How long should it take to write a novel?

Hi everyone.

If you’re at all like me, you alternate between “good” writing days (you know, where you actually get some writing done), and “bad” writing days (all those other days where you barely string two sentences together before deleting them anyway).

So I wondered what other writers’ creative flow looked like.

Here are a few of the most famous works of fiction along with how much time the authors spent writing them.

  1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne.  Published in 2006, the movie based on it came out in 2008. Boyne finished the first draft in 2.5 days. 
  2. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Originally published in 1954. It took Tolkien 16 years to finish it.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K.), by J.K. Rowling. Published in the U.S. in 1998, it took Rowling 6 years to complete it.
  4. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. First book in the fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice. It was published in 1996 and it took Martin 5 years to write it.
  5. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley. Published on January 1, 1818, it took her a year to write it.
  6. IT, by Stephen King.  Published in 1986. King says it was first conceived of in 1978, but that he didn’t start writing it until 1981. It was finished in 1985.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Published in 1960. It took Lee 2.5 years to complete it. 
  8. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. Published in 2005. Meyer wrote it in 3 months.
  9. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Published in 1843. Dickens completed it in 6 weeks.
  10. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Published in 1886, Stevenson knocked this out in 6 days.        So there you go.

We now know it takes anywhere from 2 and a half days to 16 years to finish something worth reading.

I feel better already. Don’t you?

Does knowing how long it took some of your favorite authors to write their novels help, or hurt?

Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading!

Writers on Writing

Hi everyone.

I have recently collected some of my favorite quotes on writing from some people I admire. It’s always comforting to know that someone better than you has been “there” before — full of doubt, exhausted when the words don’t come, angry at one’s own clumsy ineptness — and  that they kept going anyway. Here’s a few of them.

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

And … “The first draft of everything is shit.” — Ernest Hemingway

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” — Stephen King

And most important …

“Write what should not be forgotten.” — Isabel Allende

 

That’s it for today. Let me know what some of your favorite quotes about writing are in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

 

Close Encounters of the Fangirl Kind

Being a fangirl is to live a life full of extremes.

To paraphrase Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities — it can be the best of times and the worst of times… depending on what’s currently going on in your celebrity’s life. (Ugh. PR relationships and fake baby rumors anyone?)

Today I want to talk about a different kind of celebrity fangirling … a higher level of fangirling that focuses on an appreciation of creators and their creations. (Huh. Sounds so lofty, don’t it?)

Yeah, today I want to talk about some of the authors I’ve met, or sort of met, or could have met if I had only said something… Sigh. So in no particular order, here goes …

Ray Bradbury.  He was scheduled to give a talk during some 48 hour movie marathon being held on a college campus in Camden, NJ — one of the worst, most crime-ridden cities in America — at night. There might have been 40-50 people in the audience that night, and he did answer questions, as I recall. Of course, I was too thrilled — and too intimidated — to say anything to him, but damnit, I COULD have, so I’m counting it.  Besides almost meeting Ray f*cking Bradbury that night, the one other thing I remember was when I asked some nice African American gentlemen for directions to the school, one of them said, “Girl, are you lost?”

Stephen King. In contrast to my Bradbury “encounter”, this is more of an unconfirmed sighting, if I’m being honest, but hear me out.   I was standing at a bus stop on Roosevelt Boulevard (aka US Route 1) one afternoon, waiting on a bus.  Now when you “wait on” a bus, you don’t just stand there staring straight ahead. You stand on the the very edge of the sidewalk, and stare up the road the bus is going to be coming down… so you can get the first, possible glimpse of the bus way before it actually reaches your stop.  So there I am, following bus-waiting protocol, when I spot this tiny foreign car (at least I think it was a foreign car, but hell, what did I know? I was taking the frigging bus!) barreling down Route 1 in the right-hand lane. Inside the car was this big guy all hunched over the steering wheel, looking all tense, but determined. (Driving on Roosevelt Blvd./Rt. 1 has that effect on people, believe me.) My first – and last – thought was “That’s Stephen King!” as he flew by me less than six feet away. Don’t fight me.

