Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Friday, May 15, 2015

Query Question: it took me a long time to write this book

If an agent read a manuscript that they really liked and were considering taking it on, would they be put off if they found out it took the author 5+ years to write?

If this were Jeopardy and the answer is "The number of years it took to write your novel" the question would be "What is something you don't really want to know?"

That said, I think what you're worried about is the next book. If Book #1 took 5+ years to write, and the publisher has a deadline of a year from now for Book #2, well YIKES.

This is info you discuss with your agent when the time comes. You don't have to disclose it up front.

I assume that my clients spend more time on what will be their debut novel than they will on subsequent novels.  For starters, they've done it once, doing it again isn't sailing off to the undiscovered country.

But if it takes you longer, then it takes you longer. Make it worth the wait, and you'll be fine.

And yes, this also falls into the category of things you should not be thinking about now.  We're going to need a whole new category: Things You Fret About that Keep You From Writing.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The novel I am working on now started as a short story about twenty-five years ago. It's not like I haven't been doing anything else, novels, op-eds, essays and columns, raising children, managing home, teeth cleaning, losing weight and full-time job, (funny how I placed the order of things, it an on and off project I have always loved to get back to. Sort of like visiting an old friend that makes feel comfortable and totally at home.
All I know is that now is the time. It just feels right.
Do I tell an agent how long it took, maybe, maybe not. Maybe I won't need to. Maybe this one I'll do on my own.

reCAP, numbers on a flag on what looks like a cigar, weird huh.

brianrschwarz said...

WooHoo! First comment!

*Licks peanut butter from fingers*

I like what Janet has to say on this topic (as well as the theme this week of things we shouldn't be worrying about).

In music, you see this phenomenon all the time> It's called "the sophomore album sounds like garbage syndrome."

The theory is, if you have as many years as you've had to live to compose 100 songs and select 10 for your debut, it's probably going to be pretty good... but the follow-up album doesn't allow that. You get to choose from the 90 songs that sucked too much to make the first cut, or the new ones you just wrote. Only you've got no idea if the new ones are any good!

Case in point - it always takes longer to do something like write a book the first time around. You learn to do it better, and not write it backwards next time. :)

brianrschwarz said...

NOOOOOO! 2nn's has thieveried my spot!

*Puts on eeyore ears.*

Well, there's always tomorrow...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Capt. BS, neaner neaner neaner! And I wasn't even trying.
The only thing I am ever first at is the buffet table.

Julia said...

LOL Youse guys....
And I worry about the opposite thing than the OP, that is, it takes me roughly four weeks to put out a first draft and then after that it depends on editing and how much change I think I want, but generally no more than a couple of months - and it's also not something I want to discuss very much. This MS, I started in order to give me a new genre to investigate three weeks ago. Okay, new genre, new characters. It'll be finished next week and I'll be wondering whether to pitch it or what I generally write in August (and whether to write the next in THIS series or my LAST series, etc.) when I'm done with this one.

So I don't bring that up either, except in the "part of a series" controversial tagline.

Good morning, sunshine!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Nothing like waking up two siblings having a fight. C'mon 2Ns and Captain BS. I need more caffeine.

And, boyhowdy, glad I'm not the only one who is taking a loooong time completing my first manuscript. So many things to fret about. Thank you, Shark, for reading our minds and corralling our fears.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Wow, Julia. Do you live on adrenaline?

W.R. Gingell said...

My first took about five years, the second about two. The third took less than a year (though it was a VERY short one) and the fourth (my WIP) is a rewrite of a very old one that has taken about a year and is very nearly done. I haven't counted the previous version since this is a complete rewrite.

The point? Oh, yeah. The point is that each time I write a book it takes less time, because I know the stuff I had to learn first. I'm still learning, obviously, but the basics are there already.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I know writers worry about this. I have a few friends who have been in the trenches with me for many years and we talk about it from time to time. We just figure when the time comes, we'll line out and run straight instead of meandering all over the place.

Years ago when we bred and showed Aussies, the dogs, not the people, I kept after a friend to sell me a stud he had named Foddy. He wouldn't, saying if they ever got rid of Fod he and Lisa would get divorced.

