Growing up, one of my favorite Aesop’s fables was The Tortoise and the Hare.
The moral “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” really stood out for me, because, although I was as smart as the other kids, I wasn’t as fast. My handwriting wasn’t great, so I took my time with it to make sure it was readable. My ideas took longer to form and become coherent, so I needed to contemplate them for longer. While on the surface it may have appeared I was being lazy, or worse, stupid, I was actually taking care to make sure everything was as perfect as I could get it.
As an adult, and aspiring author, I still find the idea that “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” to be an important one.
I began writing original fiction, with the hope of publication, in 2010 when I took part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. Before that, I’d only written childish stories that would never see the light of day, or fan-fiction.
Coming from the world of fan-fiction, I was used to almost instant gratification. You wrote a chapter, sent it to your beta reader, and a few days later it was online. If you were lucky, you’d have a handful of positive comments to motivate you while you wrote the next chapter.
When I wrote my first piece of original fiction, I wanted that same instantaneous reward, and soon sent a rough draft to a bunch of trusted friends before I’d even spell checked the piece. While the feedback was mostly positive, my friends, knowing I planned to pursue publication, were also honest and pointed out the story’s flaws. I realized then, I had a lot of work to do to make it of a publishable standard, and began to reassess my eagerness.
Since then I’ve worked on a handful of projects, none of which have gotten past the first draft stage. For whatever reasons, I feel they’re not right yet, and that I need to grow as a writer so I can do the stories justice. As I hone my craft, and learn more about plotting, planning, and grammar, I absorb all the internet can tell me about querying, getting an agent, self-publishing, and book marketing. I watch my friends and peers go from milestone to milestone on their own writing journeys. At first, I used to be jealous, seeing someone had published two books in a year, and I still had nothing to show for it.
But as I learned more about the publishing world I became glad that I’d taken my time.
I discovered that getting an agent or publisher is much more competitive than I’d ever imagined, and that they have to reject a plethora of manuscripts because they simply can’t take on everything.
I also learned that if an agent or publisher rejects a piece of work, you can’t query them again with the same novel a few months later, unless they’ve specifically requested you to revise and resubmit.
Or that certain styles of cover - illustrated, photo manipulation, texted based - appeal to different audiences.
I look back on my first manuscript now and thank my lucky stars I never queried it. It would have been rejected without a second glance, which would have damaged my confidence, and might have put me off pursuing publication forever.
Instead, I’m working on something I feel confident in; taking my time to get feedback from critique partners and making revisions where needed. I’m looking at trends in the market and seeing what’s popular in terms of both genre and cover styles. I’m connecting with other writers and readers online; sharing experiences, encouraging each other when times are tough, and celebrating their successes.
All the marketing knowledge, grammar tips and suggestions from betas will put me in good stead when I’m finally ready to release my book to the world, and hopefully, having taken my time, I will have given my novel its best chance of success.
Because, as the tortoise and the hare taught us, if you race on ahead, you blindly hit hurdles that knock you off course, and can even throw you out of the race entirely. But if you plod along at a steady pace, taking care of your steps and the path you’re following, eventually you win the race and reap the rewards.