The author hard at work.

Probably the most frequent question I get as an author is, “How long does it take you to write a book?”

In truth, I’ve never really put a clock (or a calendar) on my work. But looking back over my last four publications, they are spaced about a year apart. Keep in mind, however, that I don’t wait to start working on my next novel until the previous one hits the market. I start several months prior to that.

That’s why when people ask, “How long . . . ?” I answer, “About a year to a year and a half.”

Creating a novel isn’t like what you sometimes see depicted in a film or TV series. It’s not sitting at a keyboard day after day and going clacky-clack-clack, then finally and joyfully tapping out THE END and opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate. (I don’t care for champagne, by the way. For me, it would be a shot of Jack Daniels and an artery-clogging cheeseburger.)

And as all authors know, writing THE END is where the real work begins. You’ve got to edit and rewrite, read it again and rewrite, have your beta readers tear into it and rewrite it again. Rewrites are sometimes major, sometimes minor, but ya gotta do it. And, boy, do I get tired of reading over and over and over what I’ve written. Finally, it reaches a point where I’m more than ready to embark on my next journey into the past, my next effort to bring history to life.


Speaking of that, when writing historical fiction, as I do, there’s ton of research involved before you start going clackty-clack-clack. There’s a whole lot more involved than just creating characters, drama, and dialogue. I’ve got to get the settings, equipment, and expressions used in the time period about which I’m writing correct. Otherwise, readers will skewer me. And I don’t like being a skeweree.

There is no one approach to writing, of course, no right or wrong way of doing it. Mine is different from many other’s. I’ll just think about a story for several months before I put anything on paper. Mind you, I may be doing research at the same time, because I at least know where and when the tale will be set.

After I fry my brain—which has a low threshold for meltdown—thinking about the key elements and scenes of the novel I want to craft, I’ll type out a one- or two-page outline. That becomes my roadmap, my strategic guide. It’s a “living document,” however, because I often amend it as I work. I take off-ramps and detours and side roads, often finding surprises, but the outline always keeps me pointed in the right direction.

Then, once I’ve finished with the creating/writing process, my publisher gets a cut at what I’ve churned out. That involves even more editing, designing the cover, developing promotional material, requesting blurbs, etc. Boy, it’s a wonder it’s only twelve to eighteen months between books.


And just for the record, I trust you know I’m supposed to be retired and not doing a nine-to-five schtick, right? So I don’t. But because I love what I do, I try to do a little work everyday. Well, maybe every other day.

I try to blend my writing with doing “retired things.” You know, maiming small animals and birds with errant golf shots; hitting the sack at eight thirty in the evening; enjoying trips throughout the great Northwest (gonna find that cougar on Haystack Rock); and just hanging out with my wonderful new bride, Barbara. Yeah, I love being retired. But don’t think I could ever make a full-time job of it. (There’s also the old “it-keeps-ya-off-the-streets-and-outta-the-bars” factor, as my old Air Force buddies like to remind me.)

That’s it for now. See ya Where The Dawn Comes Up Like Thunder. (Working title of my next novel, in case you were wondering.)


  1. Edd Lawhon on July 22, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for the great insight Buzz. I knew there was a lot to it, but all the aspects of your task, makes me enjoy your final product even more. Keep it up!!

    • Buzz Bernard on July 23, 2023 at 10:45 am

      Thanks, Edd. I love to write, but I’m looking forward to some time off, too . . . like in September!

  2. Sheila Hudson on July 22, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Wonderful. Love these last four books

    • Buzz Bernard on July 23, 2023 at 10:47 am

      Thank you,, Sheila. You and SWA have been with me, so to speak, since the beginning of my writing career back when I first showed up at SSI in 2005.

  3. Tom Burkett on July 22, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for the enlightenment. I never had the discipline to keep on subject. I have enjoyed reading your books and note the improvement in your work, keep them coming and I will continue reading.

  4. Buzz Bernard on July 23, 2023 at 10:50 am

    Thanks a lot, Tom. Great to hear from an old BHS classmate. And great to hear you’re enjoying my novels. I certainly plan on keeping them coming.

  5. Nancy Panko on July 25, 2023 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Buzz,
    I love this piece! I tell all those who approach me with, “I’ve always wanted to write a book!” that ii’s more work than you can imagine. Believe it our not, I do research even for my children’s books. I can’t wait for your next one. Yes, indeed, I am a fan.

  6. Rona Simmons on July 25, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    I’m there … completely agree with your approach. And I love the new title.

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