Writing process

How long does it take to write a book?

One piece of writing advice I’ve heard is that if your book takes more than a year to write, then you should dump it and start another one.

I can see some merit in a very small part of this, but no, if we dumped our novels after twelve months, we’d have a string of unfinished stories behind us.

I think where the advice comes from is that you shouldn’t take forever to write your first draft.  Stephen King says three months, which would be nice if you can do it, but a lot of us can’t. I’m more in favor of so long as you keep plodding along, and getting further into the story, then keep writing.

In an ideal world, the first draft is written quickly. But remember, for many people, that first draft is very basic. Many of them are skeletons of what is to come, way short of the word count. For others (like us) they’re often the opposite. Long, rambling epics we need to trim.  The most important thing is that you keep writing.

Many non-writers are surprised at how long it takes to write a novel.  Ours certainly take a long time. Years.  Unless we’re under a deadline, and that speeds things up considerably.

Let’s look at the timing of some of our books.


Started: 18 July 2010

Finished draft 1: 29 January 2012

Four months and four drafts later we sent a draft to Caitlin, who’d just become our agent.

For the next year we wrote new stories while the novel did the rounds with the editors.  Then, when it looked as if Linesman wasn’t going to sell, we did a major rewrite at the agent’s recommendation, from the feedback from the editors. Our final version was completed in September 2014.

All up, four years.


Alliance was written under contract, and we hadn’t started it before we wrote the contract. It’s one of the fastest books we wrote.

Started: 16 February 2014

Finished draft 1: 7 December 2014

Final to editor: 10 August 2015


Likewise, Confluence was written under contract and we hadn’t started it prior.  We were still finishing this the day before we sent it through.

Started: 1 February 2015

Final to editor: 21 May 2016

I don’t have a first draft completion date for this one.

Stars Uncharted

We started Stars Uncharted while Linesman was doing the rounds to editors, before Anne (editor) had asked for a three-book series about Ean Lambert.  Linesman didn’t look as if it would sell, so Caitlin (agent) suggested we write something else altogether.  (We weren’t sitting around before that, by the way, we were writing stories in the Linesman universe, but not series books.)

Started: 15 August 2012

Finished draft 1: 1 August 2013

Started the rewrite: 4 April 2016

Final to editor: 9 May 2017

Stars Beyond

Stars Beyond has had a few changes.  It, too, was under contract, but because the time between books was so long, we had plenty of time to write it. Except, that we went off on a tangent, then went off on a different tangent, and finally found our path very late. Our original delivery date was 31 May 2018.

Started the original story:  24 February 2017

Rewrote after talking to editor: 29 October 2017

Sent to editor (and agent): 31 May 2018

Agent recommends rewrite: August 2018

Final copy sent to editor: 31 January 2019

As you can see. It takes us a while to write a book.

Writing process

Progress report

We got the edits back for Stars Beyond early this week.

The changes our editor asked for weren’t too bad.  Although, I have been rereading the story since, and some of the word choices in the first four chapters sound flat.

It doesn’t take much to fix. Little tweaks here and there, but I’m relieved we’ve had enough time away from the book to pick them up.

Edits are due back by early May. We have some work to do.

Writing process

A tale of two movies

Today I saw Captain Marvel.

It was great.  I enjoyed it. Lots of fun, with a decent plot.

I say this, because I also recently saw Alita: Battle Angel, and I have to say that the world building in Alita was beautiful, and the effects were excellent, but the story was ordinary. It didn’t finish, and what little story there was didn’t have much substance. Or there was a story, I suppose, a bad guy after Alita for [redacted, because spoilers], but that was it. It was all setup for movie two.

It wasn’t like Captain Marvel, which had plot twists and pathos, and things ended quite differently to how you thought they would at the start.  I came out of that movie satisfied.  I came out of Alita feeling frustrated.

It’s been a long time since my last movie, and longer still since my last Marvel Universe movie. I confess, I was somewhat fatigued by superheroes of any sort.  I just couldn’t go to another one.

