Why Books Can Take Me Years

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in On Writing | 6 comments

Why Books Can Take Me Years

A couple nights ago, after a movie and ice-cream with my husband (in the living room–because we have wakeful little people!) my husband and I started talking writing. This isn’t as random as it sounds, seeing as the movie was “Authors Anonymous.” I’m not recommending you see this movie unless you (a) really want to laugh at wannabe writers and those with author envy and (b) have nothing else you really want to see. Also, don’t expect to learn anything relevant about indie publishing from it. It gets better as it goes along, and it has its moments, but–well, this post isn’t a movie review. So, moving on…

My husband and I were talking writing. And I mentioned how often I see indie authors putting out two books a year, sometimes even more, but even the slow ones seem to put out one a year. Traditional publishing has its own brick-and-mortar publishing timeline, so it’s a bit hard to compare there. I guess I was just feeling a bit guilty that it’s going on two years that I’ve been working on Memories of Ash.

My husband, being the wonderful man that he is, pointed out that different authors write different kinds of books, and have different processes and different goals. I’m a perfectionist, and I won’t be happy unless I put out the best story I can. I also need to let stories gel, to write them and let them sit for months (or more) until I really, really know what it’s about and have stepped far enough back that I can view it all in perspective. And, of course, I’m a stay-at-home mom with little people: I only manage to write at night. That’s not my most productive time, so it’s slow going.


It is possible I would be more productive with a cat to help me.

That time ruminating on my stories… that’s critical for me. Case in point: the night before our conversation, as I lay in bed thinking about Memories of Ash, trying to figure out what was missing, what I wasn’t getting right, I had a eureka moment. Mind you, I wrote the first draft of this book (then novella) five or six years ago. I’m on the second major revision and expect to have a third. And now, just now, I have finally figured out what is really driving Hitomi through this novel. Not the obvious drivers, but the deep-down, never-admitted motivator that really pushes her through this book.

I’m either that dense, and it takes me that long to unpack what I’m really writing about, or … well, I’m probably that dense. So yeah, this book couldn’t have been ready sooner, not without that time and perspective to get me to this point. And Memories is probably not that different from all my other books (including the half dozen or more drafts sitting on my hard drive). One day, as I get more efficient at revisions, I’ll be able to cycle through revisions, switching from one story to another and back again to give me that spacing. In the meantime, I’ll just remind myself that every writer does things a little differently, and it’s okay if it takes me a while.

So here’s to time, writer density, and eureka moments!

Cat pic photo credit: Do you want my opinion or not? via photopin (license)

  • Elizabeth

    Don’t worry, we’ll wait as long as it takes!!! Your books are definitely worth it! Still waiting (more or less patiently after 5 years) on the next Megan Whalen Turner book…with no end in sight. <3

    • Thanks so much, Elizabeth! And yeah, I’m waiting on that book too! 😉 I’m very much hoping for a late summer / early fall release of Memories of Ash, so hopefully it won’t be too much longer on this front. Thanks for stopping by!

  • “So here’s to time, writer density, and eureka moments!” Agreed and cheers! I used to wonder why it took so long for a book to be released, but since I’ve started writing, I now understand. 🙂 Editing and letting a story gel take time.

    • Truer words were never spoken… 😉 I don’t even look askance at authors who take ten years to get a book out anymore. I have this terrible fear it will happen to me one day (er, decade)…

  • Athena Warner

    I just wanted to say that I came here to the site and blog looking for this post. I just reread both “Thorn” and “Sunbolt” today (I am your arch nemesis The Fast Reader), and started to wonder what happened to Book 2.

    As a SAHM who is a freelance artist who works exclusively at night, I read this with extensive amounts of nodding. I hope you continue to let yourself work within your own creative process. I really enjoyed your books, and I would love to read more of them. But, it’s great to see authors who don’t–can’t–write quickly, and don’t try to just put a book out anyway. So here’s another fan to say, take that time. Give us a great story. The best version of the story you have in you. The ones who will love it best won’t mind the wait.

    (Oh, and, no. Cats have magic powers that destroy 5% of your cumulative productivity. Trust me, I have two.)

    • Wow, you are a really fast reader! And thank you so so much for your empathy and support. It really is a challenge to be a creative artist and a full time mama. Especially during that (years long) phase when the kids keep getting out of bed for the two hours following bedtime. 🙂 But we shall persevere! Memories of Ash is coming along. I’m now in my third revision, slashing and burning unnecessary prose and reordering scenes yet again! Hopefully I will have a release date for you in the not-too-distant future…

      And, oh sadness! Now I don’t even have a good argument for adding a cat to our household.

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