Dodger Stadium.

How long does it take to write a novel?

I am knee-deep into baseball right now—both going to my children’s games and writing about the sport for a Middle-Grade book I am drafting. So let me approach this question with a baseball analogy: How long does it take to hit a home run?

Well, you don’t have to be Yogi Berra (or Edwin Encarnacion) to know—you can hit a home run in a few seconds, or it can take a really long time. You might reach a full count of balls and strikes. You might take a ball to the helmet, fall on the field, need medical attention, and still decide to carry on swinging. You see the point I am trying to make.

I started writing my published YA novel on September 7, 2012. I called it SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN. More often than not, the title of a book changes (perhaps several times)—but in this case it did not. I finished a draft in the spring of 2013, which I mentioned in an interview with Canada’s CBC here when I was a finalist for an award. I signed with an agent and SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN sold in May of 2014. The news was announced in Publisher’s Weekly. My book was edited, and the pages were typeset and ready for proofing by March 2015. By early June 2015 I had printed ARCs in my possession, and they were being sent to media and other readers. So:

  • September 2012- May 2013 Draft completed
  • May 2014 Book sold to Random House, announced in Publisher’s Weekly
  • September 2014 Cover art started
  • March 2015 Typeset proofs completed
  • May/June 2015 Advance Reading Copies printed and distributed.

Since my book just came out in March 2016, this gives you some idea of the long timeline when you are dealing with a large U.S. publisher like Delacorte Press, which is part of Penguin Random House. Of course, if you count all the novels I wrote that weren’t published (let’s compare it to hours in the batting cage), then the time to write a published novel becomes far, far longer.

I would like to say that am aware that there have been other novels involving Kurt Cobain (or some kind of inspiration drawn from him). To date, I haven’t read any of them. I did read many works of non-fiction, including the books of Charles R. Cross. This is formally acknowledged in my book. These, and other non-fiction works, were the materials I was reading back in 2012 and 2013 when I was drafting SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN. Unfortunately, someone under the name “Cindy Black” has made a comment titled “Magpie” on my page here implying that I have borrowed from other writers without acknowledgement. This is pretty much the worst thing you can say or imply about a writer, and I am very upset by this implication. I have made my living as a journalist and editor for a long time and respecting others’ creative works is sacrosanct to me. The comment may not be libel, exactly, but it is pretty close.

The true spark for this novel was a 2012 article called “Remembering Harpo’s” in the Victoria Times-Colonist mentioning a largely forgotten Nirvana show in the city. The newspaper is acknowledged in the credits for SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN. Because I believe in credit where credit is due. If “Cindy Black” or anyone else wants to talk to me about this, they can reach me. I am happy to talk, if I am not out at the ball diamond!


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  1. Ugh… what a drag. It’s so insulting. I feel for you, but I think this must be so common. Probably every single writer who gets any publicity must have “trolls” to deal with like Cindy Black. It is next to impossible to come up with an idea or theme that hasn’t been done before! I struggled with this myself a few years ago when an author whose first book I loved wrote a second book with a similar theme to mine. I freaked out thinking people would assume I got the idea from him. Anyways, I feel you, but remember that the people who know KNOW. You know? ;)

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