I sometimes feel that way with books.  I binge read a series of books and then one day I can’t face the next in the series.

Thankfully, I’m over that for the moment with superhero movies, and I’m looking forward to the Avengers Endgame next month.

Writing process

Opinionated about hamburgers

I like the meat to be half this thickness, or even less.

Am I the only person in the world who likes thin hamburgers?

When I was a kid, a hamburger with the lot doubled the size of the bag you got.  The egg and the bacon together easily matched the height of the burger. And you could still get your mouth around the whole thing to take a bite.

Just to be straight, I’m talking the Aussie version of the hamburger here.  A regular hamburger is tomato, lettuce and cheese with a meat pattie—and because it’s Australia, possibly a slice of beetroot too, although I have to admit, I always ask for my burgers without beetroot.  And, sacrilege, I also ask for it without tomato sauce.  How un-Australian can I be?

A burger with the lot is a plain hamburger, with the addition of egg, bacon, cheese and onion. Some people also put a slice of pineapple with it.

The meat patties are growing.  They started out a centimetre, maybe one-and a half centimetres in thickness.  Now they’re creeping up past two, and on to three centimetrs. I can’t even get my mouth around some of them.  Then there’s this trend for putting double, and triple patties into the burger.

I like my burger meat thin enough so I can eat the burger without needing a knife and a fork.

As for the buns they’re served in … don’t get me started.

Writing process

Which stories will I nominate?

Dublin’s Samuel Beckett bridge, where I won’t be this August, but everyone going to Worldcon will. (We will be in Wellington next year, though. :-))

I’m a supporting member of Worldcon, which means I don’t get to go to the conference, but I do get to nominate and vote for the Hugo awards.

I read somewhere that less people nominate than vote for the awards, so since I’ve been a member I make a point of nominating, rather than just voting.

I feel as if I haven’t read a lot of the favorites this year. I’m not sure why. Whether we were just too busy writing, or whether I simply read a lot of old books. For example, I read Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor twice. Cried both times, for all that it’s such a hopeful book. Maia is such a beautiful person.

But, that’s not talking about books I’ve read that are eligible to be nominated for this year’s Hugos.


I enjoyed John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire.

I read Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. I liked it better than I liked Uprooted, so that’s on my list.

C. L. Polk’s Witchmark, which I thought nobody but me had read by the publicity it was getting, but suddenly it’s popping up on a lot of lists—including the Nebula list.

There are a few 2018 books I have bought to read but haven’t yet. And I can’t vote for our own book, even though it was published last year, too. That would be unethical. So I’ll probably stick with nominating the three above. Unless I get caught up on some reading between now and the middle of the month.


No question here. Martha Well’s Murderbot series. Artificial Condition, which was book two, and Rogue Protocol. Of the two, I preferred Rogue Protocol the most, but I enjoyed them both.

I read somewhere that in a book series like this, people often prefer the last book in the series. I don’t know how true that is, but I did think book three was best (out of two and three. All Systems Red is still my favorite.)

I’m voting for both of these.

If I get time I’d like to read Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective. I’m intrigued by that one.

Best professional editor long form

It’s no surprise to say one of my nominees will be Anne Sowards. She’s our editor, and she’s great. If you want to see a list of books she edited in 2018, it’s here.

Best series?

I’m still thinking that one through. Still finding my way around the rules on that one.

Best movie

This wasn’t a big year for movies for me. I enjoyed Black Panther.

I won’t nominate Infinity War. It had some good parts, but it was too bitsy for me. There were too many characters to allow one storyline to shine. Except Thanos, so I suppose it was really Thanos’s story. If it was Thanos’s story, then the storyline complete.If it was an Avenger story, it didn’t. Most frustrating.

John W. Campbell

As for the best YA and the Campbell award, I’m still thinking these through. We’ll see what I’ve decided come March 15.