What’s the right amount of time to take to write a book?

I read a fair number of blogs about writing. It’s how I learn new things about my craft and about my world. Like most industries – that word’s likely to raise a few hackles – topics come and go. Lately we’ve all been arguing about DRM and price fixing and other things that probably don’t interest you as a reCover for Hubris, book one of the Charity Deacon Investigations. Silhouette of a woman against a red backgroundader. In the last couple of days, there has been a new topic that might grab your attention.

Is there a ‘right’ amount of time for an author to write a book?

Some background

Traditionally, authors were considered prolific if they put out a book a year. Some authors put out one book a lifetime, and some took 20 years to bring out their second novel.

There were outliers of course, but this was the accepted practice.

Now, there are authors who can put out 4 or 5 books a year.  And there are a lot of them.

So the question has risen. Is it now expected? Do authors need to ‘crank’ out book after book?

The two ends of the spectrum

Here’s the thing. The argument has become polarized. The one side of the argument is why not? Prolific writers can’t really understand why it takes a year. They see it as a great coincidence that it should require 12 months.

The other side of the argument seems to think that you can only ‘crank out garbage’ if you write quickly. They don’t understand how someone can write that many stories. They only see their process and they can’t do it, and their publishers haven’t asked them to do it, so it must be wrong.

My experience

I put the cover for Hubris in the post to illustrate my point.  Now that I know how I write, how to bring the story from an idea in my head to a novel on the page/screen, I can write prolifically. Putting out 4 – 7 books a year depending on what else is going on in my life – i.e. how I pay my bills – is not that difficult for me.

Hubris was a different matter. I have rewritten it 5 times. It started out as a very different story and I just couldn’t get my head around what was wrong. I eventually had to put it aside and write other books so I could learn that I needed to let the story flow a bit and not try to control everything. Control for me is reserved for revision and polish.

When I finally worked out how I write a novel, Hubris came to life for me. Not only did I finish the novel,  it was clearly just the first book in a series. If I had just listened to what I was ‘supposed’ to do, Charity would still be haunting my imagination. As it is, she’s out there entertaining people.

How would I change the argument?

To me, there’s no right or wrong amount of time. If you can write one book a year, then no one can make you write more. If you can write multiple books in a year, no one can make you slow down.

Trying to fit a creative endeavor into a standard process will not give a standard product. What you will get is garbage from people you are pushing too hard and diamonds from people who can produce.