Foddy was gorgeous, had wonderful, royal foundation bloodlines, and would work anything with hair. His only fault was he was a bit territorial. When Tommy took him to town and a dog walked past the pickup, Fod would jump down and whip the passing dog, then jump back on the truck.

It was never anything serious, more of a rawr, roll the surprised dog in a ball, and retreat. Kind of like the Gomer Pyle "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" thing.

This worked well until one day a German Shepherd decided to follow Fod back up in the pickup and the fight was on for real. Color Fod surprised, but it did end the surprise attacks. Unfortunately, it didn't end him treeing the postman on porch every day after they moved to town.

Tommy was told to get rid of the dog or the sheriff would shoot him.

Thus did Foddy come to us and live out his days.

We were going to a show and a breeder in Colorado asked if we'd bring Foddy along so they could see him. We wouldn't have taken him otherwise as he'd been a working dog and had his share of run ins with wild cows. He had three pins in his hip, was hare-lipped from kick and was a bit battle scarred.

Lo and behold, they were short a dog to get points in their cattle working class and asked Don if he'd put Foddy in just to fill the class. He did since it would help people get points toward their championships.

The whole purpose is to put a bunch of cattle through a series of gates, chutes, and pens without scattering them to high heavens.

The buzzer rang and off they went. Don let Fod off his leash and Fod noticed a cute little black tri gip that was in heat just outside the fence watching him. He decided since they were just walking around anyway, he'd go visit the girl. Don said some unflattering things about Fod that carried across the arena and pinged him with a dirt clod.

I was standing with a judge who was pretty amazed that Fod was acting like there wasn't a cow within fifty miles.

"Maybe his hip is bothering him," I said.

dirt clod ping

"Especially when you get thunked with a dirt clod," the judge said and laughed.

Fod came back to Don's side and stayed there the rest of the course making every step Don did. Don finished putting the cattle through the course very well.

The judge said, "Well, Don should get extra points for no excessive barking except that time Foddy tried to leave the arena."

Don was fuming when he returned with the ignorant dog.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," I said. "Usually when you say 'skit 'em' he's on cows in a flash."

Don looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "Skit 'em? What kind of stupid command is that?"

"It's the one Tommy uses."

Oddly enough, we went to a show a couple of weeks later and took Fod again and once again were asked to fill a class. Don refused, but I said I would. I praised Fod and told him how awesome he was, wooling him around before we went into the arena because he would move heaven and earth to please you when he was happy. I "skitted" him and we won second place and got points toward a championship.

A woman came up after the run and said, "Isn't it amazing how some dogs work so much better for women than men?"

I smiled. "Yes, it is isn't it?"

Don left glowering.

Anyway, I just figure when I have a contract for a book, it will be like someone saying "skit 'em" to me and I'll go write a book instead of meandering all over the place.

Beth said...

I agree with previous commenters: writing your first novel is a learning experience. When you write the second one, you're already coming in with knowledge. Also, I personally find it easier to work for something when I have an actual deadline. Right now, I'm writing with the goal of eventually being published. I don't have a true deadline. Sure, I can make a self-imposed deadline, but since there are no real stakes, who cares?

On the other hand, if I have a contract saying that I need to have something concrete by a certain date, then I'm going to do everything I can to hit that deadline!

REJourneys said...

Julie, that was a great story. I agree with you. When someone is waiting on me to complete my work, especially when I signed that I would finish a project, I'll get it done, and get it done right.

Otherwise, it's just "for me" and I have a hard time pressuring myself in doing things that are just for me.

I understand the worry in how long the first book took, but like the others have said, there was also life to focus on. And it's good to focus on a sure thing.

Amanda Capper said...

I'm having a helluva time with my second book. I want it to be better than the first, I'm trying to incorporate everything I've learned along the way, and I'm trying to please everyone who read the first.

Recipe for failure.

I took an on-line course with WD, Agent Boot camp, and the agent in question told me my MC wasn't likable. Well, no, she is a bit of a bitch -- but you'd understand why if you'd read the first book -- shoot.

