The Time It Took to Write Famous Books

How long did it take to write my books?

That’s hard to say. The first one took at least a few years. It was an on-again-off-again process. The second book took a little less than two years. That’s from start to turning in the manuscript, with idle time in between.

I’m always interested in the writing processes of other writers and authors. An infographic by printerinks titled “How Long Did It Take to Write the World’s Most Famous Books?” caught my attention.

In some cases, classic literature and bestsellers were written in very little time. All I can do is bow to these master storytellers.

Here are many of the books listed:

Fitzgerald’s classic took 2.5 years to write.

2.5 days: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

6 days: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

3 weeks: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

3 weeks: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

6 weeks: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

2 months: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

3 months: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

8 months: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

9 months: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

1 year: 1984 by George Orwell

1 year: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

1 year: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

1.5 years: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

1.5 years: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

2 years: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

2.5 years: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2.5 years: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3 years: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

4 years: The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

5 years: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

5 years: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

6 years: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

10 years: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

10 years: A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

12 years: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

16 years: Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tokien

That was fun. Now we better get back to work.

‘SHOWBOAT: THE LIFE OF KOBE BRYANT’ By Roland Lazenby

8f35161680f5fe05cb87208bebf2964dOctober 25 was the publication day for SHOWBOAT: THE LIFE OF KOBE BRYANT (Little Brown and Company) by Roland Lazenby, the bestselling author of MICHAEL JORDAN: THE LIFE and numerous other basketball and sports books.

“With the publication of SHOWBOAT: THE LIFE OF KOBE BRYANT, it is high time we recognized author Roland Lazenby for what he has become: the finest sports biographer of our time,” said Peter Golenbock, author of 10 New York Times bestsellers. “First with the astonishing MICHAEL JORDAN: THE LIFE and now his having written an incredibly researched, beautifully written biography of this enigmatic Laker superstar, Lazenby has entered rarified air: one is wowed by what one learns and at the same time you can’t wait to read what comes next.”

That’s the highest praise from someone who knows the genre and the craft. And other stellar reviews are rolling in.

I’ve read Roland’s biographies of Michael Jordan and Jerry West. They’re excellent. As I’ve said before, Roland digs, reports and provides rich context and revelations about these complex sports icons, weaving it all together in a page-turning narrative. What more can I say?

I’m very much looking forward to reading SHOWBOAT.

In addition, I know Roland as someone in our region who is wonderfully generous when it comes to mentoring and encouraging writers and authors. I’ve seen and experienced it firsthand. We are lucky to have him.

‘TRUEVINE’ By Beth Macy

28962954-_uy400_ss400_October 18 was the publication day for TRUEVINE: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South (Little, Brown and Company), which is the second book by New York Times-bestselling author Beth Macy of Roanoke.

Anyone who lives in southwest Virginia and has been even a casual reader of The Roanoke Times through the years is surely familiar with Beth’s exceptional work as a journalist and storyteller who, as her biography says, gives voice to outsiders and underdogs.

Two years ago she made her authorial debut with FACTORY MAN, which was a sensation. I expect a similar reception for TRUEVINE, “the true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back,” says the publisher.

“It’s a story about race, greed and the circus,” writes Beth at her website, “and I’ve been chasing it for more than 25 years. I’m thrilled to say it was just short-listed for a Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, and long-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence, a project of the American Library Association.”

I’m not surprised one bit. Based on what I’ve seen, no one chases, researches and writes a true story quite like Beth Macy.

VIDEO: ‘The Giant Awakens’

The giant is back. The mission is unchanged. Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.

Recently, Adweek reported:

You may be forgiven for thinking the Giant had retired as he hasn’t appeared on TV screens in recent years. But a new campaign launched this month by Deutsch will explain where he’s been—and why he picked now as an ideal time to make his comeback.

This teaser-style launch film, which will (appropriately) air in movie theaters around the country, doesn’t include any shots of the Giant himself. But it leaves no doubt that he is back and bigger than ever.

Finally, I encourage you to check out my ebook, HO! HO! HO!: The Life and Legend of the Jolly Green Giant (at right). It’s a fun read. It may be good for you.

How I Won’t Remember Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died in her sleep on February 19 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. She was 89.

Lee is literary royalty.

“All I want to be,” she said a long time ago, “is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”

It would seem that she far exceeded her goal.

I will cherish some memories about Lee and her work, but I won’t remember her for Go Set a Watchman, a lost-and-found manuscript from 1957 that was published as Lee’s second novel a year ago. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman. I doubt that I will. It strikes me as an opportunistic publishing episode that should not have happened.

And yet, it’s not a blemish on Lee’s legacy. Not for me. Instead of reading “Watchman,” I’ll just read “Mockingbird” again. There will be many others who do the same.

The New York Times obituary and video.

How to Write a Book in 18 Holes

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

Bestselling author John Coyne.
Bestselling author John Coyne.

I recently published a book entitled How To Write A Novel in 100 Days. Now I thought I might attempt to tighten that frame of reference (and time) and focus on, How To Write a Book in 18 Holes.

Over my writing career I have published three novels on golf, and edited three books of golf instruction. I have some advice on how to do both for anyone who writes or plays golf, or both, like myself.

In my mind, playing golf and writing a novel are incongruously connected. Let me try and explain.

Golfers enjoy playing alone, often playing early in the day or late in the evening after the sun has set when it’s cool and quiet and the course is empty. Why? Well, as all golfers know, we have to work on our game without the distractions of others.

The same is true for writers.

The first task for a writer is finding a quiet place to work. A comfortable room where it’s just you and the blank page. Writing a perfect sentence takes as much time and effort as grooving one’s golf swing. You have to do it more than once to get it right.

Nothing is more intimidating to a writer as a blank sheet of paper or an empty computer screen. It sits there in its emptiness. Staring at you as if to ask: Now what do you have to say?

Golfers face similar fears. Standing on the first tee, for example, staring down the empty fairway, they tell themselves:

  • Keep it straight.
  • Keep it out of trouble.
  • And whatever else, don’t top it!

So, staring at a blank sheet of paper or empty computer screen, or standing alone with a driver in your hands on the first tee, the fears and demands for both writers and golfers are similar: Get me off to a good round of golf! I’ll start writing my novel now!

Still, the writer might secretly think at that moment: I’m going to write a bestseller!

The golfer might secretly declare: I’m going to break par for the first time in my life. Continue reading “How to Write a Book in 18 Holes”