 

 

 

 

Clive Barker. I think I actually took the day off to go to a book signing of his. I even made my girlfriend, Mary, use her precious lunch hour to accompany me to this book signing of someone she didn’t even know. Thank God she did, because otherwise I would have been hauled off by his security guy for being a drooling idiot. Don’t ask me when this was, or what book I gave him to sign, or whether I actually said anything to him – I just remember standing there with my mouth open while Clive and Mary had a nice, little chat about fans, and his handwriting looking like a doctor’s, and who the hell knows what else? It’s all a big, embarrassing BLUR. And I am totally counting that as “meeting Clive Barker”, so there.

 

 

 

 

Laurel K. Hamilton. This was at a science fiction convention in St. Louis. I attended a panel she was on, and afterwards, ended up in the same restroom… at the same time. Not wanting to bother her (while simultaneously letting her know I recognized her, but was being cool about it), I nodded at her in the mirror above the sinks. And, yes I’m counting it.

 

 

 

 

Have you met any of your favorite authors? Were they triumphs of fangirling? Or tragedies like mine?

Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

 

Nine books that messed with my head

Hi.

Welcome back.

This week I want to talk about some of my favorite horror books.

You know, those books that do things to your head or your heart or your soul and make you want to read them over and over again?

Yeah, those.

Incidentally, if you like horror, there shouldn’t be any surprises here. These are the classics everyone should be cutting their teeth on. So to speak. So here, in no particular order are my choices:

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. 1962. This is a dark fantasy about two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, and the nightmarish travelling carnival that arrives in their small town a week before Halloween.

  • Hell House, by Richard Matheson. 1971. Not sure if this was the first real haunted house novel, but it was certainly the scariest. A physicist and two mediums — one mental and one physical — are offered $100,000 each to spend the night in a haunted mansion so terrifying that it’s been abandoned and sealed since the last psychic expedition in 1949.  But don’t take my word for it.  “Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills.” — Stephen King 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty.  1971. Based on the true story of a child’s exorcism in St. Louis in 1949, it has been called the most controversial novel ever written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Shining, by Stephen King. 1977. A disgraced prep school teacher accepts the job of seasonal caretaker at a haunted resort in Colorado with a long history of murder and debauchery.  Oh, and he brings his wife and young son along for the ride. All the characters are top-notch here with one of my favs being the Overlook’s chef, Dick Hallorann.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. 1975. A writer returns to the small Maine town where he grew up and discovers the residents are gradually turning into vampires. With a bit of Bram Stoker’s Dracula mixed in there for flavor, this book took vampires out of Transylvania and plopped them right in the middle of rural America. And made a convincing argument for why it could really happen, too.

  • Night Shift, by Stephen King. 1978. King’s first short story collection.  There are some heart-racing gems in here. Favs — “The Graveyard Shift,” “The Mangler,” and “I am the Doorway.” Shudder.

 

 

 

 

  • The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe. My first introduction to horror. Don’t be afraid you won’t like it because it’s written in a kind of old-fashioned style — it’s Poe, goddammit! He’s the original tortured artist.  Just suck it up and read them. Favs — “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

  • The Ruins, by Scott Smith. 2006. A horror thriller set in the Yucatan Peninsula, a group of young American, German, and Greek college students/tourists head into the Mexican jungle searching for a missing girl. What they find is literally the stuff of nightmares. This one had me sweating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Books of Blood, by Clive Barker. 1984-1985.  Six volumes of dark, bloody horror stories. Favs include “The Book of Blood,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “The Yattering and Jack,” “In the Hills, the Cities,” “Son of Celluloid,” and “Rawhead Rex.”

There are SO many more, but this post has to end somewhere. There is a butt-ton of books I haven’t listed here, and others I know are out there waiting for me to discover them.  Ugh. Why can’t we live forever?

Anyway, thanks for reading and let me know some of your favorites in the Comments section.

Thanks. See you later!