1. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    How long does it take you to write a book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Birmingham, Jan 7, 2012.

    If you're writing a novel, a non-fiction story, a collection of shorts or a book of essays, how long does it take you?

    I'm asking this question because it rose in a recent thread I started, and I figured that topic of discussion should have its own thread.

    I was under the impression that for many authors it takes years to write a novel, and that two years is considered a rather short time, and any less should therefore be considered an admirably short amount of time and a quick pace of writing. I've recently heard an author speaking of the five years it took him to write a novel.

    But others have given me different numbers, based on their own pace and the pace of some famous authors.

    So I'm wondering how fast each one of us is writing, and whatever the differences are, where do they come from? Hearing some of what I heard, I suddenly feel like a very slow author (though until late 2011, I was very busy, so I had good excuses, but not anymore).

    Some of us are young, some are old, some are experienced, and some inexperienced. Some of us are single, others are married with children. I do wonder what makes one write faster. Maybe dealing with the wife slows you down, while a single person has time for himself. Or maybe the wife inspires you and pushes you, while the single guy procrastonates.

    Also, there is the matter of research. Do you download tons of articles and spend your time going through your own personal library, or do you just write?

    Also, what are your habits? I heard of people who are committed to 500 words a day or 1000 words a day. One author who was committed to 3000 words a week, etc. It sounds very little to some of you, but what about the author who has a full time career in one field and still writes and researches other fields?


    Bottom line: How long does it take you to complete a book, what are your writing habits, and how much time does your lifestyle allows for writing?
     
  2. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    I can write 100,000 words in a month. Then I set it aside my novel for a month before I edit. But I don't think I've ever written anything to a standard I'm entirely happy with.

    I write 3-6k every day. 3k only takes me 1-2 hours, so it's hardly any time out of my day. And I edit for 2-4 hours on a previous project (I always have a few WIPs). But I'm a very intense person, and I do only work part time.

    As for research, that's what I do in my "spare time." I have a pretty impressive collection of textbooks on a variety of topics that interest me, and a pretty good fiction selection, too. I also write essays about my favourite novels and whatnot, but like I said... I'm very intense.
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    For me, it's taking a bit longer because I still have so much to learn. I'm constantly redrafting because once I've gotten to the end, I've grown as a writer enough to make it significantly better with a redraft. I predict I will eventually be able to make things publishable by the second rewrite or so, and then a year will be plenty to write something. For the now, I need a lot more drafts and that takes a lot more time.

    I try to have consistent habits, too. I'm in a doctoral program, so I don't really have more than 20 minutes in any given day to write. So I "Write-Sprint." I first meditate 5 minutes to clear my thoughts/envision my next scene. Then I set a timer for 15 minutes and type as fast as I can until time is up. I can easily hit my 500-word goal every day by doing this. I recommend daily goals over weekly goals, because if you reach your weekly goal in one day I don't think you should just relax the rest of the week.

    One author that does the 3,000 a day is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. That's 3k NEW, not including redrafting or editing, etc. She pumps out a book every month or so. In the other corner, we have Tolkien that wrote the LOTR trilogy in 12 years. If you're good at basic algebra like my calculator, you know that's four years a book! He was busy as a teacher/father, but he also redrafted like a madman.

    I think the biggest thing with how long you spend on a book is where do you balance quality with quantity. Not having actually read Rusch, I would bet Tolkien's books are more timely, influential, etc., but in the time it took him to write 3 books, Rusch could probably write well over a hundred.
     
  4. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    I was busy as a student until recently, and the stuff I love reading about and writing about also has a lot to do with the stuff I've been studying. You'd think that helps (and in the long run, maybe it did help) but it actually was bad for me. Because after all of the obligatory readings and class discussions, I'm like "screw it, I'm not reading or writing anything today. Let's get to GTA, yeah, baby!!! I remember the time I had to turn in a big project that involved some info on Kissinger and Nixon, and I was determined to watch some movies from time to time during my break from my studies. I ended up working on that project for 14 hours with a few breaks in the middle. Now, do you think I was watching stuff I have about Kissinger and Nixon? Hell no! I was watching Basic Instinct!

    So once I was done with uni, I could truly focus on watching and listening to these geopolitical stuff, reading more books, etc. I'm still a bit jaded from writing so much for so many years, researching so much for so many years, so maybe that's the reason I procrastonate and hardly get anything done.

    I have no spouse, roomates or children these days, so in theory I have a great amount of time for research and writing. I have tons of sources from my books to everything that's available through the internet, to things I've downloaded throughout the years from academic websites. I feel I should turn my life over to someone a bit less jaded and say "there! Now write!" My novel involves issues such as: conscription and draft, restorative justice, terrorism, revenge, foreign aid, reality TV and loneliness. And, yes, triggers are pulled at times. Sometimes at objects, sometimes at people.

