The Making of a Mystery – A Novel in Man-Hours

When The Blood of Brothers was conceived, it was supposed to be a genre-mashing take on contemporary fantasy – a gritty detective procedural, a ruthless crime thriller, and a restrained urban fantasy. To properly achieve this, I assigned a point-of-view protagonist to each subgenre and interweaved their actions into a single compelling story of struggle and loss. What I didn’t account for was the sheer magnitude of this goal.

The end result is a 450-page behemoth of a mystery novel.

I thought it would be interesting to share with readers just how much time this endeavor took. Below is a breakdown of the various disciplines required to build the novel and the man-hours each took to complete.

It’s worth noting that The Blood of Brothers is a stand-alone story within a series (Book 2 of Sycamore Moon). This means that ramping up for this novel was less time consuming as many details about the setting, characters, and factual knowledge were already in place.

The Fine Print: These hourly breakdowns represent actual butt-in-chair time. I did not estimate hours spent or days worked. Yes, I clocked in and out using a stopwatch that only ran when I actively moved development forward. If I stopped working or left my chair for any reason, the clock stopped.


Not everyone prefers to outline their stories before writing. I do. This category includes coming up with the conceptual plot, creating rough characters, mapping out events, and looking at big picture elements. This alone takes about 2 to 3 weeks real time because a lot of time is spent “waiting for inspiration.” Keep in mind that when I outline, I am brainstorming nearly every single night I am in bed, sitting on the throne, or when I’m alone and it’s quiet. These many hours are not counted.

At the end of this process, I know the major events of the story (including the ending) and have them mapped out in digital form somewhere.

Hours Spent: 27


Because The Blood of Brothers is half police procedural, I consider it a research-heavy project. I studied autopsy procedure, blood analysis, various firearms, ballistic testing, FBI task forces, several police departments, crime scene procedure, seasonal hunting details, geographic locations, and local laws of several states. Research signifies actual time I spend at the computer looking up answers to specific questions, and not the time I spend reading otherwise (eg. I do not count a book I read on police procedure).

This is a process that occurs as I need it, while I’m writing, and sometimes only accounts for a few minutes at a time.

Hours Spent: 13


This is the bread and butter of being an author. The first draft. Tackling the blank page. I make sure to complete the text from beginning to end before I worry about revisions. Sure, things change while I write, but I know the draft will get a few more passes before being sent to my editor. The important thing is to get the story down. Art can’t be analyzed until it exists, so I strive to complete the creation before I improve it.

After the last word is typed, a whole novel can be read from start to finish, although there will be continuity errors and I expect the quality to be lacking.

Hours Spent: 93


This is like the second and third drafts and self-editing all in one. Even though the story is complete, that doesn’t mean it’s awesome yet. Problems need to be corrected, themes need to be developed, holes need to be filled. This includes proofreading, spell-checking, and all that technical goodness. Interestingly, this step takes up about as much time as the writing.

I consider revision complete when all my pending tasks are crossed out and I am happy with the novel.

Hours Spent: 82


This is a misleading category because I’m an author, not an editor. I do not know (nor can include) the man-hours my editor spends. He takes the manuscript for a month and marks all over it with a red pen (actually a red font these days). I send him a proofed and completed book, so what I get back are a bunch of fixes that can be made fairly mindlessly. There are also some bigger problems to be handled which take up the bulk of my time.

Yes, this is the last obstacle to having a bona fide, finished manuscript.

Hours Spent: 10


The business side of self-publishing can’t be ignored. Websites need to add new release information. This means updating, GoodReads, and whatever retail stores list the product. Front and back matter need to be sorted out. I use software that automates ebook creation, but print pdfs need to be formatted and proofed. Even though I am not a cover designer, working with one is still time consuming (front-loaded with explanation in an attempt to capture the mood of the book, and includes reviewing cover iterations). Books require marketable blurbs, and skimping out here is foolish since descriptions are what convince readers to buy.

Essentially, this is a catch-all category that covers many aspects of actually creating and listing a novel for sale, and its time commitment can’t be ignored.

Hours Spent: 33

In Total

So how does The Blood of Brothers weigh in?

115,000 Words. 23 Weeks. 258 hours.

This is a large number, but it isn’t mind-blowing. For reference, I am a full-time author and this is my third novel (although I was hampered by an infant during this process). I was writing 2500 words on good days and didn’t work weekends or unreasonable hours.

Keep in mind, this figure doesn’t include many other aspects of being a self-publisher – any “downtime” activities such as brainstorming; marketing, social media promotion, and blogging; general business activities; man-hours of contractors; and anything post-launch.

Still, this time is what it takes to create and list a book for sale, and it is a number that is achievable by anyone. This figure, for instance, almost exactly matches the total if you were to work for a single hour every weekday for a year. If you ask me, that’s pretty remarkable.

Please share this with anyone interested in writing a book. And check out The Blood of Brothers Amazon Page to see the final presentation: cover, blurb, and “Look Inside” preview.


  1. Reply

    Excellent breakdown. First paragraph of the book just grabs the reader. LOVE your book covers!!

    1. Reply

      Thanks JP! The Blood of Brothers is pretty special to me. It’s my book that’s most inspired by Michael Connelly/ Bosch.

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