This is my new hobby. I ask my furless mommy to put the cold thing on my eye because it hurts, and then we sit quietly for ten minutes until it stops hurting. My furless mommy isn’t the brightest, because the first time I asked for the cold thing, she gave me food of the treat variety. I accepted her offering before trying again.
I’m feeling better today, and I’m pleased I’m capable of training the human to properly care for me. Now that I have confirmed we are being properly cared for, here is the human.
Life has been fun in the Blain household. And yes, she literally DID ask for the cold compress. She came up, pawed, and after a few minutes of what the fuckery, I had the spouse go get ice and a paper towel. She had a minute of regrets, but then she settled down to have her cold relief applied to her eye. She never fails to amaze me how smart and how dumb this cat can be sometimes…
It took two or three times (and battles) with the cold compress for her to associate it with relief, but she’s now super easy to work with when it comes to the cold compress, and if she’s feeling particularly bad, she’ll lean into it and sit perfectly still. (She’s such an excellent kitty.)
So, as those many words had absolutely nothing to do with the process of writing a book, I’ll get to it. As I’ve ranted about before, books take a long damned time to write. They’re a huge amount of work. This post is going to illustrate just how long it takes for a book to go from concept to publication, with an estimate of how many hours it takes, on average, to go through the process.
You can do the math yourself across all my titles to see how many hours I’ve spent on my books. The answer will surely depress me.
Conception of the Novel
Time needed: Average of 1-10 hours, with 3.5 hours being most commonplace. Longest time to concept to date: 30 hours.
Conception is the initial creation process for a novel. This is when I get an idea, usually some form of brief summary or synopsis, and I start chewing on it. Depending on how the concept comes to life, I can get away with a page or two of notes on major events. If it’s a new world/series, like Outfoxed, I often write a mini novel about the novel.
Outfoxed took about 20-3o hours to conceptualize, as I had to build the entire world from scratch and figure out how the world played into the general ideas I had in mind for said world.
Outlining / Story Boarding / Advanced Planning or Correcting due to Pantsing
Time needed: between 10-50 hours, with 15-20 hours being most commonplace when I’m doing a serious outline. If I’m pantsing the novel, this time is instead used to ‘fix what is broken.’ At the end of the day, it costs me the same amount of time. So, I’ll cram these two together, and we’ll call this 18 hours of time, as a rough average, on this phase of the writing process.
Time needed: between 10-50 hours, with 25 hours being fairly consistent for a novel project. Longest research time: please don’t ask me this. Please. I’ll beg.
Research time is spread across a lot of things. Sometimes, I will need to spend 1-2 hours researching a medical element of a book. Sometimes, I need to read an entire book on a subject. Sometimes, I’m poring through Google and Wikipedia in search of a rare gem of information. Sometimes, I’m talking to someone who is already an expert in the field. This all adds up. So, yes. I do spend a lot of time researching each and every book I’ve written.
The longest research I’ve done on a book would be for the Seeking the Zodiacs series. I get to count three entire years of schooling in trade school for the background engineering that formed a major foundation for this series. Then I’ve watched probably a hundred fucking hours of World War II documentaries because of my spouse. There’s also at least thirty hours of folklore and mythology research done when building the creatures, some lingual studying to see how people (like Americans) will alter the spelling of things they don’t really understand. (Koppa Oni is spelled incorrectly in the series on purpose. The species is actually called the kappa, and when the magic swept into the world, somebody misheard the name, and it stuck as Koppa oni rather than Kappa oni. Oni just means a type of demon or troll, sometimes something more along the lines of an ogre. Oni are a type of yōkai, which is the catch all for the supernatural. There ARE differences!
In the Seeking the Zodiacs world, the Americans got it wrong after the nuking, and so the kappa, which are very common in Japanese folklore, got a new and incorrect name.
It was on purpose, because that’s the sort of mistake humans make. And it stuck, because once people do it in large numbers, good luck getting them to change.
So, little details like that can consume a great deal of time. It’s amazing the difference an a or an o makes, isn’t it?
Research. It makes or breaks a book… and even with so many hours, I get it wrong, I make mistakes, or sometimes, my brain just doesn’t work and I type the wrong damned word even though I just spent three hours making sure I got it right. Oops.
What’s in a Name?
Someone just wrote in recently about this, which both amused me and made me smile. (Thank you, super nice person who sent in your note re: the naming and the indigenous references. It is appreciated!)
I do minimal research on the actual names of modern characters. Bailey? Five whole seconds to pick. Gardener? Random selection from a list of common family names from the New York region. I name based on region more often than most, and I give characters dirt common names, as that makes life easier for me. Unfortunately, I also tend to forget if I named a character something before. I’m looking at you, Sebastian, who keeps showing up everywhere.
Adam and Adam were intentional. Alex and Alex… probably intentional? I think? I hope? If not, I did a damned good job of covering it…
Justin and Justin were unintentional, and we may as well say I fucked it good that time, because Shane’s parents make me giggle, and they’d be fun to write a story about if I ever got the idea, but because Tulip’s toy is named Justin… in the same series… there are issues. Oops.
