The Tortoise is the good girl who stays on the tried and true path, writing similar books and slowly building an audience.
The Hare is the rule breaker who shoots out of the starting gate with a big buzz and hits lists.
Which one wins with real success?
I’m not sure. All I know is that I feel more like a tortoise than a hare. I’m not really a rule breaker. I’m never late, I pay my taxes and for the most part, I follow the rules. I believe in rules.
But in fiction, I think rules are the kiss of death. They create the same boring books (read—same characters) over and over. I found one of those books recently: another burned out FBI profiler (why are they all named some version QUINN?) given almost God-like qualities and…who knows, I closed the book. I was done. Been there, read that a thousand times.
As I’m waiting to hear on some projects, I’m really thinking about this. The thing is, it’s not all in my control. There’s my agent, my editor, the publishing house—so many facets that dictate if the author moves at a tortoise’s pace or a hare’s pace.
Which will build a better career? I’m not sure. I think what it must come down to in the end is writing books that we, the authors, really love. But taking risks and breaking rules can help get us noticed. Taking risks and breaking rules are good for a writer’s soul—they free her to hear her characters, not the critics.
On the other hand, hares (rule breakers) can get into trouble because they are moving so fast they never see the edge of the cliff and race right over it. Look at James Frey. He most definitely broke rules and took risks with his “memoir” that landed him on Oprah. Most people would consider getting on Oprah as a sign of having arrived, having achieved success. Frey got there…
Then he went right over the edge of the cliff when his lies were exposed.
A tortoise would have seen the edge of the cliff and stopped before flying over into career-suicide.
Maybe I’ll stick to my tortoise ways! And hey, many authors on the slow and steady path have suddenly broken out into the big time like Vicki Lewis Thompson and her “Nerd” series. Or Janet Evanovich! It could happen….
So what do you all think? Share any thoughts—it’s Monday so most anything goes!