1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    How long does it take for you to write a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Jul 19, 2012.

    Title says it all.

    Also, I have heard that one cannot write a "good" novel in less than a year from professional writers...do you agree? Most say that under a year, it is usually poorly written.
     
  2. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    I think that's a personal preference - I would assume someone works on a novel until they think it is good to publish or they have to meet a deadline if they have a contract.

    A friend of mine, not under contract, has been working on his first novel for 5 years and still isn't done because he's constantly revising. I have no idea when he'll be finished and I don't think he does either.
     
  3. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    I think there are a lot of variables involved as far as how long it will take someone. We're all different with different lives. For example, some of us work full time, some are students. I'm a SAHM and don't have as much time as I'd like to devote to writing.

    It's taken me a few years to write my book. Obviously I haven't worked on it every day, and there are times I've put it aside for months for various reasons. Is it any good? I think so and so do those who have read it.
     
  4. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    The only one I've completed took 90 days in the first draft, averaging about 1200 words per day. It's been revised twice, is undergoing another one, and if I look at it again after this I might just throw the damned thing away. :)
     
  5. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I think it's gonna take me at least 2 years to finish the first draft...God knows how long it'll take me revise. We'll see, we'll see.
    As others before me have said, it depends on the person and their life. I'm currently a student and I'm also a really slow writer.
     
  6. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    I like this question because everyone has a different answer. I agree that it takes a while to make a "good" novel. I have spent 2 yrs writing mine, so far. That is because I have obsessively been doing research (folklore, religions, and non-fiction)and taking my time developing the multiple characters I find important enough to do so. I've also been reading book after book (fiction) on my topics in my story to help me as well. But I do think that if the book someone is working on is a sequel to a series, then it will take a fraction of the time since all the foundation has already been made.


    Haha! This is so funny to me because this sounds like me! For the last two years, a couple people that are close to me know my storyline and are dying to read it once I'm finished. They have and will be waiting so long, bless their hearts! Two of them already said, "this is my favorite book and I haven't even gotten to read it yet!" lol, and two people have also said it sounds like movie material. Their enthusiasm sure keeps that fire lit for me to continue the writing process!


    You are so right about people's schedules. I work full time and go to school full time, so it makes it a real challenge to squeeze in time but to also make sure you don't lag in your other responsibilities for it. It's a balancing act, and I don't even have kids!
     
  7. MarkArellius
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    MarkArellius Member

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    When I really would get started on a book, I would try to average 10 to 15 pages a day and try to make the book as much as 300 to 400 pages, witch extra time to polish and review it over and over till I felt that it was good.
    I think if you would work hard and are certain of what you are writing you good write an excellent novel in 6 months, depending on what kind of book your writing also and what kind of mindstate your in.

    However I would try to keep it within 6 months to a year.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends on the flow of ideas, your schedule , how much you have to edit and rewrite your work - One novel took me 2 years starting when I was approx 14. I wrote non-stop. I took a clipboard with me everywhere and wrote. I managed twenty pages a day.

    I've never managed to get back that pace. However, my work has improved so it's compensated ( less rewrite! )
    A few years back I managed to write a 200 page screenplay in less than one month - which I'm thinking of elaborating into a story.
    Another book took six months to write - I averaged 4 hours a day with an aprox five pages a day. But it really depends on
    how you can pace yourself and what your goal is - everyone, including publishers, focus' on word count ( I always thought
    it was pages - so I'd reach for under three hundred ) but knowing not all of your three hundred pages will be brilliant
    pushes you to write more. Schedules can be derailed by unforseen events, writers block or bordeom.

    It's really up to the writer himself, to keep pushing till it's done. And it's not done when the end is written, it's
    done when the writer can sit back and be satisfied with his effort.
     
  9. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    Every book I have written has varied in how long it took me to write it. My shortest time was just over 2 months, longest was 3 years. I am back to averaging about a book a year. This is just my 1st draft. I hand write all my novels so it does take more time than sitting down at a desk and typing away. People need to realize that must of us that do write have school, work, kids or some other part of our lives that take up the majority of our time. Even with that, I know some authors take several years to write just one book, and I sit around and wait for it.

    There is no need to try to rush a story. Write for the sake of writing and the story will tell you how much time it will need to be written. I agree with peachalulu, my writing has improved so it takes a little longer to write. No, I do not bring a clipboard with me, I bring a journal/writing book and several pens. Always a moment to write.
     
