How Long Does it Take to Write an Epic Series?

Please help me welcom A.H. De Carrasco to my blog today. She’s written a great post for us today and is giving away a $5 Amazon gift card to one reader who answers the question below. Be sure and leave her the answer in your comments in order to be entered.


My answer? As long as it has to take. No more. No less.

And I mean every word of that answer above. As long as it has to take. One does not rush an epic tale. It took me a very long time to understand that each story has different needs. If I could tell the old me what the present me knows about these things, I would pat her on the back and say, “Trust in your instincts.”

What works for one book’s fermentation, might be lethally poisonous to another. And fussing about that won’t help any, either. Anxiety only adds to all the troubles ahead. So don’t apologize for the long weeks, months–yikes!–years of curing. Understand they are sometimes necessities of the process.

Think I know what I am talking about? I’ve been working on my Teller of Destiny™ Series for twenty-six years. Yes. Twenty-six years. I have well over half a million words devoted to that world and that world needs every single one of them. Every single one. Plus I’ve made maps, charts, lineages, glossaries, floor plans–you name it–I got it.

I had the series arch in my head, and the climaxes and points of no return scribbled on napkins and office scrap paper when I began to put it all together and write it out longhand, then on computer. When I read through the three-book trilogy (at that time), I wept. It was terrible. Not the story, but my writing. I should have known this was what writers call a first draft–the draft we are allowed to write as almost pure shi@t. But I knew my writing had to improve greatly to honor the story I wanted to tell. I let the books gather dust, while I took classes. Three years later, I wrote through it again. Then I waited another five. Then wrote and revised again. Much like a hair artist checks the bleach’s progress. All the time, adding subplots and supporting characters, I knew where I was going–I knew my destination–as a gut feeling.

I work this same way in animation. Doing compositing, and lighting, and rendering. Problem solving. It’s a feeling I get when it is all put together–the finishing touch– just exactly as it is supposed to be. Only I can really know when that moment has been reached. Of course, in the daily grind of commercial animation that means extra hours out of my own time, because there are deadlines that cannot be avoided. I enjoy much more the game developers’ philosophy. ‘It will get done when it gets done.’ But if, like me, this is your philosophy, then your epic creation better well be completely created before you talk about deadlines for “upcoming” books.

In fact, if anyone were to ask me for advice on writing an epic series, I would tell them not to publish the first book until the last word of the last book was written down. Sure revisions will come. I’m still editing and tweaking. But I have heard many readers will not start on a series until it is complete. They have been burned too many times with series than did not finish. That’s a sad thing–hopefully a sad thing of the past now that we have indie-publishing. A writer can always finish up her series, even if a publisher withdraws support. We owe it to our readers. I’m serious. My husband knows where my keys and codes are, so in the terrible occasion of my untimely demise, the story can go on.

How do you know when your stories are ready? Answer in comments to be entered into a $5 Amazon GC giveaway. Thank you for stopping by! And thank you, Cynthia, for having me here today.

-A.H. De Carrasco

From Continue Blurb:

“I saw the dead king…burn,” Raphere whispered to the voices. She lifted her chin. “Why would I see such a thing, if not to prevent it?”
“There are many kings in the land, and all kings die eventually. You are more important than any.”
Did they think to keep her here, forever? In the Pikestan? But she was not safe. And she could do nothing for anyone. But as a wanderer…
Ever since spilling her blood before the Teller of Destiny, Raphere has spent her life trying to prove she is not like her mother, a dark sorceress. And though she yearns to be, she is not a white wanderer either. She is the Jivasivar, the first grey soul born into the land since sin and the Changing. Some call her savior; others, assassin. One thing is clear: everyone has a plan for Raphere. Few seem to care about what is best for her–only what she might gain or cost them.

To the visitors in the Pikestan, she is a target for their cruelty. To the voices of the weald, she is a precious angel and a last chance at life. To the Dark Lord Verisa, she is a spoiled girl and an unwanted burden. To the mercenary Rant Pae, she is a comely maiden and a promised bounty. To the Highland witch Rumara, she is a puzzle to decipher from afar. To the Teller of Destiny, which revealed the grey of Raphere’s soul, she is the Great All’s long awaited Sword and Shield. Amidst such judgment, can a young woman with young girl’s dreams choose her own path correctly?

Searching for her purpose Raphere embarks upon a journey to find the white wanderer Tranquia and the Jivan Tome–the Divine Poem which promised Raphere’s emergence, centuries ago. She must discern friend from foe as all strive to manipulate her for their own designs. Does she have the conviction to be the Jivasivar or is she merely a pawn in a fight for the survival of both ancients and kings? With the Jivan Tome out of reach, and her destiny as clouded as her grey blood, will she bend to the manipulations of others and take a path that leads to the destruction of all?

AHDC_prof_01Med_2readers age 15+
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20 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take to Write an Epic Series?

  1. It looks like the journey is worth the reward. Yeah I know about having the story but not the skills, and when it does all come together isn’t it such a wonderful feeling?
    We could all do a Capote and not let the book be wrenched from our cold dead hands, but I feel a sense of rightness when an individual book is truly done, save for those pesky editing details only an outsider can find.

  2. Thanks for A.H. Your journey sounds similar to mine. I took me twenty years from creation to publication of my first novel as well. I wish you millions of sales. Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. Wow. Lot’s involved in writing an epic story. I have several ongoing series that I enjoy writing, but the stakes are merely life and death in a regular series as opposed to the end of the kingdom in an epic.

    I view writing as a journey, with lots of twists and turns, and many traveling companions.

    Maggie from #MYAHA
    Wishing you all the best.

  4. I feel like I just got permission to write the story that has to be told, which is what I’ve been trying to justify with the length of my current WIP. Thanks! I love your determination and perseverance. To answer your question, I have to agree that it takes as long as it takes to write that epic series. Good luck with your series!

  5. People always ask me how long it takes me to write a book. I agree. I give them the standard ‘one year’ answer, which is my average. But I’ve taken anywhere between 9 months and 2 years and I am determined to get my latest book out of my head in 4 months. Best wishes to you and here’s wishing you many sales!!
    -R.T. Wolfe

  6. Wow, I’m imporessed that you stuck with it so long. Great post…loved the excerpt. You are so right. A book takes as long as it takes. A good thimg to remember.

  7. I’ve been working on my epic series for three years now and am only getting to the completion of the rough draft. I’m sure I’ll be another year in revising it. I used to get depressed over this, but now I accept that this particular work is simply going to take longer than others. BTW, I completely agree with you that in a series, you need to write the entire arc FIRST before you put out the first book. That way you have fewer revision surprises in store for you and I think that the overall story tends to be more compact…if 300K+ words can be considered compact. 🙂

    • I hear you, Wendy! I’ve written stories in between to keep my mood up and have found writing other stories helps freshen everything up in the meantime. Good luck with your series!
      -A. H.

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