideas for Tangled (then Entwined) in 2001, I'd have to say I'm a snortoise. (That's a snail-hare hybrid, in case you were wondering.)

I'll tell you one thing: I can't WAIT to start my next book, and I'm hoping it takes less than a quarter of the time than Tangled has (so far!).

Anonymous said...

I'm terrible at revising. Just terrible.

Maybe I have issues with delayed gratification.

Lissa said...

I wrote the first two books in my high fantasy series over several years, the my sci-fi in one month. Revisions so far have taken 6 months. Sometimes I feel I should be moving faster, but I want to turn out quality stuff and I find when I take my time, I tend to get better ideas because it stews in my head longer. Each revision pass makes a better manuscript. I shudder to think what my work would be like if I'd left it in its once-over state.

Carol Riggs said...

I think it must be REALLY common to whip out that first draft and then revise for much longer. Maybe more plotting is needed ahead of time? (me too) I'm not sure. Part of it I think is just the normal process. No one whips out star material in the rough draft. No one.

And if you have limited time for the revising, it WILL take longer! But hey, you're young and you have time. If you spend an extra year or two honing your skills, consider it an investment. It's worth it. ;o)

Cherie Reich said...

I'm your tortare...or hortoise. I'm leaning toward tortare, though. *laughs*

I like to do the NaNoWriMo method when writing a novel. Rush through the first draft in a month or so. Then revisions and editing, I slow down and can take months on it. I wish I was a little faster on the revision end, but it's more of a marathon than a sprint perhaps.

Misha Gerrick said...

I think the Tortare/Hortoise thing depends on whether you're fast in drafts or revisions. ;-)

I'm a tortare. Spent three years on Draft 1, four months on Rewrite, and two weeks on one fifth of my revisions.

In fact, I'm forcing myself to slow down, because it's not healthy to spend so much time revising.


Nicole Zoltack said...

I tend to write heavy in spurts. I can write huge amounts in a short amount of time. Then I won't write for awhile. When I'm editing or critiquing someone else, I can be done in no time. But with my own, I take forever!

Alleged Author said...

I think all the time you are taking is a good thing. It means you are presenting your best work possible. :)

Shari said...

Definitely a tortoise.

raisingmarshmallows said...

Lately I've been a tortoise. Slow and easy wins the race, right?

NiaRaie said...

When I read the post title I knew I was a tortoise. But... I really like revisions so if they go well (and sometimes they don't) I do them really quickly. I just dreaaad 1st drafts. Great post!

Kristina Fugate said...

I'm the other way around--I'm a tortoise when it comes to the actually writing, but I can zip through revisions pretty quickly.

Aldrea Alien said...

Nicole, I am just like that. I can manage anywhere between 1k words in one night to around 3k. But then the muse runs out of steam for a day or so.

Colene Murphy said...

That's ME! Pantser part too! I find, that if you take more time to edit after the first draft is done, the less times you have to RE-edit after the first time ;) So going slow is a good thing! You're right on the money there! Good luck!

Kay L. Davies said...

I like "hortoise" as a word. It really has a ring to it.
When I'm able to write (am still waiting for writing memes to haul me out of writer's block, which they're doing, slowly) I am, however, a hare.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Zan Marie said...

I'm a tortare, since the tortoise out weighs the hare. Darn it! I can go fast but it's such a rare occurance, that no one but me knows.

I feel your pain on the health. Add a night at the ER last night, I'm just glad I added 200 words to the short piece I'm working on.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I'm a slow tortoise with editing Rach. I do a chapter a day and my chapters are like 1500 words so that gives you an idea of how slow I am.

Astrid Paramita said...

I'm a hortoise! I could write fast in bursts, but I feel like what I wrote fast would take longer in editing. I'm just glad I'm not alone in this.

I think I like writing best because I don't have to worry about how other people would think of it. It's a form of free art and free art is fun :D.
Of course, I want to sell it and have other people to read it so I'd have to love revising.

Kerri Cuev said...

I'm a hybrid with a tortoise head and a hare's tail he he. I'm the hare when writing my first draft, but become the tortoise during revisions because I panstered the first draft. Ah, if only I had the skills to plot. LOL!

K.V. Briar said...

Count me in as one of the hybrids. I like to think that I'm more hare (in fact one of my catch phrases is "quick like a bunny") but my revisions have taken me for-evvv-eerrr. UGH. I at least partially blame the kids, they're so young right now that its really hard to get good writing time in.

I hope you start feeling better soon!

erica and christy said...

I'm a hare for the first half of the first draft. Then I turn into a tortoise...for everything after. Just to be hare-like again, I take a break from one ms to start another. As soon as I transform back into the tortoise, I go back and forth between the two. Dreadful! Sorry to hear your health was poor for so long. I hope you are better.? From the Other Side was amazing before, so I'm sure it's impeccably superb now! (I'm 3 months into my third pregnancy, so I hear ya. Pregnancy-wise and revision-wise.) :0) Christy

Elena Solodow said...

It's varied for me. I wrote my last first draft super-fast, the fastest I've written a novel before. Now the edits are going somewhere in between.

Kerrin said...

I'm a tortoise!
It took me a year to write my story and do a few edits and revisions.
It also took me a year to write my first novel - first draft and i'm delaying editing because i know it is so bad!

Liz Fichera said...

Hybrid, definitely! If I'm into my story, I don't care what stage I'm at.

Rachael Harrie said...

Awesome comments guys (and thanks for your lovely thoughts about my health). It's intriguing to see how people approach writing/revisions, and how many of us do similar things while many of us go our own ways!



Robyn Campbell said...

Tortoise here. I'd rather write, but I know revising gets me closer so I guess I should love it. I write for kids you know, and my chapters are short. I only do one chapter a day. Slow and easy. Haven't been by in a while. Sorry to read you've been sick. Me too, Rach. Having a lot of tests done. UGH. (((hugs)))

Crystal said...

Hey, Rach, me again. Just wanted to say...

Tag! You're it! I got involved in a game of blog tag, had to tag eight bloggy friends, and I picked you! :-)

Kelley said...

I was a hare for my first book, but I also pantsed it. Now that I'm trying to plot my second, I've slowed to tortoise level. I just hope it'll make the writing fast and the revisions more minimal. We shall see :) Good post.

Erica Pike said...

Hare when it comes to writing, tortoise when it comes to querying! I'll go over the manuscript again and again before I think it's ready for submitting, never feeling it's good enough. I wrote my 75k manuscript in roughly 5 weeks (waking up in the night to scribble things down to improve previously written scenes, so I was kind of revising as I wrote). I know they're ready for submission, I just have to learn to let go.

aisyahputrisetiawan said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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