Wednesday, March 4, 2020

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

With my recent publications, I’ve received a few comments on how fast I seem to be writing. I want to correct the misunderstanding. I am not a fast writer. I wrote Wielder’s Prize ten years ago. An incomplete first draft took me four months to write. It was my first fiction writing project after a long break, and I reveled in the adventure. Around three quarters of the way through, I needed to outline the rest of the story to make sure I got all the threads coming together at the end. That took weeks of sitting in front of a whiteboard.

Then September came along and, for some stupid reason, I’d decided Wielder’s Prize wasn’t going to be good enough. I wanted to try my hand at NaNoWriMo, so I shelved the mostly-completed first draft and set my mind to outlining a new fantasy novel. While I wrote 50k in a month for NaNo, it still took me four months to finish the first draft. Over the next four years, off and on, I listened to too much advice and over edited it. This was the first book I queried. Then I temporarily shelved it and wrote the outline for book 2 and left that. Then the following year’s NaNo came along and I had an idea for a scifi novel, which I messed with for another two years. Even though I got a few agent requests, I’d convinced myself none of it was good enough. The year after that I wrote an urban fantasy with time travel, but only a messy first draft. I then stuck to novellas and short stories and got some of them published.

You can see where this is going. I burned myself out. If I’d believed in myself a little more, I would’ve kept going and given my books more of a chance when I was querying. But no, I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t going to see any of my novels in print. So I quit. Storytelling was still in my soul, so I turned to narrative game design.

Then my brother got sick. Really sick. Terminal. He wanted to collaborate on a scifi before he died. As if I could say no. And I’m deeply grateful to him for the opportunity. Because of the stress and agony surrounding his illness, I couldn’t finish the novel in time. But it brought me back to writing. Dave taught me that life is short. I had to stop being my greatest obstacle. I have all these books waiting for the world. It was time to get them out there.

So I started with Wielder’s Prize. That was three years ago. It feels like yesterday. And I was shocked how good that incomplete first draft was.

There’s more to this story, but I’ll say again, I’m not a fast writer. These last three years were spent writing and polishing the Wielder’s Storm trilogy, learning formatting, and the other ins and outs of self-publishing. I can say with confidence now that Wielder’s Prize is great. Wielder’s Curse is great. The final book in the series will also be great. My overnight “success” is not so overnight.

I hope that any aspiring writer who reads this is encouraged.

What are the things that hold you back? What is the true shape of your dreams?

Looking for Beta Readers
I'm currently looking for some beta readers for my books. I'm after someone with a deep understanding and love of fantasy and has a good eye for those little mistakes a writer can miss. Please let me know in the comments and/or shoot me an email.



This post was written for the IWSG. Every first Wednesday of the month the members post on their blogs about their writing insecurities or offer some encouragement to others. If you are new to the IWSG or want to learn more, then please go HERE.

58 comments:

  1. LOL,Lynda. I'm in awe of those publish 12 books in 12 month authors, although I wonder how that is possible with beta readers, editing, covers, blurbs and all that other stuff. I'm the world's slowest writer. Been at my vampire series for 2 years after a competition in 2015!!!! But during those 2 years, I've also written my Paris novel which is too long so now I've got to cut. But I love that part.

    I was thinking Olga Godim, one of the WEP team, would be a good fit for a beta reader for you. She writes fantasy and is big on wattpad. I could give you her email if you want. Just ask.

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    1. Thanks, Denise, I appreciate that.
      Just remember, each time you edit your series, it gets better!

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  2. I can't claim any "success", overnight or otherwise, but I can relate to that series of projects on the go. I had my first novel written and edited, then wrote most of a second while trying to snag an agent for the first, then got down a few scenes and some outline ideas for the third. By the time I published #1, it didn't take too long to finish off #2. But now the logjam was clear and I've now settled into a repeatable cadence for #3 and (soon) #4. For me it takes about 2 years per novel.

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  3. Your overnight success is years in the making.
    I'm sorry you couldn't finish the one story for your brother, but I'm sure he'd be happy to see you finally finished your trilogy.

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  4. I released my 5-book series in just over a year, but all of the books were already written. So I understand the process you went through.

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  5. Oh, Lynda. It seems like your brother left you with such a gift. I am currently working on the first novel I tried to write form about nine years ago. The first draft was so horrible, I didn't know how to fix it, so I stopped. I've written three books since and now think I have the skill to complete that first effort. I've been working on it since last May.I had a friend who was shocked at how far along I am on it...until I explained.

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    1. Ha, I can relate. Book 2 of my series was a terrible first draft that I didn't even finish it before starting on book 3. It needed sitting time. Some books just need that time.

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  6. I am definitely my own biggest obstacle. Besides my own self doubt, I also let other things hold me back - emotionally, mentally, etc. I'm working on getting out of my own way. :)

    And I love this phrase - "Storytelling was still in my soul...."

