How Long Does A Book Take?

Today, we hear about the writing process from North Carolina writer and Missouri native, Jennifer Fulford. The second book in her historical romance trilogy, Athos & Milady: In The Beginning, just came out after a long stretch from draft to finished product.

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Two years ago, I finished the draft of my second book about Athos of The Three Musketeers, part of my historical romance trilogy. I’ve written other kinds of fiction, but this series has taken up most of my creative energy. When I finished the second book, my idea was to let it sit for about three to six months and “rest.” My critique group had read it, and two editors were lined up to review it.

Then my husband died.

So long, good intentions. Good-bye, normalcy.

It took almost two years to go from draft to final product. No one could argue I didn’t have a good excuse. And most writers would agree that writing needs the gift of time. It requires the potion of reflective idleness. Something happens to a manuscript as it sits. The crazy/lazy sentence structure, the ludicrous plot points, the blemishes, all become apparent after it rests for a while. My book sat in limbo for longer than normal while I walked back from the underworld. Grief zapped most of my motivation, productivity, future plans.

Every writer has a process. Their practice may be to write every day or whenever the muse strikes. Some circle back constantly and revise while also moving forward. Some binge-write a draft and don’t think of making changes until a structure is down. I’ve tried both ways, and so far, I still believe time is essential. For me, a few months to half a year gives the manuscript breathing room. I have a chance to disconnect from my attachment to the work so that when I do pick it up again, I’m not as enamored of its brilliance.

Finally, after the end of last summer, some good vibes pushed me to revise Athos & Milady. A quick thank you to the Clinton (MO) High School Class of 1985 and a great 30th class reunion. I thought it would take me several weeks to rework the book’s flaws. It took six days. My preconceived notions about how long it would take probably contributed to my reluctance to work on it.

Now that I’m on the other side of publication, I like the book. It’s angst-y, sexy. Better than it was. I dumped a bunch of purple prose. I recalibrated the logic. It makes more sense. I WANT people to read it.

Time is good medicine, and a book can end, if not completely well, at least a little better.

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Buy Book Two of The Musketeer Series, Athos & Milady, on Amazon
Buy Book One of The Musketeer Series, Blood, Love and Steel, on Amazon

You are blood of my blood. Flesh of my flesh.

Sometimes kingdoms fall not by war but by beauty—wrapped in silk, drenched in sensuality, and smelling of honeysuckle. The Comte de la Fere longs for a love more fulfilling than youthful sin. The new sovereign finds his match in a mysterious woman, Anne, who beguiles him with her poetic intelligence. Setting aside good judgment, the young Frenchman marries her, despite many sinister undercurrents. Her temptation is too great.

Athos & Milady: In the Beginning chronicles the early heart-breaking story of Milady de Winter and Athos before their paths cross in The Three Musketeers. Definitely not a book for school-aged readers, this novel is a sexy re-imagination of two characters from the classic novel by Frenchman Alexandre Dumas. It claims its French-ness in many poetic, passionate scenes of longing, woven together by imagery from the Book of Genesis.


The silence of the sanctuary made Athos pause. He listened to his breathing and inhaled incense and exhaled potential. Heading toward the priest’s study, a cold chill blew from the direction of the confessionals. He strained and heard a door click shut. Aware it might be the priest, he walked over and found the hem of a silvery fabric protruding from a closed confessional door. Someone rustled inside.

He stepped up to the door, but the priest’s booth was empty. A voice from within the next compartment stopped him from knocking.

“Delays, delays.” Followed by a long sigh.

Athos froze. It was Anne.

She started humming, a nocturne or a hymn. It was lovely, the pitch and the drama, like she was purring the notes in secret contentment. The hum deepened. He knew if he made any sound he would give himself away, and part of him wanted to. The other part was fascinated by the cat in the cupboard.

A minute passed and the notes from her lengthened until she wasn’t singing. Her tone imparted animalistic pleasure, the kind from a cat of bigger size. He’d hear an mmm and an umh while the fabric of her dress shifted inside the cramped, wooden box. Her hands were making long passes across the fabric—Where would that place them now? Her breath hitched and resumed, heavy with need. The movement sounded like swirls of an autumn breeze, fanning her body. Dramatic rests interspersed her music. She was holding her breath. Longer and longer. The fabric rubbed in rhythm. He nearly spoke, taking the words right out of her mouth, his own lips pressed moistly to the door, at the moment she peaked: Oh God. The air rushed out of her, and the stray hem of the skirt slipped inside at the vibration.

All the wind left him, too, though under tight control. He laid his palms silently on either side of the door and dropped his head. Air, I need air. He tried to collect himself and move. His body was rigid. All that separated her from him was a slat of wood and a metal swivel. In every other way, they were on the same plateau.

“Excuse me.” The voice hit him from behind like a splash of frigid water. Athos buckled and straightened as quickly. Father de Breuil stood at the centre of the pews, leaving several rows between them. “May I help you?”

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