When I hear fiction writers talking about how it took them ten years to write a book, I literally cannot understand what they’re doing with their time. Ten years to write a scholarly book? Sure. You might have to go out to Davenport, Iowa, and live among your subjects and ask them all sorts of questions and that could take some time. And then, if you have to read everything ever written about the people of Davenport, that’s going to take some time. And then writing while trying to keep current on the Davenport research can be majorly time consuming.


But I’ve been working on this Sue Allen thing since November, and, frankly, I’ve spent most of that time at my job or goofing off. And I still have a draft, you know?

I get how it could be ten years between books. Maybe you just don’t have anything to say for a long time after trying to say so much.

I guess that’s one of the things I appreciate about blogging. It trains you to keep the spigot open. Sit down, let some words out. Sit down, let some more words out.

Revisions are going slowly. I’m kind of in the weeds.

I hope something comes of it.


7 thoughts on “Confession

  1. Thank you for making an exception for scholarly writers or I would feel like a gigantic loser. I’d add that raising a kid takes up a fair amount of time as well…when your “writing time” ends at 6 am and doesn’t roll back around until 10 pm, progress on everything thing else slows down. Your time is possibly more yours to command than others (and you then direct that time more fruitfully…)

  2. Revision is writing.
    Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
    Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
    Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
    Hemingway: Getting the words right.

  3. I guess the thing is that, if I started a book in, say 1990 and I finished that book in 2010, I COULD say it took me twenty years to write the book, but I feel like that’s not quite right. It probably took me x years spread over twenty.

    I’m more interested in knowing what that x number is. Like, when you’re sitting down with either words or the space where words should go in front of you, how long does the act of writing take?

  4. Sometimes people just get stumped on a structural point, how to execute what they want–or can’t quite figure what they want, except for the result to be well-taken–to make the flow work and the implications present. And sometimes they just work their way into a plot situation hole, overall, or for some character as they understand them, that they can’t seem to dig their way out of.

  5. Well it’s taken me 15 years to write a book and I still don’t have it done. Here, you’ll love this: I’ve spent 10 years writing a short story! An 8,000 word short story, but still. Hey, I’m also done with that one. Huzzah.

    What takes me so long? Because a) I’ve put these projects down for literally years at a time to do other things, and b) some of us write fiction really really slowly. Like, glacially slowly. It can take me an entire day to write one paragraph, I shit you not. And finally, c) I do spend a lot of time doing research as well, reading books about the period and taking visits to places I think will be useful.

    I think I write fiction so slowly because I’m not a natural fiction writer and I don’t actually like it. I can write a blog post in 10 minutes or a paying piece in 2 days but fiction is unbearably hard for me to write. However, I also think my fiction writing is better than my blog or editorial writing.

    Some of us just aren’t as lucky as you are, I guess.

  6. how long does the act of writing take?

    Part of the problem for some of us slow-pokes is that we get bogged down re-writing what we’ve previously written, instead of adding something new to the manuscript. So while it might take all day to write a paragraph or two, a big chunk of the day is spend rewriting.

    This is a discipline problem for me. I have to say, when I’ve done NaNoWriMo I had get over that real quick. You just don’t have the time. I wasn’t entirely successful but I did get a little further along than I might ordinarily.

    Also, fiction writing is mentally exhausting for me. It takes so much energy. I feel like I just slogged 10 miles on the treadmill. I think what I do is write it in my head first and then write it on the page, and sometimes that act is agonizing because it doesn’t come out the way I heard it in my head.

    Sorry, don’t mean to sound like the tortured artist here. I have a huge love-hate relationship with my fiction. I probably shouldn’t do it, but it’s that or rob convenience stores with my time.

  7. It took me 15 years to write my memoir after my father died, and I couldn’t have done it quicker.

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