The Time It Takes

“Jim Schaeffing 044 Watching the Clock, magazine story illustration, circa 1950. Mixed media on board” by Illustration Ark [CC PDM 1.0] (text added)

When others discovered I wrote, I was asked many questions beginning with W. When? Why? What? and Why? again. The last why was because I had always been known as an artist, and friends couldn’t understand the shift. I don’t think any of them would have understood that it had started as a game. I was teaching English in Japan, spending a lot of free time on my own and reading a lot of fiction. One evening, I wondered if I was capable of dreaming up a plot for a novel. Well, that was twenty years ago, and the answer is ‘yes’. I have been writing fiction ever since and absolutely love it! But some days, I don’t wonder why I started, but why I continue, as it all takes so long.

You start by turning your thoughts into words, the words into sentences, paragraphs into pages, and keeping on writing that beautiful language until you’ve produced around 300 pages of it. Writing a novel takes me two or three years, including research. Within this are the draft re-writes, the editing, the sending to readers, the waiting for feedback. And when you and others are happy with your work (you can uncross your fingers at this point), comes the search for suitable publishers. This part of the process warrants a good pitch letter, tidying of your bio, a well-written synopsis, and a book blurb. This is such a vital task you need time to get it right. Phew, finally the manuscript is out of your hands – for the time being. And if you assume that you can relax, and have a little holiday while waiting to hear back (it can take 2 or more months), you would be wrong – in my case anyway.

Last year I published the fictionalised story of my father The (almost) True Story of a Man called Jack. An almost three year production.


This year I have spent many months readying a collection of short stories for publication. While the editor was editing my stories, (which can take a while), I began work on a new novel. I am pleased to have this new writing to focus on, while waiting to hear back from an agent whom I approached to represent my work. If that doesn’t work out, well, I shall approach publishers myself. The collection is ready to go, all beautifully formatted, and edited. I’m just waiting for the green light.

It helps to talk with others who know the system, and share your experiences with them; it does lighten the load. Keep busy, keep reading great writing, and don’t lose hope.

8 thoughts on “The Time It Takes

  1. I began with writing fiction quite a few years ago, then, a few years later, writing poetry. A couple of years ago, I took up sketching, and this year, I began watercolor painting. Seems to me like that happens a lot—creative artists branching out into different forms. Maybe it’s how the mind is wired.


    • You’re right I think KT. I started with art, then writing short and long fiction. And although it sometimes hard to finish one project at a time, I think myself lucky to have these skills. You are doing well with your drawing.


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