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    1. I'm convinced those struggles are a sign of a good writer. :)

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  7. I'm so sorry about your brother, but I love that you finished these books for him. I do hear that it's worth taking the time to get your ducks in a row so a series can be published in quick succession, so you've done the right thing there.

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    1. Thanks, Nick. It's been a long time coming, but so worth it.

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  8. Dispell those misconceptions! :) I'm really slow right now around all my crazy, but I'm happy to read for you. If deadlines aren't too crazy, give me a shout.

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    1. Thank you so much, Crystal. I'll send you an email shortly.

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  9. You know I am a slow writer too and have had many delays before my sister's and husband's deaths. I'm glad that you were able to get back to your manuscript and take the brave step of getting published.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. It does take time to work through the grief because it definitely has a big impact on the creative self and everything else.

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  10. How wonderful that you and your brother could collaborate on a story. That makes it all the more special in your life.

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    1. I even created a cover for his book and he loved it, so I won't be changing that.

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  11. I'm so sorry about your brother, Lynda. I lost my sister in April, so my heart goes out to you. I think what you were able to accomplish for him was very dear.

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    1. My heart goes out to you for your loss too. My brother made a massive difference to my life.

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  12. Hi,
    True success is never overnight. That's my belief. Stories stand behind those people who have made it and like yours, it tells of good times, and bad times and doubts, and then encouragement from unexpected sources like your deceased brother.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  13. I'm so glad you and your brother had that time together - priceless.
    Grief tends to sideline me for a long time.

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    1. So am I. For most of our lives we lived in different cities, in different states. So it was a true blessing I got to spend time with him before he passed.

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  14. This is a good story of how much work really goes into writing and how little we sometimes see of that journey.

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    1. So often all we see are those success stories: I got an agent! I got published! The hard work and time behind those successes are too often hidden.

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  15. A moral compass is a great way to navigate life--as short as it is. Those memories can be treasured forever.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  16. I know exactly what you mean, Lynda. I had a stable of books that were 75% completed. I'm so sorry to hear about your brother but love the legacy you have left him.

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  17. You are always such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your journey and words of wisdom. I am certainly my own biggest obstacle and this year I've decided it's time to get out of my own way and just write.

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    1. I'm glad to hear you are going to get on with writing, because you certainly have a talent for it.

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  18. So sorry for the loss of your brother, Lynda. Life moves us in ways we don't always understands. I know he was happy you were there for him.

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  19. Thank you for sharing this story journey with us. It means a lot. As I read and took it to heart, I saw some of myself in it; obviously some of the circumstances were different, but not as much as you might think. Burnout and illness (mine and others) did me in. I'm so glad you're writing again. You were meant for it, and meant to share this experience and courage with the world. <3

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  20. I'm sorry that you lost your brother, but it seems like he was able to give you such a great gift by getting you writing again.

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    1. It was an unexpected gift and I'm deeply grateful for it.

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  21. What a beautiful sad yet happy story. I am sorry you lost your brother, but what a gift to have shared with him.

    I love fantasy and I am willing to beta just let me know.

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  22. Getting ahead sure is the best way, then you can make it look like you are a fast writer haha

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    1. ha! I like getting ahead just so the pressure is off ;)

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  23. What an inspiring story. My greatest obstacle? Procrastination. And not believing enough in myself. I have a collection of short stories almost ready for publication, but I think: why should I? It wouldn't sell anyway, so why bother? I do publish anything new I write on wattpad, and some of those stories are doing better than others.

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    1. Ah yes, I'm familiar with procrastination. I'm a skilled hand at it ;)

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  24. Thank you, Dave. Lynda, I wouldn't be surprised if all of us our our greatest obstacle. But you did it and we are all proud of you.

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    1. Thank you, Blue. You actually brought a tear to my eye. Hugs

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  25. It usually takes me a month or two (if the book is fat) to translate it, sometimes three if the writer has a very strange sentence structure.

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  26. so sorry for your loss, but am inspired by your collaboration and rebirth
    beautiful post full of hope and wishing you success with more!

    also wanted to say thanks for stopping by my Beast World campaign at Alex’s

    Tara Tyler Talks

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  27. I am a slow writer too. I am glad that you collaborated with your brother and he got you back to writing. What a gift for both of you. Sounds like you have been on a roll since then. Wishing you all the best with your books!
    ~Jess

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  28. Hi Lynda - how interesting to hear how you re-started your writings ... because of your brother's illness - I'm pleased you had that collaboration at the end ... must have helped him so much, let alone you now with those memories.

    I loved Wielder's Prize ... and I'm sure the others will be as good ... take care in these times - cheers Hilary

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  29. Goodness, I have so many unfinished books, including one that I just love, but I've stopped in the middle, even though I know the ending. It keeps getting interrupted by other books (a little like your example above.) Luckily, I HAVE finished some of them and am working on a sequel. But in many ways, I think that's how writing works. From what I've read, nearly every author has a number unfinished manuscripts and has only finished some of them. Good to hear you are on your way and happy with your work now. Have a great day and stay well in these worrisome times.

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