It’s a safe assumption that I will spend 2-3 hours on names for a novel, but we’ll round up to 3 for those times I fall in various rabbit holes.
Average time: 5-10 hours.
If I’m writing LGBT characters for the first time, I do cultural research on them, including their various challenges, so I have a better idea of what I’m getting into. If I’m writing a religion for the first time, I do cultural research on them, too. If I’m writing someone of a new-to-me ethnicity, I’m going to be doing cultural research on them.
If I’m writing about a goddess from an indigenous tribe, I’m going to be doing cultural research on the tribe worshipping her and how the goddess came to be, what her role in their society was, and so on.
Characters are more than slapping a color on and going, “This character is this.” I’m going to be grabbing the most commonplace challenges I spot while researching, the stereotypes that actually seem to be founded on the truth, and anything that can help give this character some life and depth.
If I have access to someone of the cultural group I’m working with, I will interview them, and I will take the commonalities from the interviews and use that to become the foundation.
Olivia’s parents came to life because I noticed a trend in all of the interviews I’d done of American-Chinese men and women; their household dynamics were completely unexpected for me, and often in fun ways. And it changed depending on if the Chinese parent was male or female.
I did walk away with one interesting eye-opener.
Chinese moms seem to be really, really badass.
Time Spent Before Writing a Word…
So, essentially, it can take me over a week of hard work to plan a novel… or a little less if I’m pantsing it and fixing everything I broke while I write the book. For the sake of discussion and sanity, we’re going to assume I’m outlining the book rather than complicate things further.
Writing the Book
My average word count per hour is 500 words. Sometimes, I can write 1,200 in an hour. (Rarely more than that. VERY rarely more than that. 1,000 in an hour is GOOD for me. Once, I did 2,000 in an hour, but I spent four hours fixing it, so it was just a waste of time and I had regrets.)
My average length of novel is 100,000 words. I wish it was closer to 80,000. But we’re going to call it 100,000 words, because that’s where I’ve been hitting close to lately.
As such, it is 200 hours, roughly, for me to write the book. That does include a lot of editing, as I edit as I write the book.
Editing the Book
Between implementing edits, correcting things my editor has called me out on, proofreading, and so on, I spend at least another 50 hours on edits. I say at least, but realistically, I’ll just say 50. That’s a fair estimate.
Producing the Book
Producing is the formatting and all the little things that turn the edited book into a final product. Call it five hours, and it’s close enough.
Uploading the Book
Call it two hours across all vendors assuming nothing goes wrong. Four hours if something goes wrong. Something usually goes a little wrong, so we’ll meet in the middle with three hours for all uploads, revisions, and so on, including time to set the book up for preorders if that’s the case.
Everything else associated with writing a book, getting cover, writing description, marketing, etc, usually takes me at least 20 hours per book. I’ll call it 20 so I don’t cry myself to sleep tonight.
Total number of hours, on average: 335.5.
Number of times I’ve crammed 300+ hours of work into a month and a half: too many.
And now you know why I moved my preorders and I’m done trying to keep people happy with my production speed.
For the record, 14 hours a day for 30 days a month is 420 hours, and now you know how I was writing a book a month.
Starting now, I am going to be doing my absolute best to never work longer than eight hours five days a week, for a grand total of forty hours a week. And I don’t get paid an hour for lunch. No more working weekends most weekends. No more 14 hour grinds. No more trying to make everybody happy.
I hope you all have a great day, and happy reading.
I am glad your cat’s eye is getting better. I am sorry that you have to do this for a few individuals. They must know it takes away from your writing.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Mostly, I’m hoping people will understand what they’re asking for is completely unreasonable and kinda awful. Like… books take time to write. I get people like/love them, but… don’t get upset when an author takes a year to write something. Most authors ALSO have day jobs, and my time to write a book is NOT much different from others. It’s so much work!
But mostly, it was to help people understand authors don’t just sit at a keyboard and poof, book! SO much time and effort goes into them.
RJ, anyone who says self-employed writers have an easy life are NUTS!!!! You have to work harder and be more disciplined than those who have traditional jobs. The most amazing thing is that you work harder but are “paid” less so thank you for putting up with the lousy work conditions and worse pay rate to give us, your readers, such amazing product to enjoy.
You now need to set up negotiations with the higher echelon to get a new contract for better pay and less hours – plus health checks regularly! The worker is more important than the output.
Take as long as it takes to write the book you want to publish.
I already know I want to read it. When / if it comes up for preorder, I will do that immediately.
I hope your lovely fur baby feels better soon. It is so frustrating to not be able to make it all better *now*.
I am a fan that loves your books, but your life and family come first. Waiting for your new books just gives me more time to reread the old ones. Like, that’s a problem? Not! How is the new home? Hope all is well and little Miss Zazzle gets better.
