Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birth of a Novel

Yesterday, we successfully launched the paperback version of my new novel, Hold Back the Sun. This was my first experience of a formal launch event, but I really enjoyed it. After reading several passages that introduced the main characters and set the tone for the story, I invited the guests to ask questions. Several people asked, “How long does it take to write a novel?”

The answer to this question varies with individual books. Like mammals, different novels have different gestation periods, varying by size. Gerbils take about 25 days from conception to birth; cats require about 64; Horses, 340; African elephants, 645. In similar fashion, the bigger the book, the longer it takes to complete it.

My first published novel, Fall Eagle One required about three years from conception to final draft. The nature of my writing requires somewhat exhaustive historical research. Having the Internet available was a Godsend to my research. Actual writing took a little over a year, while editing and rewriting under the guidance of a skilled editor required several more months before we were ready to shop the manuscript. 

Hold Back the Sun took a little longer. My interest in the exploits of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet early in WWII was sparked in the mid 1960s by reading John Toland’s popular history, But Not in Shame. In the late 1970s, I read The Lonely Ships, Edwin P. Hoyt’s history of the Asiatic Fleet. The germ of an idea for a novel started tickling my mind. I was on active duty in the Navy, so my time for exploring the subject was limited. Nevertheless, I began doing literary research and taking notes on the places I visited in Hawaii and Asia. I began serious writing about 1980 during off duty hours while serving a tour without my family. The result of this effort was a manuscript that was far too long to expect to be published as a debut novel. New writing ideas drew my attention, so Hold Back the Sun languished in my computer for several years. However, I was very attached to the story and always meant to publish it when the opportunity arose.

Once Fall Eagle One achieved some success, I decided to buckle down and rewrite Hold Back the Sun. Using skills learned from my editor, I pared the manuscript and completely rewrote the last third of the story. It took me about seven months of hard work to get to the point of publication. The success of the Kindle e-book (currently #6 in historical fiction-Asian) suggests that it was worth the effort.

Being in my late seventies, I no longer have the luxury of a taking a lot of time for my future works. Fortunately, I can now do most of my research by computer without leaving my desk. I plan to publish one new book every year for as long as I’m physically able.  I hope that my readers will continue to enjoy them.

Note: Both of Warren’s novels are Amazon Kindle Bestsellers Hold Back the Sun is #6 on historical fiction: Asian and #56 in action-adventure: war and military. Fall Eagle One is #56 on action-adventure/war and military.

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