Everyone knows the old fable about the Hare racing the tortoise, and the assumption that because of his speed, the hare will easily win, until he decides to take a snooze, leaving the tortoise to overtake him and amble across the finish line. Most writers fall into discernable categories, depending on how they approach writing, and some could be described as hares and others might be more like tortoises.Writers are as individual as fingerprints when it comes to writing, but how do you approach your writing? Are you the kind of writer that likes to dispense with meticulous planning and instead rather get right into the writing and letting the story go wherever it takes you? Or are you more likely to take the time to carefully plan in detail and plot how your story and characters will evolve?
Perhaps you fall between the two types. You might be a mix of both – you like to get on with it, but might do a little bit of planning beforehand to act as a guide.Some writers tear headlong into their writing, spurred by inspiration and excitement, they push out as much as they can every day, while others like to work to specific daily word counts as a set target, and feel they haven’t achieved anything unless they’ve written 2000 words or so.
These types don’t really plan or organise; they just go with the flow. And, on average, they spend less time reflecting on the story or musing how plot twists and characters should develop. They like to jump right in and just get on with it without worrying too much about the intricacies of writing.If this resembles the way you approach writing, you’re more likely to be a hare.
Some writers, on the other hand, approach writing in a diametrically opposing way. Unlike hares, they take their time to plan everything, they pour over every sentence, every word, they spend hours thinking of the right construct, the right descriptions. They’re thinking of plot and character development.In that time they might only produce a few hundred words...or none at all.
If you identify with this kind of writer, you’re more likely to be a tortoise, and that’s not meant in a negative way. Neither is being a hare, because the type of writer you are doesn’t reflect of the quality of the writing. No matter your approach, eventually the end result should be a highly polished piece of work, because it is the editing afterwards that counts, not the actual writing of the piece.Hare writers tend to approach most things with gusto, while tortoise writers tend to take a long time to consider their writing and also they reflect more often on what they’ve written.
I fall into the tortoise category – I like to plan, I like to plot, I can spend hours constructing and then deconstructing sentences and paragraphs and I can spend just as long deciding what words to choose. I might take an hour to write half a page, it might be that I only write 500 words in one session, other times it might be more.A good example of a tortoise writer is James Joyce, who famously commented to a friend, who had enquired how Ulysses was going, ‘I’ve written a whole sentence today.’
When the friend enquired again on Joyce’s progress the next day, Joyce replied, ‘Forging ahead wonderfully. Today I crossed out the sentence.’Another is Oscar Wilde, who once said, ‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.’
Or what about Clarence Budington Kelland. ‘I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.’How we approach our writing is an individual thing. Some of us plan, some of us don’t. Some of us reflect, some never think about the writing too much until it’s time to edit. Some of us can produce thousands of words in no time, some of us can’t. Some just write and let the story go where it wants to go, while others plan right down to the last detail.
Some of us might be hares, some of us might be tortoises, others are inbetween. The most important part of the writing journey is how it’s all edited and pulled together to make the finished product. That’s what counts.So, what type of writer might you be?
Next week: Does observation matter?