Tortoise and the Wave


The popular children’s story, Tortoise and the Hare, tells of a race held between an overly-confident hare and a consistent tortoise.  The hare, upon recognizing that he is winning the race, lies down to nap before the finish line.  When the hare awakens, he discovers that the slow, but steady tortoise is inches away from winning the race.  The hare jumps up, and runs towards the finish line in an attempt to reclaim his title as the “fastest.”  In the end, the steady tortoise wins the race – reminding all of us that “slow and steady wins the race.”

I find that I have more in common with the hare than the tortoise.  I want to loose my belly-post-baby-weight today, I want the dishes done, and I want to finish writing that book in the next hour.  I push myself hard and then crash while the slow and steady pull ahead.    I don’t know slow-and-steady, instead I know dash-and-crash.

While sitting on the beach in Hawaii, the waves of the ocean pushed their way slowly up the beach.  With each and every swoop, they inched their way up closer to my sun-burned legs and sandy towel.  Up and back, push and pull, crash and crack. Like the tortoise, the water progressed slowly without a ruler, scale, or calculator.  Even when it didn’t appear to be so, the water succeed because it continued to splash and move.

With four young kids, I often feel that one step towards my goal is five big steps in the opposite direction.  Success hinges upon a completed book, an empty sink, and a happy number on the scale.  I stay up late, wake up early, and try to “squeeze in” as much as I can without depriving my children of my attention.  Dish by dish and word by word, I can put the calculators and rulers away.  It doesn’t matter how much I accomplish in one day, it only matters that I try.   The efforts may not feel big today, but eventually I will reach the finish line – slow and steady.  

Know Your Writing Tendencies

While I prefer the writing portion of story telling, editing always opens my eyes to my writing tendencies. Here are some of the things I have learned from my own writing as I have been editing this week:

  • I want to write happy stories that people want to read – but sometimes the “happiness” factor is over the top.  Statements like “he smiled”  or “she smiled”  or “they all sat down and smiled at each other” seem to pop up more than they should.  Too much smiling is creepy and a “turn off.”
  • I love the romance element of story telling… but I need to keep it on the down low.  As a general rule, I never venture past bedroom doors or describe anything that I wouldn’t want my grandmother to read.  With that being said, my characters don’t always need to be touching. True romance writing is about building tension and obstacles that KEEP the characters apart.
  • I have the tendency to overstate myself.  I say something one way and then flip the sentence around to say it again.  Say it once and let it go.
  • I like writing with the word count turned off.  I find that when my word count is flashing on the bottom of my word document, I start to write just to “get it done.”  I don’t like that type of writing.   When I turn the word count off, I begin to write more from the soul.

What are some of your writing tendencies?

Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

I have a writing cycle that goes something like this:

1.  Awesome idea comes.  Yeah!

2.  I write the awesome idea.  Write.  Write.  Write.

3.  Around 30,000 words, the idea begins to fade.  What am I writing again?  Where is this novel going?

4.  I turn the lap top off, pushing it shut a little too hard, and take a trip to the library.  Libraries have a way of soothing the soul.  I load up on books written by other people.  The best writers out there read.

5.  The books are amazing.  What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I write my story?  Dreams hurt.

6.  Insert lots of sleep, tears, and cookies.

7.  I get another idea…

The cycle hurts.  And to be completely honest, I have been cycling round and round for 5+ years.  I have watched authors start from scratch and publish multiple books – some New York Times Bestsellers.  I have attended writing conferences, shared my work, and prayed my guts out that this time I will have the creative power to blast through the middle of my story.

Insert James Scott Bell.

51648+h8QCL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I found his book, Write Your Novel from the Middle last week on amazon for around three bucks.  Can’t beat that.  I purchased the book and I am so glad that I did.

While writing my stories, I fall in between the obsessive “out liner” and the outrageous “pantser.”  I want to know where I am going, but I don’t want to know how I am going to get there.  Which is all fun and games until I hit around 30,000 words…

I loved the premise of starting my book smack dab in the middle during what Bell calls the “mirror moment.”     Because when you start right in the middle, according to Bell, you can move forward and backwards.  Simple wisdom.

I finished his book and pulled out two manuscripts I started working on five years ago.   I had shelved these incredibly exciting stories because I had hit a wall and didn’t know where to take them.  The beginnings have transformed to the middles and I am happy.  Oh-so-happy and excited because I think I know how to build from the middle out.

And maybe… just maybe  I won’t have a cookie-sleep-depressive-I-can’t-write binge in a week or two!  If you are in the middle of writing your own book, or interested in learning to write – Write Your Novel from the Middle is a book you don’t want to pass up!