She also suggested third person close which I assume means third person limited. And to "Americanize" my query. Which kind of confused me. Would she want my whole book Americanized then? It's set in Canada. Would they ask a British author to Americanize?

Please note I love my American friends, I have a truckload full of them in Michigan, but is NY really offended when I use two l's in travelling?

Donnaeve said...

Back to yesterday's post - "sentient naughty bits" came from an earlier QOTKU blog post where someone commented and said their writing group discussed "sentient penises." (yep, not even ten o'clock and I've "said" penises. That tells me where the day is going) That got all of us out here in an uproar, and don't you know, Colin came up with "naughty bits," for the "p" word. It should come as no surprise that Colin is also the first user of underpants out here.

Where is he anyway???

It's hard to figure out just how long it took me to write the first book b/c it was a drawer book off and on for about ten years. I didn't touch it for close to four years at one point. Then, in 2010, I decided "it's time," (Chp 11 at my company as you've heard me opine before)I wrote something. I'm not sure what it was. I took it, fatal flaw and all, to a new editor at the start of 2011. It took me about a year to rewrite it completely.

Second book - five months.

Third book - eighteen months. That long b/c it was a new genre, new POV.

But, yes. I too, now worry about timing when it's been said if you get a contract that you need to "produce" a book a year - or somewhere in that vicinity.

Can we say pressure? Cooker?

Wow. Ice cream again first thing in the morning.

b-Nye said...

Define ..." long time.." as in years? It's all relative,
Oh, Donnaeve, I needed to hear "...ten years... first book...."
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
started 2007, heading for first rewrite of 100k soon. Feeling anxious that every bit of this venture takes time.

Susan Bonifant said...

I agree with Beth.

Everything about a debut takes longer because you're figuring out who you are as a writer. The starts, stops, deep reflection on why you even thought you were a writer at all, rallying and rewriting alone can take years. Factor in your woodland creature status if you haven't published anything and you can be at five years in no time.

By the time book 2 and 3 come along, you'll probably have learned what your best writing feels like and if you've had a short picked up here and there, you'll probably have a little cushion in the confidence bank.

(I'm going to speak for the universe now)

Writing is a education more than anything and debut novels are the nervous freshmen years. But at some point, we turn in to savvy seniors who can't remember being any other way.

Don't fret.

Julia said...

I'm on my evil iPhone, so forgive me if I break off and have to pick up again later or have weird typos... Lots to say and likely to have to break off.

First, I bet Colin's bringing his wife home from the hospital.

Second (I don't dare scroll, so please forgive me), to whoever got the rotten advice about Americanizing their novels, I just about ONLY read stuff written in other settings, and they are bestselling authors - Elizabeth George and SK Penman (UK) and Louise Penny (Canada), for example. Write what you love. The passion translates - and so does the boredom. That's what I think, anyway. My stuff is written in the settings that make the most sense for the story - Wales, Switzerland, New Hampshire. Where my imagination goeth, so goeth the tale.

And as for why the stories fly, I don't do anything else except talk to you guys. I left medicine and started writing. Many of you are lucky (or not, depending on POV) to have paying jobs; this is all I do. I get up, put my son out the door to school, and go to the library to research, read, and write. I used to love it; then I found it compelling; now I find it obsessive. I'd write 24/7 if I didn't collapse and wet myself.

So there it is. :) Occasionally, like when the library closes early (today, for example), I go to Barnes and Noble. A treat! I'll be there probably til 9, unless I hear that things at home demand attention. But as I can taste the end of the first draft coming, I am picking up speed and really, really wanting to finish - and being seen at home and online less and less.

Bye, my friends! Cheers!

Julia said...

Oh, and Donnaeve, I understand the pressure thing. I did mention a while back about this mattering a whole lot to me and it not being about money - maybe you're getting to know me more and understanding, but I do get the pressure thing. I'm glad Captcha gave you ice cream.

When Captcha gives you ice cream, make ice cream ade...

And when the shark gives you naughty bits...

