Sunday, 17 April 2011

Diary of a Novel-Writing Tortoise

When I was little I loved the story of The Hare and The Tortoise.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the basic plot line is that a hare and a tortoise have a race. The hare is so fast and so sure he will win that he arrogantly stops off for a nap half way through. When he wakes he discovers to his horror that the slowly plodding tortoise has won the race while he slept.

It struck me this week that being a writer is in many ways like being that tortoise.

The job of writing a novel is very much a plod, plod, plodding affair. You spend months researching and planning and building characters, then more months writing and writing and writing, only to spend even more months deleting and editing and rewriting.

It requires the patience and perseverance of a saint - or a tortoise!

I spent most of last year writing a novel for young adults called Finding Cherokee Brown. It was a particularly 'plodding' experience because I was working full time for a children's fiction development company at the time and only free to write late at night. Sometimes it felt as if I would never get it finished, but every night I would sit down at my computer and write something, even if it was only a page.

And slowly but surely the pages began to add up. The good thing about plodding is that you do eventually get to the finish line, with a fully formed manuscript to show for it.

And, after a while, you start to reap the rewards.

Earlier this year I got a UK book deal for Finding Cherokee Brown (it is being published by Egmont in 2012) and this week a US publisher asked if they could see it.

I don't need to tell you how relieved I am that I carried on writing no matter how tired I was or how inviting my bed looked, or how tempting the plotlines of EastEnders were. Just like the tortoise, I had no guarantee that I would 'win' at the end of it, but some kind of inner faith kept me going.

So to anyone reading this who wants to write a book but despairs that they will ever get it finished - you will. As long as you keep plod, plod, plodding along, keeping your eyes on the publishing prize.


  1. That's so true! Brilliant post : ) I really want to read Dear Dylan, and now Finding Cherokee Brown. They both look so intriguing!

  2. Aw thanks, Cliona - unfortunately neither of them will be out until next year - even the publishing process moves at tortoise pace ;)