How Long Should It Take to Write a Novel?

In the class I’m currently taking (and loving), there’s been a thread lamenting how hard it is to write fast enough for the current voracious market.  Since the class is called Write Better Faster, that’s no surprise.  (I highly recommend the class–it is about figuring out how your brain works so you can write and produce at an optimal level for you.)

The gist of the conversation is this: some students are trying to get their writing to a point where they are making money at it, specifically from writing fiction. Two options present themselves: get thee a bestseller, or jump on the releasing several books a year bandwagon. Both are difficult to accomplish.

I won’t discuss the bestseller bit in this post, though it does deserve a post of its own some time. I do want to explore how long it “should” take to write a novel. I put should in quotes because, of course, there are no shoulds and it will take as long as it takes.

However. Current common wisdom among some self-publishing people is that to be successful, authors must pump out three to four books a year.  So, yeah, that means you’ll be writing fast and writing a lot. Because besides all the writing, you still have to worry about getting your book for publishing and, oh yeah, marketing as well. So that means you will be finishing a novel in two to three months.

It’s doable, for sure. Because, duh, people are doing it right and left. I can’t speak to the quality of their efforts.  I also know writers who’ve gotten an inspired idea and felt so in the flow of it that they completed a book in a very short time. So that whole writing fast thing is nothing to sneeze at.

And I think we all know the writer who’s been slaving over the same story for years and years and years. Who is either writing a word a day or just working and reworking the story to death. That doesn’t seem sustainable at all.

Those are two extremes to how long it will take. You probably fall somewhere in the middle, as I do. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I aspire to write better drafts in order to reduce the time it takes me to complete a novel. I’m good at writing fast and I love it, but I often sacrifice a coherent plot and end up rewriting multiple times. My solution to this problem is to prep more, specifically with story structure and character, so that I have a framework within which to write fast.  Once I master this, I’d be happy if I could write two novels a year.

But that might be way too fast for you. You might love to linger over every word, or slowly build the world of the novel. You may love the process of going back over your book again and again.

And that’s the key here–you need to figure out what works for you. And only you. If you want to try producing multiple novels a year, go for it. And if you are content to meander down the novel-writing path, that’s okay, too.

Here’s a link I found that details how to write a novel in a year. You might find some good tips on it. And, please, do comment on your thoughts. Are you in the write fast school of thought?

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