1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Average novel takes 475 hours to write. Really?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by minstrel, Jan 24, 2014.

    I was watching Pawn Stars the other day, and the producers put up a graphic that claimed the average novel takes 475 hours to write. At 40 hours a week, that's about twelve weeks.

    Do you guys agree with this? It seems way wrong to me - I think it takes a lot more time than that (unless we're talking Harlequin Romances and things like that).

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I've always known I was above average. ;)
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, that puts me very near the negative tail end of whatever bell-curve that number represents. o_O
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If you average out the Pychons and McCarthys with the Kings and Pattersons, 475 hours makes sense.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would assume that it includes the Harlequin Romances, yes, and other quick novels that come in big series, and that they're bringing down the average.
     
  6. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Considering the shear number of novels being written and published (many of which are of simple quality anyway), I believe this may be so on the writing side if all the planning is done ahead of time or if it is spaced out. A number like this I could only imagine being the actual work of writing the novel--maybe editing to depending on how much one writes in each setting.

    I don't think many good - great novels happened in such a short span, unless the unless a lot of writing was done in widely spaced sessions. Then again, you have authors who churn out more than one work in a year, it may be so. I never gave it much thought, but it is something interesting to consider.
     
  7. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends. Are we talking complete, ready-to-be-sent-out novels? Or finishing a complete first draft? If it's the latter, it sounds reasonable. Though I don't do 40 hours a week, I do a good number, and I can get a first draft done in 3-4 months (as long as I stick to it). But drafting, editing, and revising takes a lot longer, because I'm busy writing the first draft of my next one.

    I would imagine, however, that if writing novels was your job, 475 hours would not be unreasonable. Hard to say.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read an interview with the French novelist Georges Simenon, and he said he wrote his novels in about eleven days. (His novels were quite short, of course.) He'd work himself up into a frenzy, basically, stewing on the idea, and then type nonstop for all that time, living on practically nothing but coffee and cigarettes. Later in his career, he said, he'd have to consult his doctor before he tried to write a novel, just to make sure his body would make it through the ordeal.

    On the other hand, it took James Joyce seven years to write Ulysses, and seventeen years to write Finnegans Wake. He's not alone; other writers have taken big chunks of their lives to produce one masterpiece.

    I guess it depends on the kind of writer you are, or want to be. I doubt that, in most cases, I'd consider a 475-hour novel worthy of reading. I prefer the big, ambitious stuff.
     
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  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jeez. Eleven days would get me 11K words, most likely, if I stuck to my routine. I'd still need another seven or eight of those just for the first draft. Length clearly has an influence on the outcome. I shoot for that sweet spot between 80 and 100K. If you're going young adult or romance, with the shorter word count requirements, I can definitely understand finishing a lot quicker. And if fantasy, sci-fi, or just long literary works are your thing, I can see spending a lot more time on it. More words means more time, of course.

    Maybe I'm just not devoted enough, but I can't see myself risking my own health just to complete a novel quicker. I'm pretty happy with my pace!

    Ouch!

    I don't know if it's that cut and dry. I could spend four years working on a novel that turns out to be utter junk (the first draft of my first novel springs to mind). Or I could spend a good bit of time planning the course of what I want to do, and set up a routine to get it done in a timely fashion, utilizing as much of my free time as I can. And I can do the reverse--spend a ton of time getting every word right, or half-ass it and have a throwaway novel that took no time. I think it's less about the number of hours spent and more about what's being done during those hours.
     
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  10. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    475 hours seems reasonable to me if it's non-stop writing for a novel of standard quality between 50-80k words.
    The post-editing and publishing not counting, of course.

    Me, personally, I write to tell stories.
    It's the medium I chose.
    Maybe one day I'll end up doing some terrible little music video or t.v. show.
    But, books have always been my favorite.

    So, spending 17 years on a novel for me isn't reasonable.
    I have no timeless epic to tell as far as I know.
    I just want to entertain others and give them something to look forward to on their lazy days or commutes or family get togethers.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah I think it is plenty reasonable.
     
  12. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you honestly read either of those in less than 475 hours? As in read and comprehend? It's a strange affliction that drives someone to write like that.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very reasonable, considering we're talking "average" and not "mode". And I don't think the assumption should be made that because a book takes very little time to write that it's somehow automatically inferior (or that somehow certain types of books are easy to write and therefore don't take much time). It's not how long it takes to write that matters - it's how much thought and effort that goes into that writing.
     
  14. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    That's about three months at 7.5 hours a day. Given you have Lionel Fanthorpe at one end, writing a novel every weekend, and people like Tolkein at the other spending ten years or more, three months seems a reasonable average to me.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's interesting to look at the output of famous bestselling authors working today. Some of my favourites are incredibly prolific. Terry Pratchett comes to mind, as does the late, great Iain Banks. They wrote (and are still writing, in the case of Sir Terry) tons. So they probably work/worked quickly. Then there are the 'few' who have only written a couple of corkers. E Annie Proulx and Donna Tartt come to mind. They work either slowly or sporadically.

    To try to work out an 'average' seems silly. Just another yardstick for writers to measure themselves against, and beat themselves over the head with.

    Of course book publishers will care. The more books you produce, the more they can sell. Prolific, fast-working authors are slurpy-sweet candy to them.

    So ...down the amphetamines, grease the typing fingers, glug a couple of espressos, light a firecracker, stick it up your butt, and... faster faster faster, gallop gallop ...WHAM! Another book, another paycheck ...and again...
     
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  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think for a first draft it's quite reasonable.
     
  17. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Maybe I'm just a fast writer, but if we are talking just writing, and just the first draft, then 475 hours is actually a lot for me. I work on my novel roughly an hour a day, and it'll probably take me three months to write - at least that's what my current novels have required. That's less than 100 hours.

    Actually, I'm probably just an inferior writer to the rest of you, aren't I? :(
     
  18. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think if we're talking published novels that makes sense. I think a lot of our unpublished, learning the craft while we write novels take considerably longer, but won't be included in the stats. Peoples 3rd, 10th or 75th published novels will be quicker, because they'll mostly know what they're doing already.
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds like a reasonable number. Those early in their writing career/experience might tend to take longer. Those with experience might take less. As mentioned above, genre and of course the length of a work would impact the time needed. But as an average, I could see that # of hours as on target.
     
  20. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    I read an interview with Iain Banks once where he said he typically took about three months to write a novel. So, assuming he was writing full-time during those months, he'd be pretty much on the average here.
     
  21. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not even close for my current project, but then I would also be including some research time in that.
     
  22. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it depends on what 'to write' means... did they mean it to cover only the time it takes to write the first draft, or did they include all the edits and final polishing that first draft would undergo before it became a book?... did it include the hours spent on researching and thinking, or just the hours spent writing/typing?...

    and who are the sources that claim is based on?... how many writers keep track of their hours spent on a particular book?,,,, did all of their sources do that?... were they all equally experienced, or were some beginners?

    given all that, how can this claim be taken seriously?
     
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  24. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    475 hours to write a novel... *eyes well up with tears* I'M NOT A VERY GOOD WRITER AT ALL! How dare I actually take my time writing something without a timeline, without keeping track of how many hours I've actually been working on it.

    Yeah, I'm as slow as molasses when it comes to that.
     
  25. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I checked, it took me a total of 241.5 actual work hours to complete the first draft of my first novel-length manuscript. That's all fine and good but my most conservative estimate puts my upcoming rewrite time at 900+ hours. I'd say 475 hours is a bit on the low end, though I'm sure very practiced authors can work at that pace.
     

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