Gallimaufry asked Michael J. Sullivan:

I'm curious about your writing process. How long did it take you to do your Riyria books start to finish? Also, any advice for those of us aspiring novelists out here?

Michael J. Sullivan Hello Krissa,
Thanks for asking. I guess it depends on where you start counting from. Prior to Riyria I had quit writing altogether. You see I spent a decade trying to get published and really hadn't gotten anywhere. So during the next decade bits and pieces of what would become Riyria kept invading my thoughts, but I refused to do anything with them. I just pushed them to the back of my mind and didn't even bother to jot down notes.

When I finally relented and decided to write again it was 2002. I wrote the first book, The Crown Conspiracy in about a month, and the second one Avempartha in the same amount of time. Having purged most of that from my system the rest were written in six to nine months. All told the "original writing occurred from 2002 - 2008.

Then came the editing. I was pretty much editing the books from 2008 - 2011. Back when I was self-publishing I would put out one of the books every six months and I spent just about all of those six-month periods getting each one ready for publication.

Then Orbit bought the series and I did some more edits from May 2011 - September 2011.

So all told, it was a decade just "thinking about it." Six years writing them, and three years editing. Some of that is misleading though as I was doing other things along with those books.

What is probably more important is how long does it take me to write these days. Generally I can write a book in 3 - 6 months and another 1 - 3 months editing.

I have a lot of advice for aspiring authors. Where to start...First off I would say don't beat yourself up if your early work sucks. Writing is like any artistic takes practice. Few sit down with an instrument and play beautifully, and so it goes with writing. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master any task and Stephen King says the first 1,000,000 words should b considered practice. I think those are about right. Just keep writing and working on improving and slowly you'll see improvement.

Second, this is a business that is really hard to succeed at. That being said, I'm with Thomas Jefferson who said something like, "I believe in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more of it I have." That's just another way of saying you make your own luck through persistence. After all the more work you put out the better the chances are that one of them will catch with the reading public. The only way to ensure failure is to stop trying.

Third, the business is changing at an unprecedented pace. You need to stay informed on what is going on so you can make informed decisions. There are many business aspects that authors don't want to concern themselves with, but they are doing themselves and their readers a disservice. The goal is always to write more and rise to a level where you don't need to spend hours on "the day job." I don't care which path an author takes (self, small-press, big-five, or hybrid) as long as they make informed decisions.

Again, thanks for asking.

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more