Never mind. :D

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I do so love Julie's stories! (I know, add me to the list)

Knowing the right words is important, both with writing and working dogs. My Elka has numerous cues, but not everybody we know has listened to me when I tell 'em what they are. "Off" works for a variety of things, from "get out of my spot" to "no, I'm not giving you my burger" (to "no jumping" to "stop licking my head", etc. etc.) Those other folks, who've had dogs, say "down" which in Elkaland means only one thing: Lie down. And if she's already down, but licking your head....yeah. Off. I say it, and it's like a switch.

"Off my computer" is also useful, if she's couch swimming and I'm novel drafting...which can take a month (if it's NaNoWriMo) or 6 months (if it's any other time). She's a good editing buddy too.

Elissa M said...

One of the questions artists are asked all the time is, "How long did it take you to paint that?" The correct answer is, "All my life."

The more we do a thing, the better (and faster) we tend to get at it. I've no doubt the lessons I've learned writing my current novel will make the next one go faster. (Lesson one: Pantser or not, make SOME sort of outline or road map so I don't, as Julie put it, "Meander all over the place.")

Donnaeve said...

b-Nye - and for some, it's taken even longer, so I'd say for your book, don't even worry. Just like our own individual styles of writing, our time to write the first book is as individual as that.

Julia, another worry too I think, is, can I do this again, and will it be as good? Enjoying my ice cream-ade too.

Julie, you should consider a memoir when you're done with FR.

DeadSpiderEye said...

By coincidence I bumped into the same topic on of my one blog reading lists recently. I'm sure there's a broad appreciation that the a debut novel is likely to have been produced within a context with competing pressures on time. Especially within a home or domestic environment, "Can you put the cat out dear?"

"I'm writing!"

Which highlights another issue, a debut novel, is a speculative endeavour, some might say, that's an understatement. Producing something, with a realistic prospect of bread on the table is a completely different proposition. That proposition will give rise to a professional attitude, which I'm afraid to say, is something of a mixed blessing. Sometimes those second novels just don't quite retain the magic, that a work spawned by an enthusiastic amateur has. Oops, that was a bit of a sour note, I hope that's not discouraging because it's all part of the journey.

BTW: this captcha thing, whu????

LynnRodz said...

I don't necessarily think once your first novel is published, you have to have your second finished a year later. I know several debut authors who took years before they published their second. I think it all depends on the contract you sign with a publisher. A good example is Jamie Ford, he published his debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in 2009 and didn't publish his second novel until four and a half years later, in 2013.

The first draft of my WIP was written in 6 weeks, in 2010, then life happened and I didn't get back to it until the end of 2012. I think that's the "luxury" part published authors talk about. Unpublished authors have the luxury to work on their novel(s) at their own pace. Once you sign a contract and you have a deadline you no longer have that luxury. I relish the time I spend on my novel because I know this may not be the case in the future.

Btw, Colin mentioned on Tuesday that his wife came home. He did say he had meetings all week so he wouldn't be around much. Either that or he's been testing his new homemade moonshine recipe and he's sleeping it off in his cave.

Pharosian said...

Another famous author who didn't produce books on a yearly schedule is Thomas Harris, who wrote The Silence of the Lambs. That book came out in 1988 as a sequel to Red Dragon, which was published in 1981. Then it was eleven more years until Hannibal was published.

Matt Adams said...

The problem with first novels is that you're never sure there's going to be a second one, so you try to cram the really-important-stuff-you've-wanted-to-say-your-whole-life-and-now-you can-sort-of-do-it file into one piece of work. That might be why it takes longer, and why second books are so hard (at least for me) to get started -- you've already said all the things you really wanted to say. Now it's all about the story.

And then once you do start, you find yourself sidetracked again and again and again by going back to the first one after a)your brand new agent has suggestions b) your brand new agent's assistant has suggestions c) an editor who passed sort of hinted that maybe they might like it a little tiny bit better if you changed the setting from Earth to say, Carkoon d) you reread it after a month and are certain that even on the bad day, the monkey's typewriter at the zoo would have produced of a better plot twist than that .... and so on and so on and so on.

