How long does it take to write a book?


I’m often asked how long it took me to write my first novel, Stellarnet Rebel, or when I’ll be “done” with the sequel Stellarnet Prince. My friends and family are probably tired of hearing me say “I’m on a deadline.” But writing is a series of deadlines, and it never really ends.

I began writing Stellarnet Rebel in May 2009. I wrote 95,000 words in eight months and finished the first draft of the book by January 2010. I had to work in my spare time — maybe an hour or two a day, if I was lucky — and I spent a lot of time on research.

But, Stellarnet Rebel wasn’t really “done.” Linda Cashdan helped me revise. I also worked with my friend and former newspaper colleague Eileen Brady to revise again. Throughout 2010, I continued to revise on my own while I queried agents and publishers.

After sending a query to Carina Press, I added a prologue. When Angela James called in March 2011 with the offer to publish, I had to say, “Oh, by the way, there’s a new opening” … added a year after I finished the first draft.

I went through the revision process again, this time with my editor Alison Janssen (now Dasho). That took a few months of back and forth. She would make notes and changes, I would revise and return. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

After that, a Carina Press copy editor did a pass through for style, grammar, punctuation, etc., and returned to me to read one last time for yet another deadline to address issues raised by the copy editor.

Stellarnet Rebel was released on January 2, 2012. From start to finish — from the first word I typed to the moment you could buy it on Amazon or B&N — took about 2-1/2 years.

It will be about 2-1/2 years for Stellarnet Prince, too. I began jotting down ideas for a sequel in 2010, while still trying to find a publisher for Stellarnet Rebel. Carina Press sent me a contract for the sequel in late 2011 and I finished the first draft in April 2012 for publication in November — talk about working under pressure!

Writing a book doesn’t end with the final chapter of the first draft. There’s the deadline to finish the second draft. And the third. There’s the deadline to add a new chapter because my editor wants to see what actually happened when the Glin kidnapped a Tikati detainee from a human military base. The deadline to turn in the “Art Fact Sheet” for the cover artist and marketing department. The deadline to read and revise the “cover copy” — the summary on the book cover that is supposed to entice readers.

My most recent deadline was the final read of the copy editor’s changes to Stellarnet Prince, my last chance to notice any misspellings and to make any (minor and/or necessary) changes. 

Stellarnet Prince is now in production and entering the marketing phase. And I’ll still have promotional deadlines — guest blogs to write, sending advance copies to reviewers, choosing my favorite lines for my publisher’s social media marketing blitz, and more.

Meanwhile, I’ve begun book three, and I have several other works in progress. Which means even more deadlines. Such is a writer’s life.

~ J.L. Hilton

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