    So in essence, I feel I have the perfect life for a writer (aside from my day job, which still leaves my evenings and weekends wide open). Yet I hardly write, feel jaded, and get analysis paralasis. Today, for example, do I write the next chapter, which is my first flashback, or do I read about conscription to ammend the last chapter? And what about my Bay of Pigs video that I use for my short story? Or the podcast on genocide and human rights that inspired me in one of the plotlines? I never listen to it. Should I start today?

    I sure do write thousands of words in this website. It's easier than my blog, and easier than my novel. Maybe I'm just jaded, so does that mean I should stop writing?
     
  5. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Sorry if I completely digressed and hijacked a thread that's about a specific issue (especially since I'm the one who started it). Anyway, I thought of that 500 word a day thing, and even about lowering it to a pathetic 200 for a while just to keep it afloat at times I don't feel like writing. It's frustrating because I have a lot of it in my head but don't have the mental energy to simply type out my thoughts in a novel form.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not an extremely fast writer but my current story right now stands at 70K and I started it in november. I think it depends also on what kind of writer you are. To some people words come easier, others take their time and weigh every word before writing it down, choosing every word carefully. That doesn't mean the fast writer will finish earlier, he will probably have a lot more revision to do and therefor it will still take him some time.
    I don't think one should focus so much on being fast. There is nothing that says that a fast writer is in any way a better writer. What matters is the final result. No one is going to give you bonus points for finishing the entire work in 3 months if what you've accomplished isn't good enough. Focus on writing something really good and don't worry if it takes time. A year or two to finish a novel to the point where you can submit it is in no way slow, if you look at the professionals, the ones that release one novel a year are considered quite fast.

    Edit: that 70K ms is far from ready, it's just the first draft of many. After revision and editing it is very likely that a year has passed by. i doubt it that many writers write a finished publishable ms in just a couple of weeks/months. They are probably talking about the first draft.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the story, but I prefer to revise as I go, and the more complex the storyline, the longer it takes (including the research). I can't imagine churning out 80k words in 3 months and being happy with the standard of writing! Nor do I read the authors who are extremely prolific. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I noticed that the more prolific the writer is, the more "diluted" the books are. I prefer books which are full of content as well as really well written.
    To try and achieve that kind of standard it takes me a lot longer. Which is frustrating, but hopefully, it will pay off one day :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    depending on the book, it could be several months, to a year, if by 'write' you mean editing/polishing as well...

    some writers can turn out 2 or more bestselling books per year, every year [e.g., dean koontz], while others can spend 10 years on a single book and never get it to the publishable stage, so don't go looking for any rule of thumb re time, since there isn't one...
     
  9. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I started writing my novel in late April 2011, so it took me 8 months to write 82,000 words. Though there were long stretches of time where I couldn't find the will to write and I don't write down any old crap that comes to mind... it's still in the drafting stages but from attempting NaNoWriMo this year I know that if I scrawled out 2k words a day the quality would go down very quickly. Is that a slow pace? Probably, but it's my first novel (longest I'd ever written before was a 10k short story that still hasn't been completed) and I had to sort out a lot of the fantasy world and get my routine together, etc etc. I think I'm doing ok and aim to get the book into a publishable condition by the end of this year, so 2 years work.
     
  10. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote a first draft in around five months. That was when I was working full-time plus still studying part-time. Editing I guess took a few more months,
    spread out over the course of several years... yeah, I know.

    Now I just write short stories.
     
  11. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    How do you all know exactly how much you wrote? You keep it all in a single file? I do a word file for each chapter. Anyway, maybe the reason I feel I'm so slow is because I'm jaded, lazy, and about to get into a chapter that's a bit too close to home.

    I thank you all for your comments. Keep'em coming.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it was Michael Moorcock who wrote his early novels in three to ten days each, according to him. And those have become his most famous works, spawning other artists writing in the same universe, game creations, &c.

    How long it takes to write is highly variable.
     
  13. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Takes me anywhere from several months to a couple of years.

    Some days I write 1k+, many others I don't write at all.

    I find the quickness one can finish has less to do with time allotted and more to do with how efficiently you spend the time you've got.
     
  14. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I think writing fast is really important in certain situations. First drafts, in my opinion, should be written as fast as you can. The faster you get it all on the page, the sooner you can start editing it. And if you've planned your book well enough, it isn't that hard to write quickly, assuming you can disregard trite dialogue and awful exposition. Fixing that stuff is a great goal for the second draft, where you can take more time.