So to the questioner, I'd say that this is truly one of those TYFAKYW (tie-fak-ew?). Don't tell anyone, ever, unless it's Katie Couric after your Nobel because everyone will invariably say "Wow, that's a long time," and it will make you feel worse. Try to get going on the next one while you're in Queryland (a very nice suburb, I'm told, although it's filled with a lot of frustrated, jittery residents who are often drinking coffee and refreshing their inboxes).

bjmuntain said...

I'm not going to say how long I've been working on the novel I'm shopping. It's been... let's say, somewhat longer than 5 years. Probably longer than what the questioner is calling 5+ years. So far, longer than anyone else has mentioned.

Why? Because it's a darn good story that I happen to like. And I've been spending the last '5+' years writing it, and rewriting it, and starting over, and upgrading it as my skill level rose. I learned how to write writing this novel, and with every rewrite, it's become so much better. (And, of course, real life intervened. That was before I realized that writing was my 'real life'. And even then, when my work was writing, it wasn't writing my novel.)

Of course, I've been writing other novels in the meantime. I've also written non-fiction in various forms and on many topics, some of it published, some of it not, and a fair amount of it for various day jobs.

I've been honing my skills.

Stephen King once said you have to write a million words of crap before you can write the good stuff (I'm paraphrasing, obviously. I'm sure Mr. King wouldn't use the word 'stuff' in this sense.)

I've done that. Probably more than twice.

So, how long did it take me to write my novel? Long enough to become a darn good writer, learn a fair bit about the business, and to have a novel I'm proud of to shop around.

Also: What W.R. said. And Janet, too. And Julia. And others, I think. You learn from writing. And as you learn, you become better able to write good stuff to start off with, so it takes less time to make it great.

Carolynn: There's a buffet table? Race you!

Julia: "Years ago when we bred and showed Aussies, the dogs, not the people, "

I'm glad you clarified! (Although, I would originally think the dogs, anyway. They are such beautiful dogs!)

Elissa: One of the questions artists are asked all the time is, "How long did it take you to paint that?" The correct answer is, "All my life."


Captcha: steaks. And they actually almost looked like steaks.

OpenID error - this time: ice cream. You could tell the ice cream from the fast food cups in the photos.

Donnaeve said...

LynnRodz, that is true, I think if the first book does really well. I mean, let's say it did as well as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, then you don't have to produce another book for, oh, like fifty years or something.

I think for mid-list authors though, a book a year doesn't mean published every year - although some do it. I'd venture to say it might go something like this; an offer comes and a pub date is scheduled for late 2016. Meanwhile, the next ms might be due Spring of 2016 leaving the author a year to write and a pub date for that book might be 2017. IDK. I'm guessing, but it seems to work that way for some, and that seems reasonable for not only an author, but the publisher.

So, by a year, in my head it's more about writing the ms in a year and not including the editor's feedback for editing it, getting a cover, pubbing and all.

Matt, um..., TYFAKYW??? What's that?

bjmuntain said...

For Amanda, because I had a lot to say on this topic, a whole post, just for you:

Regarding the Canadian style:

Note: 'Style' meaning grammar, punctuation, as you might read in style guides such as Canadian Press style, Associated Press style, or Chicago Manual of Style. I'm not talking personal style here.

This is something I have much to say about. I know Canadian style. I know American style. I also know that there is more than one 'Canadian' style and more than one 'American' style. In fact, there are hundreds of different style guides out there, although most are company-centric or person-centric.

I write with a Canadian style. I like it. However, I also know how to write and edit to a company style. If I were given the style guide for a certain publisher, it wouldn't take me long to rework the novel into that style.

It would make me sad, because Canadian style is a part of my personal style, but I could do it.

Third person close is third person limited, but possibly even closer than limited. You can have a distant or close third person limited:

Third person limited - distant: Frank watched the old dog limp into the ring. It was showing its age. He fought the urge to run out and help it.

Third person limited - close: Poor dog. That limp from that fight with that ornery cow a few years ago must be aching something fierce in this weather. Could probably use a warm pad on that joint and a nice fire to sit by. Hope his handler uses the right term this time.

This blog post describes what I'm trying to say:

Close vs. Distant POV

Ice cream again. I suppose a milkshake is ice cream. Why do I get ice cream when it's winter temps in my house?

