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Writing INterruptus
By Helen Dunn Frame
July, 2007, 15:00

One of the most common questions readers have for authors is: How long did it take you to complete the writing project?

If the person wants to know how much time it took, including all interruptions, hiatuses, and getting published, then the answer for Greek Ghosts would be about 2 1/2 years. Actual time spent writing and editing it would be far less if it could have been compacted into a short period of concentrated effort.

It appears that very few writers have the luxury to pursue their craft without a day job, or another family member's help with income to sustain a desired lifestyle. After establishing relationships with periodicals they contribute to regularly that compensate them, perhaps the lucky ones can concentrate more on their creativity and also contribute to the family income pool.

My former mother-in-law had odd jobs, such as an administrative assistant (fancy title in those days for a secretarial position) with Architectural Digest. The major family income came from her spouse. This enabled her to publish more than 30 books during her nearly 100 years. To this day, royalties trickle in.

In my case, unless I was working for a newspaper or in public relations, raising a son alone often meant managing two or three jobs to pay the bills. Deduct more hours for having some adult friends and a social life . . . personal writing was often put on hold.

Recently moving solely on my own from a house in the country in Costa Rica with views of flowers, chickens, horses, the sound of a crying child, etc. to a townhouse with miles of city lights for inspiration, writing was once more interrupted. One simply has to make room for birth, death, raising a family, and whatever else life dictates.

When such events occur, necessitating "writing interruptus" (a phrase I coined), take a positive view and give yourself permission to handle the event without guilt. The break might give you renewed interest and spur creativity. For example, after I finished editing another person's book a few months ago, I read what had been written so far on the second mystery in the Jennifer Haslett Vandergriff series. This enabled me to edit and expand existing chapters before continuing to add chapters. The renewed enthusiasm undoubtedly resulted in a better opus. In my new abode, I will gladly repeat the process.

As I write this column, most boxes have been opened if not emptied, and disarray remains. It will take a few more weeks to assemble order before I can combine fine tuning my home and returning to a creative schedule in between trips. At this juncture in life, I have the means to indulge in creating whenever I wish, except when deadlines push me, and still pay the bills. Simply, it means I paid my dues earlier in life.

So what is the answer to how long it takes? Maybe several responses. Drafting a column may take an hour after the idea pops into my head. Honing it varies. One novel manuscript still in progress now and again, has been written and rewritten over a period of twenty years. Other creations fall in between the two. What would be your response?  
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Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: Web site:

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