    But if you let the first draft sit too long, I think that becomes ultimately unproductive. At least it is definitely so for my writing style.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, it depends upon the project. If it is a bit of fluff and doesn't require a lot of research or something I am really motivated to write - maybe two or three months, start to finish, editing, polishing, and "out the door". If it is a deeper, more involved project or something requiring in-depth research, it could take as much as a year or two ... or more, even just to finish the first draft! Those are the tough ones for me because I become so emotionally attached to them - characters, places, situations, everything about them becomes quite intimately personal to me. But, don't let anyone else's timetable distress you or make you re-examine your own 'clock'. How you work and how fast you work depends solely on your own personal set of circumstances. It is not a publicly common endeavor like, "How long does it take to play the Minute Waltz?"

    You are dancing to your own piper. Enjoy the music!
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    For most of my novels its been years, even more then a decade between starting and finishing. Earlier last year I finished a forty thousand word novella 'Wizardat Law' in a month, and was pretty stoked with that. Then on the 9th of December after watching The Aphrodite Inheritence I started 'Pawn'. I finished the first draft of seventy thousand words around the end of the month and have been editing since, so twenty days.

    However, stunned as I was by the speed with which it flowed and the pace at which I put it down, I began to wonder if I was setting some sort of speed record. Sadly as far as I know there isn't one. But I did google one chap who wrote a ninety six thousand word novel in two weeks, so I'm a long way behind the eight ball.

    As for quality, I think writing fast if you're inspired is actually a good thing. With ideas fresh and flowing you may make some mistakes, but I suspect that the passion with which you write gets imbued into the work itself, adding to it. Slower writing is more for detail and fast writing for pushing out the story.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. hoggyboy
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    hoggyboy Senior Member

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    obviously it depends on what sort of book it is lol

    however if i were to write a 60000 word story it would take me 2 months, since i generally average 1000 words per day of writing
     
  18. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I have individual files for each chapter but have a spreadsheet to organise everything - word counts for each chapter and a total wordcount, along with other pages on scenes I have to work on and rewriting to do, character sheets etc. If I just wrote from beginning to end trying to organise it in my mind I'd probably go insane. :p

    Also, maybe you need to fix the reasons behind why you're jaded and lazy? You want to write, but can't, right? Sounds like an outside problem to me.
     
  19. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I kept it all in a single file.

    During the editing phase, I saved some bits and pieces into a new word document, just in case I changed my mind. Worked for me.
     
  20. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I have several novels that I have finished on a (sloppily edited) second draft stage, I only have one novel that I consider as finished as I can get it at my current skill level (in a few years I will probably want to rewrite the whole thing again). I spent about one month researching and plotting. Then one month writing the first draft (my first drafts are very plain, with almost no description to the point where I don't even know where a scene is supposed to take place now and then). About five months writing the second draft (where I work on actually making it sound good and add/remove scenes, divide into chapters, add/remove characters, etc). Then a month on the third draft (improving the prose and grammar) and another month on the fourth (where I do the same as on the third). I always take a month break between each draft, as a break makes it easier to spot my bad writing and spelling errors. So it took me about a year, though this was a year I had hardly anything to do other than writing. Now that I'm in school again (I had taken a year off when writing that novel) and working on the side, I think I probably would have spent at least two years, maybe three even. When working on that novel I wrote several thousand words practically everyday, and when I was taking breaks I was writing something else.
     
  21. miss sunhine
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    miss sunhine Member

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    How long is a piece of string. I guess it can never take to long, so many people who are new to publishing will just rush through then send it off, excitment i guess. But you should take your time, get involved with the characters and you'll find it'll be much better. You'll be more open to things that don't work.
     
  22. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Four weeks is the fastest time (thirty days if you include planning). I'd just left school three months earlier and hadn't had any luck with job searching. I'd been dumped several hours after I started writing the first draft, so I kind of used that story (it was a romance/mystery novel) as a distraction.

    Usually it takes me at least four months. The last novel I wrote took nine months for the first draft.
     
  23. naomisarah
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    naomisarah New Member

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    I write between 3-5k/day, taking two-three hours on the writing and another 2-5 hours reviewing, editing and staring blankly at the screen struggling for just the right word.

    Each novel takes me about three months from start to finish, but I often take a two-week break that I'm not counting in that total. Once I took a year off and then re-wrote the book from the beginning, which was just about the best thing I could have done: the year gave me so much time to think and imagine in the characters' shoes. But when I returned to the book, re-writing was beyond painful. It was like reading something I had written in the third grade: sloppy, lazy, frustrating and embarrassing!
     
  24. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    For me, going on 4 years.
     
  25. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Well, good luck, Blue Night. Good luck to all of us.

    So, Night, why has it been 4 years? I mean, was there school, family, crises, or something else in the way? For me it was studies and then some big changes in my life. I tried to see if I can write from 2009 to 2011 and complete something, but then unforseen stuff kept popping up like crazy. But the storm has passed, so I do wonder where I'll be in 2013.
     

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