Timelines in the Iron Age

A Call to Patience and Determination

I think the culture war is in its death throes, and not because either side won it. I think what is plain to see about mass entertainment in the current year is a pyrrhic victory at best, salted earth at worst. It seems that every cultural achievement of the west in the last three thousand years is being tarnished, insulted, degraded, and destroyed.

Hollywood isn’t producing movies people want to go see, not like they used to. People aren’t rallying around tv series. In my experience, apathy has taken root, along with an expectation of disappointment. People see it as safer to look to the past, to catch up on things they missed rather than to look forward to something new.

One notable exception is the meteoric rise in popularity of anime and Korean film. As one anecdote, when line cooks at night clubs are having debates about One Piece you know the tides have changed. Looking to foreign countries for culture is not a long term solution however.

The craving for novelty mixed with the burgeoning urge to create is at the heart of the Iron Age movement. I wholeheartedly believe that soon enough, there will be enough new content that the markets will be flooded. While the culture war seems to have disgraced everything that came before, the original material is still out there, as well as the lessons in craft they have to offer. New stories, movies, comics, and games all have the potential to surpass anything created to date.

But when is soon enough?

Hi, my name is James Krake, I’m an independent author and very excited for the Iron Age. But, I want to share my thoughts on what people should be expecting from the speed of the movement and why. Hopefully, this will also encourage some people to dive in by giving a taste of the process. By December 5th, I will have released three novels this year, which is a lot to produce but not a lot to read. According to goodreads, I have finished 52 novels this year alone, and that’s not touching comics, anime, and movies I’ve consumed.

Looking at just the novels, there would have to be nineteen more of me just to occupy a reader of my voraciousness, and that would give no variety whatsoever aside from dipping into older releases. Given tastes in genre, I think the numbers can be rounded off and simply declare a lot more authors are needed. (Not to say there aren’t already a lot of independent authors out there trying to make a go of it)

So, I’ve released three novels in one year, along with quite a bit of webnovel content. How did I get to that rate though?

Let’s say you want to release a book, because you want to be the change you want to see in the world. Good on ya. Let’s call this decision Month 0, Day 0.

First, you have to write the book. In my experience, most amateur writers are lucky to write 500 words a day. Someone taking it really seriously can probably average 1000 words a day. A real try-hard strives for 2000, and insane people sometimes reach 5000 a day. Personally, I average 2000 a day, so I’ll use that as optimistic numbers. Now, the rough draft of a book is going to be between 60,000 words and 120,000 words depending on the scope of the story. Therefore, it will take 1-2 months to write the first draft. Given the likelihood of interruptions, rewrites, and underperformance, I’ll fudge that all together and call it two months from Day 0 you have your first draft. Congratulations, you are now in the top quartile of all people who call themselves writers.

Next comes editing, but editing without perspective is often fruitless. I recommend taking a break and working on another project for a while. Because your first book will not manifest your potential at all, any aspiring author should be planning multiple books (not a series necessarily). So, after I finish a rough draft, I write a different novel’s rough draft. This meshes the development pipelines together to reduce the total time, eventually. It does, however, mean that editing book 1 only begins in Month 4.

So, you begin to edit. You’ve spent the last four months reading, studying, thinking, and practicing with the other draft, so you should be much better at the craft now. Make any known changes, then reread the book to check for structural changes, then read the book aloud to check for flow and make your fixes to generate draft 2. As long as you don’t throw it in the trash and start from a blank page, this will probably only take you one more month.

Welcome to Month 5, you’re now ready to show it to people. Hopefully you didn’t show your rough draft to anyone, because you would have convinced your potential readers that you’re not worth their time. They will have compared your rough draft to a finished product and written you off. Now that you have a good story that is free of most typos and errors, reach out to your social groups and see who is interested in reading the first chapter and then see who wants to continue on for the rest of the book. Personally, I recommend an online platform like Google Docs or Atticus which allows live, in-line commenting so the reader can pinpoint bad scenes, clunky wording, asspulls, and rant about how much they hate/love your characters. It’s far more useful than an essay at the end. But, readers are slow if you aren’t paying them (and you can hire people to do this). If you’re lucky, you’ll get the feedback in a month.

Which brings us to Month 6. You can now begin assimilating all the comments and feedback and make corrections and throw it into Grammarly or whatever other online editor you fancy. You can even hire an underpaid college student to copy edit your manuscript. At some point, you had to pull the trigger on getting cover art. Once your final edits are done, learn how to format, choose your distribution model, and you can upload it to Amazon (or worse, you start emailing agents and get rejections for the next three years).

At the start of Month 7, you upload all the files and formatting and cover art and so on. The files get validated, publishing expenses are paid, and you order a proof copy. Two weeks later you get your proof copy, pray that you don’t find mistakes, and then you enable distribution for your book.

Now, you have a publication date, and you can really begin drumming up hype and pre-orders and review copies (you’ll want to buy a stack of books for marketing purposes, so you can mail them to influencers after talking with them). Do all the ground work you can now that people have a link to an actual product. At this point, you have reached the top 1% of people who call themselves writers, and are an author.

But, you have no sales until it goes live. Once your pre-orders process, you’ll get some sales. If you get 12 sales, you are in the top 50% of authors (so the top 0.5% of writers), congrats. Because you spent the time to market and check your proof copy and plan a launch, that took time. That means this date, this release date that marks you stepping foot into the publishing world, is probably 9 to 10 months after your decision to start.

Now, because the development process was interlaced, book two will be ready to release in two to three more months, and that time gap can be repeated, but it still took 10 months to start.

And that’s assuming your first manuscript was good. Brandon Sanderson famously wrote ten novels before selling one. That is very reasonably three months of work on a project that simply is not good enough to put on the market, because you had to develop your skills. That could be as much as 30 months of work without external reward. And that’s okay. That’s normal.

But that is why things will take a while. Skill and quality don’t come free, and writing is a skill just like drawing, painting, playing music, and public speaking.

All the good intentions and inspiration in the world won’t change the fact that it essentially takes a year to release a book without skipping steps I listed above. Some people do write a novel in a week, slam it through a spell checker and upload it, but I don’t recommend that and I don’t think that’s in the spirit of the Iron Age.

The Iron Age was only dubbed a few months ago. Word has to spread. People have to decided to commit. There will be enormous tides and phases of communication, coordination, and gathering together. Fantastic things can happen any day and many great projects are already out there. But if it seems like the entire movement is resting on the shoulders of the Shad Brooks and the Eric Julys of the world, you might want to just hold on a bit longer. It’s a marathon here, not a sprint.

If you have it in you, step up and create. It only takes a year to finish a novel.