Sunday, April 3, 2011

this porridge is too cold

how long does it take to write a novel?

i'm posting that question right at the top, because it's an uber-common google search term, and i'm hoping some of those searchers will be directed here.

it's a question i've googled myself, in fact. i googled it after my first finished book took me a year to write, and i thought, Ack! That's too long! i googled it again after my second book took me barely a month to write, and i thought, ACK! That's too SHORT!

here's what my searches inevitably turned up:
-- authors A,B,C - who all write books in 15, 10, even 6 days! and they're published, so those books must be good! this, of course, made me think - I'll never be a success if I can't churn out books that fast. I must be doing something wrong.
-- i also found authors X,Y,Z - who took two years to write first drafts and another 3 years to revise. and their books are masterpieces! so, naturally, i thought - I'll never write anything that special unless I take my time and spend a week laboring over every sentence.

those google searches made me feel like Goldilocks tasting everyone else's porridge. This author's method is too short. This author's method is too long. and for the record, i'm still searching for the method that's juuuuust right.

but when i turned off the internet and turned on my laptop, i learned some things google couldn't tell me.
If I wrote a book in 10 days, it would be shit.
If I took 5 years to write a book, it would be shit.

there are success stories on both ends of the spectrum and just as many in between.

right now, i'm averaging one month to one year to write a solid first draft. my sweet spot is somewhere around 3 months. but the key word in that sentence is "MY." MY sweet spot - how long it takes ME to write a novel. but people who google search "how long does it take to write a novel" are looking for how long it takes ME to write one. they probably want to know how long it takes any author on average to write one. unfortunately, any average would be skewed by those folks on the extreme ends of the spectrum. there might be a median length of time, but i don't know how you would figure it out short of contacting every published author on the planet and drilling them about their writing process. and it doesn't matter, because chances are you don't land on the median anyway.

but don't lose heart. there IS an answer to your google search! it is a simple answer that is true for me, for you and for every other writer who ever lived.

how long does it take to write a novel?

it takes as long as it takes.

everyone's process is different. everyone's path to publishing is different. and every writer works at his or her own speed.
i don't know how long it takes the average author to write a novel, but this much i can say for a fact: i wrote mine a lot faster when i stopped searching the internet for how everyone else does and started just doing it myself.


Nomes said...

LOL ~ I laughed at the last line :) I absolutely should get off here now. That is a sign or something...


(I took 7 weeks my 1st and 3 months my second and have spent the last 12 months not even finishing anything *wah*

Ashley Nixon said...

I've never actually kept track...I think it's because I started writing so young (when I was 13-14ish), so all my books have been rewritten as I've gone through college and my writing style has evolved.

Phoebe said...

I love this. I'm all about honoring the individual process, for both writers and books. It's always different.

Lydia K said...

How totally interesting. My first novel took 3 weeks to write, and I hardly revised it (it sucked). My second one took 2-3 months to write, and I revised it multiple times over the next 10 months. My current one took 10 weeks to write and I'm still revising (will probably be a total of 3 months revising). I seem to have a pattern that works for me. You are right in not comparing yourself to others. Find your happy place!

Heather Anastasiu said...

Lol, so true, love the last line of this post!!! Even the same author with different books can have wildly different writing timeframes *raises hand* But as you so rightly point out here, in the end, it's all about getting one's butt in a chair and DOING IT.

erinjade said...

LOL Naomi! don't even get me started on how long it takes to NOT finish a novel. i think i'm on ten years with one of mine. ;)

Ashley, that's smart not to keep track.

Phoebe, exactly. we're all so different.

Lydia, you sound like me. and i always take longer to revise than to actually write!

Heather, so true about the different timeframes for different books, even from the same author. that's why i think it would be impossible to even guess at a median or average amount of time.