Just before anyone asks, yes I’m perfectly sane. Mostly.
Our dog Bonnie has a habit of catching hedgehogs and bringing them home. This happened a couple of days ago and it suddenly occurred to me that writing a novel is a lot like catching a hedgehog. That may sound bizarre, but bear with me and I’ll explain.
For those who don’t have indigenous species of hedgehog it’ll probably be better to have a visual idea of what they look like.
So here we have a picture of the hedgehog above and the dog below. The hedgehogs cute, but when they’re frightened or in danger they curl themselves in a ball and all that’s showing is the spikes on the outside. And those spikes are sharp. The hedgehog can be as small as a fist and as large as a small football.
The dog’s a X-Whippet called Bonnie and she hunts hedgehogs. Clearly she was born with less brains than the average dog.
In fairness she’s getting on a bit now and she doesn’t bring home as many as she used to, but it’s still one a week during summer (whereas it used to be one a night). So, why is that anything like writing then?
Reason 1 – Persistence
Dog : It takes persistence for the dog to pick up the hedgehog, carry it a little way and then drop it. She then repeats the process multiple times until she gets it to the house. Our garden is about 60 metres long and she manages about 3 metres at a time.
Me : It takes persistence for me to pick up my book, write some chapters and then put it down again. I repeat the process multiple times (sometimes over the course of a day, sometimes over the course of a few days). I generally do a few paragraphs or a page at a time
Reason 2 – Pain
Dog : Picking up the hedgehog invariably means a lot of pain. All those spikes sticking in her gums and we frequently have to remove the spikes when we get her back inside.
Me : Crafting the plot and the characters and their ultimate fate sometimes means a lot of pain. There are spikes of excitement and low points for the characters and I frequently have to remove some of them when I edit the draft
Reason 3 – Surprise
Dog : You never know when the dog will appear with a hedgehog
Me : You never know when a novel plot point will appear
Reason 4 – If at first you don’t succeed
Dog : I’m not precisely sure what her ultimate aim is when she brings the hedgehog home, but she obviously has one
Me : I’m not precisely sure what my ultimate aim is when I sit down to write, but I obviously have one
Reason 5 – It involves the family
Dog : When she brings a hedgehog home everyone gets involved in the aftermath and has to get their hands dirty
Me : When I’ve finished a book everyone gets involved in the aftermath and has to get their hands dirty
Reason 6 – Modification of technique
Dog : The dog tries all different methods of picking up the hedgehog, some good, some not so. But she varies her technique and learns from her mistakes
Me : I try all different methods of writing, some good, some not so. But I vary my technique and learn from my mistakes
So there you have it. I’m a dog and my book is a hedgehog. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and get some lunch. I’m sure they sell Winalot around here somewhere…..