  10. BBBurke
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    BBBurke Member

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    There are many variables, but I think the biggest is how much revision you do. If you're writing an 80,000 word novel and can do 2,000 words a day (that's an hour of typing, not assuming any thought :D), that will take a little over a month. Give yourself some weekends off and you have a 'novel' in two months. But that's just words on paper, it will probably be a really bad story that doesn't make any sense and is full of typos and mistakes. How long will it take to make it readable?

    While working full time last year I wrote my first novel, including two revisions and editing, in about nine months. Probably 3-4 hours a day on average.

    Now I've quit the job to spend a year writing and a 2,000 word/day average is not hard. I still expect it will take at least six months of editing/revising to get something that looks like a real book. To get it perfect will take forever.
     
  11. jane elliot
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    jane elliot Member

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    Hemingway said that he wrote The Sun Also Rises in about six weeks, and The Old Man and the Sea in eight. I guess that they're fairly short novels, and Hemingway is famous for a multitude of reasons, but yeah. I guess it depends on a lot of things.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The question isn't clear enough. There are huge, heavily-researched, deeply philosophical novels on the one hand (like the works of John Gardner, Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, etc.), and then there are slim little not-very-demanding entertainments (Harlequin romances, generally anything that should be filed under "Cheap Dreck" in the library) (I'm not using actual names for obvious reasons). It would clearly take a great deal longer to write one of the former than one of the latter.
     
  13. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Well, like many new writers, I haven't finished one yet. Finishing your first novel is a hallmark for new writers. It's A Big Deal ™. But, the time it takes can vary. Writers have written novels in weeks and some have taken a decade or more. It's not something you can reliably forecast. Typically, most would recommend that you expect to take a year, perhaps more, perhaps less. But, since it's so random, the rule of thumb would be one year just because it's an easy answer. :D

    I don't know of any credible reason why a professional writer would claim that the quality of a novel is dictated by how long it took to create. I would discount such advice. That being said, however, I might be tempted to say that a novel that has had no revision or that has not been vetted by a professional editor (due to self-publishing) is likely to be of poor quality. But, I couldn't put a timeline on it.

    As far as estimating the amount of time necessary, the math is simple:

    Let's say your novel will be 60,000 words. During a year, that will require you to write at least 164 words per day of finalized text. But, novels tend to develop through a process of drafts and revisions. So, you'll need to add time for those. Let's say you do two drafts and three revisions before submission, at which point we will call the novel "finished." (Though, an editor may demand another revision, additions, subtractions, etc.. ) Drafts will typically be longer than the finished novel. So, two drafts at 80,000 words would require you to write 438 words a day for a year. But, you also have to do three revisions and those will take time. If you're a plotter, it's likely that you won't be doing more than five revisions, let's say. If you're a non-plotter, you may do eight or more. (Just off-the-wall estimates.)

    In the end, if you can average out 500 words per day of finished text through the various stages, you'd likely come close to one year's worth of time, give or take a couple of months, once everything was said and done. That's 182,000 words worth of work, with about a third of it being original material you have written and the rest being work on drafts, revisions, copy/pastes and quality assurance things like continuity, plot, attributions, formatting, etc..

    BUT, that doesn't mean that it's required. Many serial authors, for instance, are capable of cranking out a title in much less time, offering two or more novels in their series per year. (Most take a year, though.) They have the advantage of having already built their setting, characters, major plotlines and story elements. So, for them, they are playing in a sandbox that they know very well.
     
  14. The Crazy Kakoos
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    The Crazy Kakoos Member

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    I've also heard that Hemingway's editors hated him because of the number of grammatical mistakes he made. That may have contributed to his speed at writing. :)
     
  15. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Oh, I have to remember that! Besides being able to cruise past mistakes, you can get your editor to write your book for you!

    "Mork, I was just looking over your book and noticed a few things we need some clarification on."
    "Sure, go ahead."
    "OK, on page eight, is that "altruistic" in the third paragraph? If so, that makes sense."
    "Yeah.. Sure, that's what it is."
    "Great. And, on page five, it's a bit twisted around the word "crematorium." Was that what you wanted to write, 'cause it's causing some problems."
    "Err.. Uh. No, obviously not! I meant.. uh, let me see here. I meant -"
    "Cemetery?"
    "Exactly!"

    5,000 words later.

    "OK, thanks Mork! Great work. We'll get these corrections added today."
     
  16. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    one cannot write a "good" novel in less than a year from professional writers
    Well, i'll have my first novel written (second to final draft) in less then 3 months, so i'll have worked on it for about a year, and I don't think it sucks. I think it's will be pretty good, i'll have to see what other people think.
     
