How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Light Bringer, my most recent release from Second Wind Publishing, stewed in my brain pan for several years before I actually started to write it. It was the first book I conceived, but I couldn’t figure out who my alien characters were, where they were from, how they traveled here, and why they came, so when other stories captured my imagination, I followed my enthusiasm. In between finishing my various novels, I worked on Light Bringer, trying to develop the idea and research the specifics. If you include my research, which I’d been doing for decades before the story ever entered my mind, you could say the idea for the book had been developing for about thirty years.

Here are some other authors’ responses to the question of how long the idea had been developing before beginning to write their stories. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

It took a while for me to find the time to sit down and start writing the book. In this case “a while” spanned 12 years. The major challenges for me are finding the time to write and the discipline to edit the dialogue and descriptive passages over and over until things feel right and pass my wife’s critical evaluation. I haven’t needed to spend much time on research as yet, since I’ve lived in the locations that the books have been set in.

From an interview with Guy Harrison, author of “Agents of Change”

For over a year, if you can believe it. I originally wrote Agents of Change as a television pilot script around this time last year. As an aspiring screenwriter for many years, I finally got tired of banging my head against the wall as I attempted to sell the script.

This past October, I finally asked myself “what if I wrote a novel?” I really believed in the television pilot’s concept but knew I needed to rework it for the purposes of a book. It’s darker than the television series would have been. Truth be told, I actually like it a lot better as a novel.

From an interview with Dale Cozort, Author of “Exchange”

For this particular book, almost twenty years. I know that because I came across a notebook with dated entries from when I was in my late teens outlining some of the ideas. That’s unusual for me. Most of my stories go from concept to writing within a year or two. I had the idea for Exchange long before I had the maturity or self-discipline to write it.

From an interview with Stephen Prosapio, Author of “Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum”

Funny in that this story had to “brew” quite a while, Pat. I thought up the rough idea for GHOSTS OF ROSEWOOD ASYLUM after my first novel DREAM WAR didn’t sell to the Big Six publishers. I didn’t quite pitch it right to my agent though, and she suggested I go with another idea I had at the time (a vampire novel). Unfortunately, I got blocked with that idea and came back to the TV Paranormal Investigator angle. Pitching it a second time to my agent went much better. She gave me some great advice. Thus, GHOSTS OF ROSEWOOD ASYLUM (GoRA) was the easiest novel to write thus far. I wrote the first draft within 3 months.

From an interview with Ellis Vidler, Author of “Cold Comfort”

Cold Comfort took about a year to write and five more to revise till I felt it was right. The first one, Haunting Refrain, took eight years to complete. I’m getting better.

From an interview with Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

Too long. Someone asked me the other day about my mother and it occurred to me then that the day she died I’d written the first four pages of “Broken but not Dead”. I gave them to her to read, then retired for the night. When I got up the next morning the pages were on the dining room table with spelling corrections and a note that said she liked it very much. I didn’t realize then that she’d passed. That was October 16, 1999. It takes me a long time to write, and I don’t think it’s because I’m slow. I work on so many different projects at the same time and I like to take breaks and distance myself often.

So, How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire and follow the instruction.)

15 Responses to “How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?”

  1. davidlivermore Says:

    I have had an idea for a novel for about 15 years, if not more. I tried writing it a few years ago, scrapped it, and now started again. I don’t know how far I will get. But I hope I can get a good, strong start on it.

    It’s nice to know other author’s took just as long as well.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Too many authors chug out a book in a couple of months, which gives people the wrong idea about writing. Sometimes a book takes a very long time to come to fruition. Sometimes the stories we want to write are bigger than we are, and we first have to grow into the person we need to be so we can write the story.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Wow, my YA fantasy story has been brewing for years and years. I first started thinking about it when I was in high school. I put it aside, devoting my time to other sorts of writing before falling out of writing all together. Then, about eight years ago, I revisited my idea and thought it was time to start it over. it took awhile to get myself in the groove, come up with the plot, the characters, settings. I knew I wanted to write YA so I started reading anything and everything YA. Finally I have a finished manuscript ready to submit to agents/publishers with the remaining 2 novels in the trilogy getting some touches here and there. It’s been a very long process and its nice to see it all come together after so much time.

  3. Rod Marsden Says:

    I have wanted to write about my experiences in the office circa mid-1990s for over a decade with emphasis on what they called back then reverse racism and sexism. I couldn’t find the right angle that would interest me let alone anyone else. Then I reacquainted myself with the Lewis Carroll ‘Alice’ books and I saw my way in. What I wanted to write about was the absurdities of political correctness and how it is possible to swap one victim for another under it.

    Of course Lewis Carroll was having a great time in the 19th Century doing just that even though the politics in his books have faded somewhat and we look at his absurdities in a new modern light. The point remains though that whether you take him for an extremely early surrealist writer or not he was enjoying himself and certainly at given times urging the reader to do the same thing.

    I particularly like the mouse’s tail (yes, I do mean tail) in which the tale curves on the page like a tail and is supposed to be read in a curving fashion if to be properly understood. He was playing with words and ideas and inviting the reader to play, too. I liked that and wondered if I could do something similar.

    Then it occurred to me that the idea of writing about the office I had put on the back-burner for so long could now be attempted in the light of not being deadly serious about something those who believe in such things as political correctness want you to be serious about but taking the opposite tact. Out of all this gray matter wrestling Desk Job was eventually born. Hopefully it will see publication this year.

    All up I respect and accept the first cardinal rule of every kind of writing except government: ‘Though shalt not be boring.’
    I simply had to find a way to have my say about working in an office in the 1990s without breaking this rule and once I found it the writing flowed well. I have even been cheeky enough to start on a sequel.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’re corroborating my idea that sometimes books take a long time to get written simply because we or the times are not right. I like taking a serious subject and treating it in a not-so-serious way. I bet it will have a lot more impact. Maybe your story will get under readers’ skins before they realize it has a barb.

  4. Lewis perdue Says:

    I research six or eight ideas at a time. Some ideas win and become a book in a year, some take a decade to get written.

  5. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Hearing the diversity of responses confirms there’s no one right way to write a novel! I like your reply to David. The idea for my first came out of a discussion about one of my magazine articles. I revamped my approach part way through, but finished the first draft in about a year. However it took me at least five years of revising before I realized it was too flawed to ever be publishable. Meanwhile I had undertaken a couple more, both of which took about a year to write, but are still being revised! Since revision is part of the writing process I’m not sure I can accurately say how long each is taking!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Like everything else in life, books take as long as they take. One reason second novels from wonderkinds seldom do well is that they spend years perfecting their first novel, and then are expected to do a repeat in a year or less.

  6. joylene Says:

    That’s why writers are my favourite people. We’re so different and yet so alike. Thanks for sharing this, Pat. It feels like yesterday.

  7. joylene Says:

    This has little to do with your post, other than I just realized I made a mistake. I had written the first chapter to Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries the night before my mother passed on. Had to set the record straight is all.

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