If you or anyone else have suggestions on books to read, I’m open. I am of an age that school age protagonists are really not of interest. I love RJBlain, Susan Copperfield, Gail Garriger, Kim Harrison, and Meljean Brook but my library is vast and wide.
Everyone stay safe and healthy.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Have you tried my contemporary romances under the Bernadette Franklin pen name?
Faith Hunter has some fun books if you haven’t read her yet. Agreed on the kids. Like… nah, no thanks. Too young, and then the sex scenes often tossed in feel really… not good.
Love Bernadette Peters and Faith Hunter can be hit or miss for me. I also read Jenny Schwartz, Dorothy Grant, and Alma Boykin.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
I will think on this, and I’ll go through my bookshelf for my favorites and see what I can dig up. <3
Have you tried:
* Viola Grace (also writes as Zenina Masters) – she primarily writes novellas but some of her more recent works are full-length
* Bianca D’Arc – very romantic adventures with shifters (dragons, wolves, selkies, bears, cougars, etc.), vampires, magic users
I truly enjoy these authors. They have strong characters with strong male and female leads. They are “sexy” but not over the top. Good luck and good reading.
Kevin L McIntire
Thanks for the timing info. Still if you limit it to 40 hours a week that equals about nine weeks for a book. That seems perfectly acceptable as a time frame. You have to do something besides just working.
I hope the cat’s eye heals quickly. They do know what makes them feel better no doubt about that.
Forget what the whiners say about what you should be writing. I like both kinds of books one with unique characters and the ones with very familiar characters. There is a best selling author who’s books are very familiar with the same general characters and even plot points. I still enjoy the books very much and look forward to the four books that are usually released each year. Just like I look for to your releases.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
And honestly, I’ll probably do 6 hours a day instead of 8 to make up for the months upon months of always pushing out for 14. like… I want to enjoy life for a while. More than I work. I’ve done my time at pushing SO hard.
How long have you been at this gig?
More than five years. At these hours.
No, no, no. No good. You will work yourself to death and then no more books about naughty kittens and sexy unicorns.
All those hours to receive $4.99 or $5.99 per book.
I’m so glad you are going to take time to smell the roses along the way, while still producing a book or three a year.
Thank you for your hard work and all the hours you put in giving us your wonderful back list to read and re-read, and re-read. Loving them all.
Client from Hell was fun, and made me think to remember which books Darlene and Diane are from. Time to read them again.
I believe I own everything you have written, under all 3 pen names, except the rift series. I have used your books (with a link on where to purchase them) in a lot of my arguments on magic, religion, and monsters for my English classes. I will be finishing my degree soon and I have talked at least one professor into reading your romcom books. I was shocked that you wrote soon much as I’m used to one book a year from my favourite authours. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more Dustin Walker and the other 11 books in the Zodiac series. Buying Blending In was the best decision I have made in a long time! When you take well deserved breaks it gives me a chance to check up on the authors I love that aren’t as prolific as you are. Let no one stand in your way, polish the word no to a shiny gleam with glitter, and have fun!
Your books are worth any wait. Without you there are no books. Please, please take care of you so I can have another book. Thank you for all your work. And your kitties are gorgeous and clever.
Tina in NJ
As far as names go, they come in waves. There are lots of Michaels, for example. As long as they’re not in the same family, it’s all fair. You could name a normal Magical Rom Com character Michael and enjoy confusion when the archangel shows up. I expect and look forward to confusion with Adam and Adam. Justin and Justin may never meet, but the name is popular, so a couple of guys named Justin wouldn’t be a surprise.
I’m glad you’re back in the saddle and hope your sabbatical helped. A book every couple of months still sounds like a crazy schedule. I’d say a new book in each series per year sounds reasonable, but you have a lot of series!
For those looking for another author, check out Honour Racantor. Her Advent Mage books are good and her current series The Case Files of Henri Davenforth is wonderful.
I hope Zazzle gets better soon, and that you and the mister also enjoy good health.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Seriously though, names are a problem when they repeat. Readers get REALLY confused and upset over it. Really. Upset. It helps mitigate the issues when names don’t repeat, but… yeah. It’s going to happen, especially with how many books I have out.
Readers also have trouble with similar names… I’ve seen people mix up Alex from Witch & Wolf and Adam from Royal States… just having the same starting letter can create issues.
Tina in NJ
My sister, sister in law, and cousin’s (now ex) wife have the same name. My sister and I are twins, so people are always using one name when trying to get the other one’s attention. One Christmas, all four of us turned around when that name was called!
I’d kind of like to see the two Justins interact, though. Shane’s dad is one of my favorites among your supporting characters.
The only time I was confused about names was when I realized that one of Darlene’s cats was named the same as the cat that Kanika rescued from the tree at the start of her book.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
That… is because it is the same cat…
It is time that you have started being good to yourself. When the books are printed that’s when I will buy them, if I have to wait a bit it’s cool, I’ll just reread the ones I have of yours like the Twin’s story! Love all of my all my Wolfe and Witch books!!!! And the States books. Do it keeps me busy. Just be good to yourself.