  17. tinyplanets
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    tinyplanets Member

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    Mine took about 15 years!!!

    Actual writing time was probably about a year. It was a difficult book to write and ended up in the bin, then stuck up in the attic. With lots of encouragement from others I finally took it out and finished it.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a year is a 'normal' amount of time for many seasoned writers... beyond that, you'll find any number of years being 'normal' for others...

    rare exceptions like dean koontz can turn out multiple books every year and still have them be not only publishable, but bestsellers...

    some writers take much longer to edit and polish their mss than they do to complete a first draft... and others can turn out first drafts that need little editing... so there are way too many variables to come up with any ironclad 'should's...
     
  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's good to set a time limit on yourself. I don't mean one that's set in stone - but it's good to have an aim so you don't drift around and end up rewriting before you're even finished. I think it's just a good safety precaution for yourself to make sure you actually finish. What could be sadder than an unfinished novel, after all? Having a self-imposed deadline forces you to rethink your methods, how and what and why you're writing and if your plot is no good - it forces you to rethink and really examine what's not working if you keep having to revise - and this means, IT GETS DONE!

    For myself, I've only written 1 novel so far haha. The conception of the MS came when I was 19, spent a few months planning. Shoved it away for like a year and then wrote on it for 3 months. Stopped again for 2 or 3 years. Then last year I began in earnest.

    All in all, because of lack of planning, my first draft took me 1.5 years. But the draft that I'm using as my MS actually only took me 4.5 months after I spent 3 months planning - so active writing time is actually quite short. 2 more months on the rewrite to make it coherent so it could be edited. Waiting for feedback now before I edit and polish. I hope to have it done by Christmas, and then fingers crossed send it out for submission!

    In short, active writing time, counting from the draft that actually worked - so far it's taken me 6 months and I've already done 1 rewrite. Hopefully it will take me 1 year to get a polished MS done :)

    But if you count all my trial and error period, then by the time it's polished, it'll be roughly 2 years.
     
  20. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I disagree.

    There's this one novel I read - can't remember the title, but it was about a messed up teenage girl who falls in with a bad crowd. Anyway, I met the author of that book, and he said he wrote the book over several visits to the bar - each chapter was one visit. There were around 13 or so chapters, and he kind of implied he went to the bar more than once a month. Anyway, it was a professionally published book, and in my opinion very good. (I was amazed to hear that a man had written it, given how well he portrayed a teenage girl.)

    There are no rules for novel-writing. It really depends on the author and the story.

    For me, I've finished a few novels, but in my case it's really tricky to say how long they took because I rarely work steadily on a single story. More often, I write a bit on a story, abandon it for months to years, and come back to it, meanwhile working on a variety of other stories at the same time. I usually have around 5 or so stories I'm actively working on, and several hundred that are unfinished but I haven't given up on finishing someday.

    I have six finished novels (unpublished, mostly because I don't have the energy or organization to send them to enough publishers to find one that's interested). Two were written on steadily and finished within a couple months, one of which is, in my opinion, one of the best of those seven. One was half-written and then abandoned and finished several years later. One was written on intermittently, but fairly steadily, and finished in about a year and a half (this was my first finished novel). And the last two were 'on the go' stories for most of a couple years or so, overlapping in time with each other. (Some of them still need edits, but the whole story is written down.)
     
  21. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    I'm only a little over 30,000 words after 8 months, which is kind of disheartening but I work full-time and go to school, so I'm lucky to squeeze out 2K a week. I'm hoping to get on a better pace, but we'll see how it goes. :)
     
  22. I Am Vague
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    I Am Vague Active Member

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    I personally go in bursts. I suffer from waves of writers block where one week I'll spit out a huge amount in a week and a half and be empty on motivation for about two weeks. It's fine to get 2k out, as long as it's progress; As long as it's going forward. :)
     
  23. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    You could write a good novel in a year but then you might not have time to eat or sleep or in my case be a mom.

    The biggest time consumer for me not associated with outside life (making dinner, carpooling, cleaning) is finding people to give feedback or maybe I should say helping them find the time to give me feedback. Waiting on other people's schedules really slows things down but you can't skimp on feedback and expect to have the same quality you can create with some good critiques.
     
  24. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Being a full-time worker AND a student will slow down any writer. Don't feel too bad.

    I have been lucky to get 42k in two months, but it is the summer and I don't work full-time.
     
  25. Jessica Roland
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    Jessica Roland New Member

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    I have been working on mine for about 2 weeks and just hit 4000 words. I think everyone just goes at their own pace
     

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