I know people who have languished over their books for YEARS, and I mean YEARS, and they still haven't finished writing. One friend in particular started writing his book BEFORE I met him way back in 2000-2001. I touched bases with him about his book about a year ago and he was still working on it. That's a 20+/- year effort on a single book that was still yet to be published. I'm not saying that's a bad thing or a good thing, just that it seems like a really long time to write a book. I'm sure he has his reasons for taking that long and I would never encourage anyone to publish their work until they are ready, regardless of however long that takes.
That said, I didn't really start my writing journey until well after he and I met and so far I've completed 9 books with several others in development. This difference in time made me question how long it took me to write some of my books. Thankfully, because I do all of my writing in One Note, each chapter is timestamped with the full date that the chapter was started. It doesn't necessarily tell me how long it took to write that chapter but because I write sequentially, meaning that I write each chapter in order, I can look at when the next chapter started to get an idea of how long each chapter took to create and how long it took to write each book. The timelines established using this technique might not be 100% accurate but they are reasonably close.
Below is a breakdown of roughly how long each book I've completed to date took me to write. Granted, the duration is by no means a measure of quality but simply a measure of time.
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 1 - The Shamed Ranger (4 years & 1 month)
- September 2012 - October 2016
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 2 - A Legend Confirmed (6 months)
- February 2017 - August 2017
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 3 - A Hidden King Found (6 months)
- September 2017 - February 2018
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 4 - A Fallen Hero (3 months)
- February 2018 - April 2018
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 5 - Conquest and Conflict (5 months)
- April 2018 - August 2018
- The Ascension Legacy: Book 6 - The King Revealed (2 months)
- September 2018 - October 2018
- A Nazi Redeux (11 days)
- October 29, 2019 - November 8, 2019
- Kazi (5 months)
- April 2019 - August 2019
- Sus (6 months)
- November 2020 - April 2021
If we look at actual writing times, there is a HUGE difference between my min/max times. The Ascension Legacy: Book 1 - The Shamed Ranger took me 4 years to actually write once I started it while A Nazi Reduex was written in just 11 days! But that paints a very different picture than what actually went into each book.
I spent years planning and thinking about each book before ever typing out the first sentence of either. I've talked before about how The Ascension Legacy was born from an old video game concept I started developing in the late 90's. If we consider that as the true beginning of that story then I spent practically 20 years nurturing that idea from its newly formed origins all the way up through its eventual publication.
And the case for The Nazi Reduex isn't much better. I started making my first notes and overviews for that story in 2013. It sat in limbo for 6 years while I did mental gymnastics on how to represent the complex concepts of time travel through a written medium. I tossed around many different concepts until I found one I felt would allow me to tell the story in a way that wouldn't be too confusing to the reader and didn't rely on subtle visual clues that are difficult to represent through written word only. Sure, when I started writing I was able to knock out a lot of content in rapid pace but it took me over 6 years of thinking and planning to get to that point.
And yes, I did write the entire Ascension Legacy saga in the years between when I started thinking about my Nazi book and when I actually wrote it so its not like I was only thinking about Nazis for 6 years but still, that was a 6 year effort even if the physical effort only lasted 11 days.
Of course, the dates listed above are just for the books' rough drafts. Those dates do not take into account the days, weeks, and sometimes months of editing and revising that took place to help make them more polished and ready for presentation to publishers. For The Ascension Legacy: Book 1 - The Shamed Ranger, its pre-publisher draft was completed in September 2018, two years after I finished writing it and its final print draft was done in May of 2020. It took another 4 years of proofing, editing, revising, and formatting by me and my publisher's people to go from rough draft to finished book.
I am proud of the fact that I have been able to be as prolific with my writing as I have been but I am not ignorant of or naive to the amount of effort that goes into creating a story beyond the act of typing it out. There is a lot of planning and thought that goes into every story before a single keystroke is committed. After writing that last sentence to bring a story to closure only signals the end of a phase but not the end of the actual creation process. There is still a lot of other things that have to be done before a story can become a book, although without the story there can be no book.
Authors, musicians, artists, they all talk about inspiration. You can see by the dates of some of these books that inspiration can sometimes lead to great productivity. But at the same time, inspiration is only as valuable as the time you have to use it. In the 4 years that it took me to complete The Ascension Legacy: Book 1- The Shamed Ranger I had plenty of inspiration but not a lot of time. Between 2012 and 2016 I got divorced from one wife and married to another. Those four years were not dull for me and did not give me the same level of stability and focus for my writing like the years since.
I think about the turmoil of my schedule and lifestyle during those 4 years and how it influenced my writing and then I think to my friend's 20 year journey with his book. He's spent 2 decades working on this book but I know for a fact that during those 2 decades that he's had a lot of other things vying for his time and attention. He's a huge hockey fan who skates and plays. He's an accomplished drummer who plays in a band. He has other things than just his writing.
I'm lucky in that I have worked from home for the better part of the last 20 years. That convenience allows me more opportunities to write than others who have long daily commutes or sit in an office 8 hours a day with no chance to pursue personal endeavors in their downtime during the workday. By 2016 we had 3 kids of driving age which reduced our obligations for driving them back and forth to all of their extracurricular activities and in turn that freed up more time for me to write. As I've said before, I get to travel for work and on nights where I'm stuck in a hotel room hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away from home with nothing else to do, I can write for hours each night while my wife is at home taking care of kids. My lifestyle and job have given me a lot of opportunities to write that others may not get and I've taken those opportunities to produce multiple works that I am actively working on producing for public consumption.
So yeah, when my friend tells me he's still working on his book after all this time part of me struggles to understand how when I can write an entire book in less than 2 weeks but another part of me thinks of all the planning that goes into a book before a single word is written and all the work that goes into a book even after its written before it can truly be considered complete. I guess it all depends on what your definition of "written" is. Would you consider your book written and complete when the first draft was done or would you consider your book complete only after all of the editing and polishing was done? Would you consider the time you've spent thinking about your book's premise, plot, characters, and world as part of the time it took to write the book or is that irrelevant? Would you have written the book as quickly as you did had you not spent that time beforehand to think about and plan the story as you had? I tend to think not.
So how long does it take me to write a book. In general terms, a few years. I may spend, on average, 6 months or so actually typing up the story but I may spend years working on the concepts for the story. And then, once the rough draft is written, I may spend a couple of more years tweaking and tuning the story before I feel it is ready to submit to a publisher. At that point, it may take another year or more before the publisher feels it is ready to go into print. Writing is definitely a labor of love because these things don't happen overnight and are anything but easy.
The moral of the story: if someone says they've been working on something for a long time then it is probably something important and special to them. Don't be quick to judge if you think you could do it faster. Art, in all of its forms, is usually deeply personal for the creator and you would likely be very protective over your own creation, wanting it to be perfect before revealing it to the world, insecure about how it might be received by the public, or even scared of what others might think of you after seeing what you've created. If you've written something and it didn't take years for you to do it, great, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your work or the work you're comparing it to is of equal quality. If you've managed to write a book in 11 days, kudos, but is what you created so quickly really your best effort or simply the product of a desire to finish quickly? The duration it takes to create something is not a measure of its quality or value, simply a measure of time. Take the time to create what you want but don't expect others to create their works based on your schedule.