Julia said...

LynnRodz: My bad.

I should say also - the further in I get, the more nervous I get about it. It's like I jumped into the proverbial rabbit hole. "Does this need to be in there? This word count is too high. Did that scene way back there really matter? Because I was really just trying to get into it at that point."

Right now, I'm sitting in Barnes and Noble, surrounded by Big Time Novels - and I feel like vomiting.

Yes, I'm close to finishing the MS.

But I feel very, very, ill.

Side note: do any of you have your characters get stressed out when you do? My MC's had a big argument last night. It was coming anyway, but now it's actually in the dialogue, with swear words and everything.

Oh, and in case any of you remember the day I came out of hiding and was asking about my query letter that I was having edited... I got it back in my email inbox today. Sigh.

I'd go barf upstairs in the restroom, but it would take away valuable writing and de-stress time.

Is there some kind of name for this? Verbosia Nervosa or something?

I'm turning on Barber's Adagio and then Brahms. Brahms fixes everything.


Julie <--- See? How you know I'm quivery. I signed with my real, actual name.

And Captcha asked me for burritos and then threw a cannoli in there. Not fair. I feel like that was a trick question.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Speaking of first novels, we were, weren't we, anyway...

I wrote my first exactly ten years ago. September actually. I know that because it was the most stressful period of my life, new job, kid off to college for the first time, father dying, mother desperate, blah, blah, blah. I had my MC, drop everything, jump in her car and head west. I won't go into all the gory details but it wasn't until I started a second novel, I realized the first book had been my savior. I wrote what I wanted to do...leave all the BS and heartbreak behind. The book will never be published but at that time, that book not only changed my life, it saved my life.
I will always consider it my greatest writing accomplishment.

Craig said...

Why do the shortest questions have the most space to read between the lines?

I thought five years was about average for a writer on the start-up. It is still small stuff. Janet is right. Don't sweat the small stuff.

reCAPTCHA said they were burgers but the top one sure looked like a chicken sandwich from here.

Amanda Capper said...

Thanks, BJ, for that link...just what I needed!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

If QOTKU did choose to put a hyperlink for fretting woodland creatures, Julia's in-the-rabbit-hole sounds on the spot.

Just yesterday I spoke with someone about first novel timing.

For years I looked for the magic method. The answer I've found is butt in chair, write, revise, research,query when ready. I agree with Janet, it's better to wait until it's worth it.

To the OP, Write 1 Sub 1 (W1S1) is an excellent way to think about the next story and shorten time. The premis is one cannot write 52 bad stories. One story each week, one year. Submit, submit, no time to fret. Recieve rejections and maybe be published. But don't listen to me, I'm not published, yet.

Twice I tried W1S1. Once in 2011 then in 2014. The first time I was dejected. The second time I quit because I visited 35 apartments, moved three times, had five exhibitions and wrote the first draft of the urban narrative I plan querying soon. The next is roughly outlined.

Today I skipped work to see Mad Max. It took a few hours to readjust to the real world when I stepped out of the cinema.

Karen McCoy said...

Julia: I fell in love with the Brahms Requiem as a child when my father sat my brother and I on the couch to listen to the LP. Gorgeous music.

And Beth's comment brought me to a question about deadlines. Probably very cart before the horse, but I'm wondering about tight deadlines from editors.

I've heard a few stories of authors having anywhere from three days to two weeks to turn around an entire novel--authors that also have full-time day jobs. And I got a small taste of this when I wrote an article for School Library Journal, and the turnaround was so quick that I ended up pulling an all-nighter.

Like most woodland creatures, I'm not afraid of hard work...but I also want to ensure that I'm putting out my best work.

So is it typical for agents to stand behind authors when they ask for extensions? Or is this scenario not as sticky as I think it is?

bjmuntain said...

Happy to help! I'm sure there are other sites with similar information out there, but that's the first one I came across that said it clearly enough. :)

I actually sat in a session give by Peter Rubie last fall, where he talked about voice. He gave an example story in various levels of closeness, starting with omniscience, moving through layers of closeness until third person very close, and then into first person. He discussed the benefits and limitations. It was a great session. (Despite the technical difficulties. He was well able to give the session without the Powerpoint presentation.)

