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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Writers - are you a stalker or a pouncer?

This analogy came to me overnight, while I was considering my writing goals for the next 3, 6 and 12 months.  I'm a pouncer who dreams of being a stalker.

The Stalker
In the kingdom of large animals, and indeed where early man is concerned, targets are often sizeable and almost always food-related. A 'caveman' might be away for a while with his peers, patiently waiting and watching, aiming to nab a large animal to take back for cooking and maybe sharing out. It could take ages, but if successful, the reward was significant and they could take a short break ("chillax" they used to grunt) before having to start the process again.
by Yinan Cheng
This is how I see novelists. They know they're in for the long haul, and that a hard slog is likely to be involved, but they have the support of their peers hopefully (other writers and their agent and publisher), and there's celebration and feasting when the goal has finally been reached. They are willing to be patient and to make sacrifices.

The Pouncer
Here I'm thinking first of creatures who hunt quickly and descend on prey often. Something might pass by which would make a good meal, and it's rapidly dispatched. I have in mind toads and flies, pelicans (or otters) and fish, and - going back in time - the hungry dog and the string of sausages from the butcher's. 
by Thomas Guest
Cats are pouncers too, quite apart from their method of capturing prey. They don't appear to push off outside specifically to look for mice and birds, but if there's a sudden scuffling or a tantalising scent, that's enough to trigger their hunting instinct.

Writers on this side of the fence would include poets, short story or flash fiction people, and magazine article journalists. Opportunities usually do have to be sought, but this is not such a long-drawn-out process. Work can be completed more quickly than the Stalker could imagine.
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Writers of children's books, though, could come somewhere in between. Not a 2-7 day process, and probably not 9-12 months or more. Another analogy is needed. Another time!

I'm not sure that Stalkers do much pouncing, and Pouncers might rarely flirt with stalking. I love to read about writers nearing completion of their book, completing it, waiting for the verdict, then rejoicing about acceptance and publication. Not to mention launch parties. How I'd love to have a book to launch, giving a speech, signing books, and handing around perhaps an ice-cold, flinty Sancerre to the fans of my work. But now I have come to realise this won't happen. I submitted sample chapters to M & B in the past, and was told 'Nicely written but not enough emotional punch', and I've started other novels but ...

I'd love to know what you think about this analogy, and whether it's far too simplistic. It's just a bit of fun, really, but it clarified my vision of my own writing goals.


  1. Both. I've given up trying to decide if I fit in categories. With fiction and poetry ideas appear from somewhere, and often evolve into something completely different.

    And when I'm travelling, anything can happen (even tigers!)

  2. Thanks, Jo. I think you might be more a Pouncer. One category you do fit into is that of Intrepid Traveller! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. But? what Jacqueline? I could be a butter but I'm not, my novel has just been turned down in the nicest possible way -

    'Although it certainly has potential for success, it does not appear to be right for this Agency.

    We pass and wish you better luck in placing your work with an agent who will make us look shortsighted. However, we appreciate your thinking of the Charlotte Gusay Literary Agency.

    A butter I am not, but both a pouncer and a stalker, both of which make perfect sense. For Poetry (pouncer) one has to stand and dig deep rather than run like hell for short distances.