Length of Time to Create a Work of Art

How long does it take to paint a remarkable painting? How long does it take to produce a reasonable novel? Well, it took Leonardo da Vinci begins four years to paint the Mona Lisa and 30 layers of paint were applied. Michelangelo began work on his famous Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508. He worked for four years before completion. To write a novel takes anywhere from a few months to several years. Of course, some artists work very quickly – Picasso finished Guernica in 35 days, which may equate to just ten or twenty chapters for a novelist. In many ways, authors are the poor cousins of painters. Authors have fewer works, their works can’t be ‘seen’ and sold immediately on that basis. Authors will struggle to get their work put into the public arena and few authors can now breakthrough the iron-clad ring of rejection that protects the domain of literary agents and publishers. A recent statistic suggested that one in 10,000 writers will get their work accepted by a traditional publisher. Yet, the passion to write is strong and the desire to tell a story remains one of the most noble arts of all. Churchill encouraged us to “never give up” so we keep going, hopeful that even a small audience will enjoy a story that had to be told.

How is the Discipline of Writing Book #2 Going?

I wasn’t really envious – well, a little! A friend was now writing his 3rd book and I was struggling to make progress on my #2. But, I reassured myself, Rome wasn’t built in a day and, besides, mine was more technical – requiring considerable research. And, I had no research assistant! The funny thing was, although about half-way through novel two, I had the last chapter sorted. Then, smug, smug, I was sure that I had gone well past the middle when a word count (hate that tool) revealed that I had only completed 32,000 words. Dang it! Still, this wake-up shook me into being more disciplined and, I am proud to say, my writing has improved. I am now into a routine of morning writing, followed by a quick evening review. I also determine to try and keep my weekends free – in the same way as I did when teaching.

My best first critic!

I was pleased with myself. Chapter One for my new novel read perfectly; at least I thought so. But I needed an independent critic – someone I trusted to be honest, even brutally honest, and give constructive feedback. Aha! I had the perfect person – my wife! She endured endless revisions of my first thriller and was keen to read my second. I was anticipating a great response to Chapter One. “Did you like it?” I asked. The reply was not what I expected.
“Well,” she replied, “I just could not get into it.”
Shock, horror. “Why not?”
“I dunno. It was just too technical. But, I was tired when I read it, so I will try again.”
There it is! She was tired. I am let off the hook; the chapter is good after all? I waited for her second take.
“No, it just doesn’t gel for me.”
“Damn!” What did I do wrong? I spend hours on this opener and now it has fallen flat. I need to really think hard about this; not rush it; give it another angle.

Hours later – days actually, and I had an idea; an approach that was based on human interaction and left out most of the technical details. “Here is a new Chapter One.”
“O.K.,” she said, “I’ll read it later.”

“What did you think?”
“Much better, and it drew my interest. It also reminded me of an event at one of your schools.”
I was relieved, but learned an important lesson, and thanked my best critic – my wife!

Contemporary? What about Harry and Meghan?

Spy Chase is described as a “Contemporary Thriller.” What does “contemporary” really mean?

contemporary
/kənˈtɛmp(ə)r(ər)i/
1. living or occurring at the same time.
“the event was recorded by a contemporary historian”
2. belonging to or occurring in the present.
“the tension and complexities of our contemporary society”

I really like the last definition of “the tension and complexities of our contemporary society”. Spy Chase is set in the present and even mentions (as part of the dialogue between Jak and his sister Nina) the election of Boris Johnson in Britain, and the impeachment of Donald Trump. Of course, Jak and Nina could also have discussed the breakup of the Royal Family, with the departure of Prince Harry and Meghan from “The Firm.” They don’t for two reasons. First, Harry and Meghan are not political leaders and, second, this detail about the royals would not add anything further to the plot. Or could they? (LOL).

Second Thriller by James Hayden!

Thriller #2 is underway! Following visits to Seattle, Croatia and Gibraltar, and a few lesser-known locations, I am pleased to announce that I have started work on my second thriller. Some readers have asked if it is a sequel to Spy Chase. No.

All I can give away at this point is that it does involve international espionage, but the use of very modern technology to thwart global systems. Actually, the plot has been in gestation for some time and the site visits were critical to unwrapping the details. Oh, and the new thriller does have a name. More on this second novel soon!

Even the back cover is important!

You find an interesting book on the shelves and, after a glance at the front cover, flip it over to get more in-depth information on the back. For Spy Chase, this has been a work-in-progress. The goal was a brief ‘synopsis’ to attract readers, but also to highlight the excellent review – now standing out in a different color and with italics. Is this selfish promotion? Probably, but what counts for me, as the author, is when I get such encouraging feedback from readers. Last week, a friend (who loves her books) raved about Spy Chase and how she loved the mix of detail and the fact that she couldn’t put it down. This is a common theme and my goal was to include a review on the rear cover that conveyed this kind of reader-reaction.

What’s in a name – a book name?

There is that famous quote from Romeo and Juliet:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

“The Mystery of the Iron Mask,” sold 11,000 copies, but even though it the title clearly identified it as a mystery, no one cared much about an iron mask. But when the title was changed to “The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask,” it sold 30,000 copies. Of course, we now know it as “Man in the Iron Mask”.

So, what has happened to my book title “3 Wise Men”? It goes like this. My wife and I were driving out of town when she asked, “I was thinking …” I knew then that something major was on the horizon. “I was thinking … why don’t you change the title of your book?”

I replied that I had been recently thinking about that as well. So, we spent the weekend with friends and trying to come up with a new title that better described the plot and tension of ‘3 Wise Men’. Finally, I came up with ‘Spy Chase’. This title was more direct that the earlier one, and less religious too, especially around Christmas time! I was even more surprised that there was no other book title with the same name (although there is one called ‘The Spy Chase’). Not that it really matters, as book titles are not copyrighted.

Finally, I revised the cover (and am still working on a few minor adjustments to the new one) and used the new title as an opportunity to re-edit some of the manuscript before reformatting for the new release.

I hope that you, the reader, also enjoy the new title and new content in SPY CHASE!

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