Ice cream again. Third time today. And it's still cold in my house. Nasty ReCaptcha.

bjmuntain said...


I would think that discussion would take place during the negotiations.

Publisher: We want book 2 to be publishable in one year.

Agent to author: They want book 2 to be publishable in one year. Can you get it written, proofed, edited and polished in one year?

Author, to himself: If it takes 8 months to polish, like the last one did, that would leave me 4 months to draft. I can't leave my day job yet.

Author to agent: I don't think I can do that.

Agent to author: How about a year and a half?

Author considers, then replies: I can do that.

Agent to publisher: Not one year. 18 months.

Publisher: Done. Sign on the bottom line.

(There may be further negotiations on that point regarding royalties and reporting periods, but this is probably the gist.)

Captcha heard me! Soup! Mmmm. Warm....

Karen McCoy said...

Great advice, BJ! Thank you. You certainly deserve that soup. :)

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Agreed, it makes a lot of difference. All my POV characters are close third except my main who is first person. I think it makes the reader much more invested in the characters, but that's me.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I think I mentioned earlier in the week that I had all-day meetings this week which kind of curtail my participation in the chatter. Perhaps I mentioned this after the 50th comment that day so you didn't see it... ;)

Nothing to add really. Totally agree that it doesn't matter how long it takes to write that first novel, as long as the agent loves it.

Oh, and I'm fairly certain I'm not the first person here to use underpants. They've been around a while... :)

Matt Adams said...

Matt, um..., TYFAKYW??? What's that?

Thing you fret about that keep you from writing.

I left out a couple of words. it was early.

Barbara Etlin said...

Amanda, I'm Canadian, too. When I was querying agents, I had two spelling versions of my first novel: American and Canadian. I sent my eventual agent the two versions to use as appropriate.

My novel took place in Canada, but there was no reason that it couldn't interest readers in the U.S.

It's a little thing, but why take a chance that your spelling will turn off an agent/editor?

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Often I consider how long it takes a writer to produce a polished manuscript. Then query, revise upon further request.

By the time the work is published, thanks to the team, years go by.

Then the book is read in a matter of hours, or days at best. It's crazy. Years of work for a few hours of entertainment.

Then books sit on a shelf, collect dust, are inherited and in some places banned and burned.

To fret or not to fret, this is the question.

bjmuntain said...

Ah, but Angie. That's just for one reader. Multiply that time by a thousand readers. Ten thousand. A hundred thousand... All those years of work go into entertaining people for years.

Not to mention, there's a very good chance that, while the book may sit on a shelf for years, it's also sitting in the reader's mind. There's that character that just won't go away. There's a couple lines that seem to fit daily occasions. And then, the book is re-read. The connections become clearer. The book becomes more entrenched in the reader's life.

A book is so much more than a few hours of entertainment.

And we're back to ice cream again. Oh well. At least the soup warmed me up enough, the ice cream doesn't feel as cold.

And after an OpenID error, sandwiches. Have you noticed that, no matter how often you click on the example, it never seems to count?

b-Nye said...

Thank god. Looking forward to 2.

Amy Schaefer said...

I recently read one of Stephen Fry's memoirs (the one that deals with his university and post-uni years). He talked about collaborating with Hugh Laurie and Ben Elton on a TV show. For every page that he and Laurie would eke out, Elton would produce fifty. This was clearly intimidating to the young Fry & Laurie. But if Fry and Laurie had tried to write that volume of material that quickly, the result would have been dreck. Similarly, Douglas Adams had a famously agonizing writing process - terribly slow, but brilliant in the end.

I would bet a publisher would be far happier with a writer stating upfront that she needs two years to write a book rather than committing to do it in one and then blowing through the deadline. They have a schedule to keep, after all, and deserve to have a reasonable expectation of when work will arrive.

This is another case of Know Thyself. Learn your own reasonable writing pace, and share that information with affected parties (agents, editors) as necessary. said...

What Amy said above is very wise.

Reading this question, my first thought was, "This person must not know very many writers."

