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Monday, July 20, 2015

How Long Does It Take?

*I originally wrote this in February of 2014 and feel I ought to update at least the novel section*

How long does it take to write and publish a book?

Answer: It depends on the book and the form of publication. Here are my averages:

Short Stories 
- like REAL LIES, SEVENTY and Prime Sensations in the TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE anthology -
REAL LIES took me a day to write because it's microfiction. It's super, super short and I wrote it in one sitting. SEVENTY and Prime Sensations were both written over the course of a week for an anthology call. I'd seen the anthology call, plotted it out, and scripted most of the story before I sat down to write.

REAL LIES went on query for nearly nine months to several ezines. They all closed during the first upwelling of ebooks and so I self-published it with the help of my friend. The cover art is a stock photo, the editing was done by Amy Laurens. Start to finish... 10 months for five pages.

SEVENTY went on query for about seven months, four of which were spent waiting to hear back about the anthology. It was originally published in M-BRANE #5 with no additional editing. Start to finish... thirteen months for the first printing, 2 years until the ebook came out.

Prime Sensations was written, edited, and accepted in under 2 months because I submitted just before the anthology closed. Start to finish...six months between writing and publication because I was working with experienced editors and authors who know how to make things happen.

- like FEY LIGHTS and the Heroes and Villains stories -
FEY LIGHTS was written with the intent to self-publish and the idea was an old one that I dug back out and tidied up. It took roughly a month to write, two more months to edit, and then another six weeks to create the cover art, format, and get it published. It was an experiment and I don't really recommend the Do It All Yourself route to anyone. Start to finish... four months plus change.

EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE was written for an anthology call. I wrote it subbed it, and heard back in about five months. I did another edit to lengthen it for publication elsewhere, sent it out, and heard back in another seven months. Start to finish... thirteen months between writing and publication.

EVEN VILLAINS GO TO THE MOVIES was written knowing I was an In House author with Breathless Press and that I had an editor there. That meant I got to skip most of the messy parts of submission and skip to the head of the line. Still, it took me seven months to write and four more with my editor to make it publication-ready. Start to finish... eleven months.

EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS was written over the course of ten months or so. I wrote a manuscript, hated it, and rewrote from scratch. By that point it was late to my editor and pushed back in the publication schedule. Start to finish it took fourteen months.

JANE DOE is the only novel I've taken from rough draft to finished, edited, query-ready novel and even then there's a big question mark over whether it's still good enough. JANE took over a year to write, and about thirteen drafts until I considered it polished. I queried for three months before revising based on the rejection of a full request. Queried again. Revised again. Queried some more. Got a lot of great feedback. Picked up plenty of rejections. Had some editor interest. Revised. Got rejected. And JANE is still out there. It's been a full year since I sent my first query. 

IF (and that's a big IF), if JANE is good enough that an agent signs me there is no guarantee it will ever be published. The agent might recommend I shelve it until the market is better (the SF market is scary). The agent might try to sell it but have it rejected by big and small presses. It may be acquired and later dropped. And if by some miracle of miracles JANE gets me an agent, is picked up by a publishing house, and I have a contract that will eventually take it to print we're still looking at 2-3 years between when the editor contracts the book and when JANE hits the shelves. 

If I turned around and sold JANE to a small e-press I could probably have it published in 2014, but we would still be looking at nearly four years invested in writing a novel that will most likely retail for under $8. 

Eight dollars for a novel that dominated my life for half a decade. 


Back when I originally wrote this all of this about JANE DOE was true. That was February of 2014. In May of 2014 I turned a Revise & Resubmit into Marlene Stringer. She called me in July 2014 to offer representation. The official paperwork was signed in August and we did several editing passes of the book. The first expression of interest came in late September and the book was sold in October of 2014 to HarperVoyager (and imprint of HarperCollins). The title was changed to THE DAY BEFORE and it was published in April 2015. Start to finish... close to five years.

JANE'S SHADOW (working title) will be my second published novel. It was sold on spec (meaning based on a synopsis and as part of a series) in the three book deal to HarperVoyager. I had the basic idea for the story and the opening chapter last summer. I started writing in earnest in November of 2014, the publication date is November 2015. That's nine months to write the book, and three months of editorial love with my publisher. Twelve months start to finish.

Is there a trend here?

No, not really. It looks like I'm getting faster at writing but that's a bit of an illusion. Consider the untitled Book 4 of the Heroes and Villains series. I started writing it in late 2013. Hated it. Started a rewrite, and then dropped it in the summer of 2014 because I signed with an agent and sold my novel. Forced to choose between spending time on a book that was under contract and a book that wasn't I put my efforts into meeting my contractual deadline.

Book 4 is still waiting for attention. We're looking at a potential three year lag time between starting the book and publishing it.

On the other hand, I am getting better at writing clean first drafts. THE DAY BEFORE had over twenty drafts after I counted my early ones, the revisions done while querying, the R&R and edits with my agent, and the editing rounds with my editors at the publishing house (I have a main editor and a line editor who cries when I make up new words to describe my clones).

Twenty drafts is a lot, but it was necessary because I was still learning to write. JANE'S SHADOW had three drafts between my desk and my agent's. This proves the old adage, "The more you write the better you write."

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