Tick Tock

 Put a bunch of writers in a room and we all ask the same questions of each other:  How long did it take you to finish your novel?  What’s your writing schedule like?  How long did it take to find an agent?  How long before your book sold?  How long did you spend on revisions? For people who deal with words, we’re obsessed with time.

At Grub’s Muse and the Marketplace conference last week, everyone I met had different answers.  Some authors, like me,  revise heavily as they go.  Others bang out a first draft and then revise.  Some write every day.  Others sit down at the computer only once or twice a week, but mull sentences and paragraphs over in their heads for days before committing them to paper. Some writers have agents who are very hands-on, so that their books sail through the editorial process.  Others receive letters with pages and pages of suggestions after the book is sold.

I met with Meg Mitchell Moore (whose book The Arrivals comes out soon!) a few weeks before the conference, and we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of our writing and revising style.  Yet we agree on this — to be a good writer, you have to put in the time.  Whether that time is in the beginning of the process or the end is up to you.

If there’s one thing I learned this past weekend, it’s that there are no shortcuts, no hidden tricks for shaving hours off the writing journey. Hearing authors like Alice Hoffman and Ann Hood talk about how much they revise made that very clear.  To be a good writer means you are in it for the long haul.  Tick.  Tock.

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Liz Michalski


  1. Rosemary on May 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Love the category name! (I spend way too much of my precious time in the Land of Worry and Woe.)

    By the way, the conference sounded amazing.

    • liz on May 5, 2011 at 11:10 am

      Thanks Rosemary — we must be neighbors there! (And the conference was terrific!)

  2. Vaughn Roycroft on May 5, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Six years, since I set pen to paper (rather, fingers to keyboard). And counting. I’m with Rosemary: too much time wasted worrying about if, when, and why.

    Everyday I have to put it aside, and punch the clock. All that really matters is the work, and it’s not ready yet. I know it in my gut. So back to the grind. Time’s awastin’. Tick tock.

    Thanks for the reminder – I’m in it for the long haul.

    • liz on May 5, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Vaughn, Ron Carlson (the keynote speaker at the Grub conference) was quoted as saying it takes ten years to become a writer. I know it has been at least that long for me. Hang in there!

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