I've heard anywhere from 6-8 years is "average" (there is no such thing as "average") from the time a person starts writing seriously to their first published book, which is not necessarily the first one they write. But that "average" is made up of writers who churn it out in 1-2 years and those who take 14-16 years or more. My observation is it's usually, and of course there are exceptions, a balance of impatience and perfectionism. Often too much of one or the other on the extreme ends (mea culpa).

As others have said, you're not just writing your first book in that time. You're becoming a writer. Finding your voice and your style and a routine that works for you. You're training, serving an apprenticeship. You're gaining confidence. Sure, there's also Real Life to factor in, but there's always Real Life no matter which book you're writing or whether you're doing it full-time.

And yeah, I've lost track of how many published writers have said, "Enjoy that time while it lasts." It won't be merely a publisher demanding more, faster --- if you're extremely fortunate, it'll be your readers.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

After reading the comments about how long we have to stay at the dance, I figure I'll be dead before they play the my favorite song.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

I have to admit, sometimes I think, I don't know if I could do this again. But that's the Negative Nellie side of me. I already have other stories and ideas written (they just need extra TLC in the future, and the fine-tooth-comb process). It's all been a HUGE learning experience. The words don't usually come flowing out of my brain onto the page like a steady stream, but when they do - where to put them, how to use them...I need to have paper and pen with me at ALL times. Today I learned, even in the shower!

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

@ 2N'S "It just feels right" - AMEN to that! Any time I start to wonder wth am I doing, I get an answer from . .. the Universe, God? Whatever it is at the time, it tells me that, challenging though it may be, I'm on the right path. And love that your first book was your saviour; glorious! Writing can be such an escape, an escape from the harsh realities of our existence.

DLM said...

Hello, beloved Reider community!

The density of demands on my life has reached a point where I am about to become that most obnoxious of internet denizens: the commenter who reads nothing anyone else has to say. This dismays me, because I dig y'all like a strip-mining operation, I truly do. However, if I want to participate here at all (and I do), it's going to have to be on this selfish and attention-whoring way, because: literally and truly, there is no time anymore for the ever-richer (longer!) discussions here. But I can't give up reading JANET, and I want to leave time to hit y'all's blogs too when I can.

I've tried reading during the day when I'm at work, and that'd be the optimal solution - however, it's not that un-busy a job for me (I need all the minutes so as not to tax my wee and paltry little brain) and anyway, I get all morally ooky if I thieve time from my employer on agent blogs ...

And so: yeah, I'm going to be the drive-by commenter. Why? Because ... I want it to take less than five years for me to finish the WIP!

*Blowing kisses and reminding myself Janet needs some fresh Gossamer photos*

Y'all really do rock. I miss knowing what is going on around here. Tell me: what's the new lima beans and kale? Orange, perhaps?

;o) said...

Carolynn, I meant for my comment to be encouraging, as in, don't worry if it's taking you a while, it takes a while for most of us. I didn't intend for it to be disheartening. I'm sorry. :-(

LynnRodz said...

Donna, I thought of TKAM as an example as well, but 50+ years was stretching it a bit. If I wait that long to write a second novel, it'll be in another lifetime.

BJ, I love your comment. A book does live longer than a few hours.

Ginger, I get my best ideas in the shower too. I keep paper and a pen there to jot things down. Someone mentioned on another blog you can buy a special waterproof pad and pen that you can hang right in the shower. I guess we're not the only two who get our ideas there.

DLM, I can understand your dilemma. I usually come when Janet writes her post around 1 pm my time and on most days I'm not able to come back until it's time for me to go to bed. That's why I sometimes skim the comments and/or fall asleep as I'm reading them.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

BJ, so true.

Not that anyone cares but it was 2013 when I tried W1S1 again and had to quit. A year lost but well worth it. So far 1 year on current m/s.

I like what Diane said.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

kdjames, no worries. You're not disheartening you're realistic.

Ice cream at this time in the morning, reCAPT, how about toast

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Heidi-come-lately says...

The more novels I write, the quicker I get. Also, the more consistent their quality.

It's simply a case of practice, practice, practice.