Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Many-Years Book

I think the longest I've ever dedicated myself to a book is a year, and I didn't finish it.

When I think of people who spend years working on their novel (Patrick Rothfuss and J. R. R. Tolkien comes to mind), it floors me. Don't get me wrong, I love my stories, but coming back to them time and time again, rewriting them over and over . . . I don't have the patience for it. Or perhaps I just don't have the story. Once my tale is done and revised, I move on.

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But man, those novels that marinate and steam and brew for years are fascinating. You can really tell when someone puts that much work into a story. I mean, come on, Lord of the Rings? How crazy solid is that book?

I'm thinking of this because I'm currently alpha reading* my friend Michelle's book--she's an old roommate of mine, and I read this book some four or five years ago when we shared an apartment. And man, has it marinated and steamed and brewed. For eight years! It's amazing. You should all be jealous that you're not her friend! ;)

How do you write? Do you nest and fix and prepare your book to perfection, or do you strive for newer projects? What's the most time you've ever put into a novel?

*And beta-reading my sister's, and my other friend's, both of which I've taken way too long to complete. I'm a bad person. 


  1. I've spent three years on the novel I'm shopping around. It just took me that long to figure out how to write it.

  2. Erm... I spent seven, maybe eight, years on a book which hasn't been completed. I was writing short stories at the same time. But I couldn't leave those characters alone. It started as a novel, then I had a short story version of it published, before I changed my mind and lengthened it again. Now it's in a drawer, but Hubby wants me to start working on it again - it's apparently the only project of mine he really likes!

  3. 1-2 years -- it seems to take that long for my stories to mature properly from their roots. :)

  4. Going on 3 years now for my current, but it's not marinating so much as getting shoved aside to take care of kids and other domestic duties.

    Speaking of time-consuming books, though, just a heads up that the final Wheel of Time book is slated to be released January 8, 2013. Some people have already gotten to read it and posted on their blogs about it. It's apparently amazing.

    A series some 30 years in the making (and finishing!). Now THAT's a well-cooked, love-basted endeavor.

  5. My first took longer than a year, and I was still struggling with it so I had to just put it away! I think a lot of the struggle was mulling over sentences: trying to figure out the perfect way to state each one.

    The second one, which I'm currently querying, actually only took a few months, and I already love it much more than my first attempt (sorry, first book). I plotted the entire story beforehand and whipped out a first draft in a month. So, maybe that's hope to others -- it gets so much easier!

  6. Oh man, it's like The Night Circus. It took her eight years to write that. Obviously it worked out for her :)

  7. Love this post, Charlie. It doesn't take me long (maybe six months) to draft a story, but I still might work on it for years, revising and editing. :)

  8. You know my answers: write 'em fast, move on.
    My first book I wrote on my mission by hand, so total time was about a year and a half, but that included completely copying 150,000 words from notebooks to a computer.

    The second longest was Effulgent Corruption, which took seven months (and ended at 350k).

    I write spontaneously, and I'm also easily distracted, so it's hard for me to focus on a project for more than 5-6 months tops. I also get really excited about it so I end up devoting more time to it and end up finishing most novels in under three months.

    That being said, the revision process takes me forever, so if we are counting that...

  9. I think the only really important point in writing any book is to finish it... however long it takes. I tend to write the initial draft straight through and then spend a lot of time revising and sometimes even rewriting. It's all part of the writing process, so I guess the longest I've stayed at one book is three years, but that included the revisions. (And that book was my first and will ever remain in a dusty closet. No amount of revising is going to make it good enough for public consumption.) :D

  10. A little over two years and counting for mine... I'm aiming at about 2 1/2 to 3 years total before it'll be ready.

    I was curious which GUTGAA entry was yours. I'd like to look back at it.


    1. Don't know if you'll check back for this, but my entry was #18, Followed by Frost. :)