Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sue's Muse: The Long, Slow Process of a Story

Over the last couple of years, writing turned from fun (writing fanfiction), to a part-time source of income (as I took my theology degree), to my full-time source of income. I'm a single mum, therefore it all depends on me. I chose to try and write full-time so I could stay at home with the kids. I haven't regretted that decision.

Initially I published my long chaptered fanfic stories as novels; Nothing Ever Happens, Morning Report,  The Night Porter, Stolen Dreams and Chance to be King. Nothing Ever Happens took me about eighteen months to write, Morning Report about eight months. 

Now I haven't got the luxury of that time frame. I have to produce a story every month to generate income to survive. For those of you who turn your nose up at the one-a-month club, let me suggest you think of the reality. No large advances mean we live on our royalties. It takes time to build a readership, and every new book generates more readers. 

I've seen a fair amount of criticism of the authors who produce a story a month, rushed stories, lack of imagination yada yada. I can't speak for other authors, but let me talk about the way I produce a story. I think most of my stories take from six months to over a year from initial ideas to actual publication. The initial idea for Hairy Harry's Car Seat was from a conversation well over a year ago. The story took two weeks to write but the actual plot took a lot, lot longer to think about. Tumbling Blindly took over a year. I wrote the initial scene on Matt hiding in his bed and then left it until I had a plot. It was written and rewritten. What about The Isle of... Where? Shorter, maybe four months. However the germ of the idea was eight months before on my summer holiday on the Isle of Wight. At the moment I'm writing the sequel to The Isle of... Where? Four months, four starts and Sue going bald in frustration.

What I'm trying to say, is that it's not so simple as churning them out. I read a similar post from another author about how she works. It's not dissimilar to me. What goes on in my head takes a long time to translate to the page. I don't care if you're getting a short story, or a long story from me, it goes through the same process. Very few stories just spill out onto the page. It is mulled over during dog walks, talked about endlessly with Faith Ashlin and Lisa Worrall. Yes, I produce a story a month, but that's because I'm working damn hard to get them out.

If I had the luxury to take a year with each book... God, what the hell do those authors do with their time? I'm writing romance, not a theology textbook. Having said that I remember two of my lecturers describe publishing their books. There was no snobbery about it. They produced the books to increase their income, and they didn't have the time to muck about.

Since the start of 2013, I've published five books: Tumbling Blindly, Hairy Harry's Car Seat, Louis Hates Valentine's Day (in an anthology), A Tale Told in Darkness, and Summer's Dawn. Next month, The Sky is Dead comes out, followed by Holding Together and Turning Over. Five of those were written last year. Now I'm writing a novel, then two more novellas. I have another three stories planned after that. All of them being thought and planned until I am ready to write them.

I comfort myself with the thought of Charles Dickens, a prolific writer who was always working on new stories. He had a huge number of kids to support, I have my kids' huge bills to support. That man didn't flounce about in the meadows dreaming of writing books. He got on with it, and so shall I.


  1. Well said!
    You keep at it!
    You're a constant inspiration to me and I love our brainstorming sessions :)

    1. Right back atcha darlin'. I love our sessions together as well.

  2. Youre my fave writer. I spend my own royalties on your books so yes, keep writing, ma'am!

    And I try to put out at least one book a month as well, even if it's a freebie. Keeps my muses fresh and in front of their audience. :D

    Great blog Sue

    1. Thanks, my darling. Your support is fabulous. I love all the stories you produce.

  3. I'm impressed with your work and dedication to it! A lot people think writing is so easy, you just plant your ass before laptop or computer and TA-DA! My stories never come to me when I need them most. They waiting until I'm ready, so I choose work night shifts to have time thinking about them :)
    (I have four kids)

    Best wishes Sue!

    1. AkFa, where the heck do you find the time to write? You are one busy person!

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  5. I am so glad you've posted this. It gives me the 'drive' to push myself harder, tell myself 'I can do it'. I have one person who has been helping me with edits but her plate is so full it's a slow go, if you know what I mean. So, thank you Sue for sharing such encouraging words with us. I, as you, have no outside income except for a small amount I get for child support arrears.
    My goal is to one day be a "Sue Brown" :-D


    1. Hi,

      You will be amazing xxxx

      Keep going. I have people I aspire to be like. I haven't got there yet, but I keep trying ;)

      Look forward to seeing the results.

  6. Sue,

    I, for one, am proud to be a member of the purchase a Sue Brown book as soon as it is released club. I write nonfiction (not books yet), and I can relate to the process of writing in the mind before putting it on paper style. Thank you for sharing and keep the stories coming :-).


    1. I remember writing my essays. That was a tortuous process as well.

  7. Sue,

    It was so interesting to read this, to hear about your writing process and how long it can take from the first scene or idea, to the end product arriving on the market.

    I've only ever written one piece of fan fiction myself and it almost destroyed me - but I just had to get it out because it was a story I wanted to tell. And the feedback was at times brutal, so I admire you even more for turning your hand to writing for a living.

    In terms of your writing specifically, I initially found you because I so badly wanted to read Morning Report. which through fandom I had heard so much about. And even though I had to read it in a new "format", it was still one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only because it remains probably my favourite M/M story, but also because it led me to all of your other works - both past and future.

    Good luck with your writing Sue - with meeting that target of one a month. Know that you have fans behind you, silently (or overtly on here and twitter) cheering you on.

    Hazel :)