1. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

    Jan 28, 2012
    Likes Received:

    How long should we really be spending on a novel?

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by 123456789, Aug 14, 2018.

    Here's my question: How long should we, ideally, be spending on a single novel, if our goal is to be a published novelist?

    I know in the past from dozens of different threads, "as long as it takes" is a popular answer, but it's not really one I've ever been satisfied with. All of us (to my knowledge) have a finite amount of time to finish a novel. Moreover, I'm assuming that even a good novel has a certain probability of getting picked up, which means you might have to go through the querying process more than once before you're successful.

    As a published author, I'm assuming you may have contracts with actual deadlines. Should we unpublished authors therefore have self imposed deadlines? Is there a point where we should be saying "I've worked on this novel for x years, any imperfections left can either get picked up by the editor or just endured by the reader"?

    @BayView I'm particularly curious about your opinion on this
    deadrats likes this.
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
    Likes Received:

    I don't know?

    I mean, first novels are different from later novels, I'd say. And expectations vary from genre to genre...

    I think for first novels (or number whatever novel, until there's one that's published)... keep working on it as long as you're having fun and as long as you feel like you're learning something? Maybe? As long as you have a concrete reason to believe you're actually improving it, not just taking out a comma one day and putting it back in the next day?

    I think a lot of what takes a lot of writers so long with their first novels is that they aren't just writing a novel; they're learning to write. So then subsequent novels, one hopes, will come more quickly?

    There's also an element of personal style/focus. I'm a storyteller. Once I've told the story, I'm done, and rewriting/editing/polishing is a total pain in the ass. Other people are wordsmiths and want every line to be perfect. And they seem to enjoy the fiddly little stuff that drives me up the wall. So for them, it makes sense to take longer than it would make sense for me to take.

    Self-publishing makes all this more complicated, but if someone's looking for a publisher, maybe it makes sense to send the "imperfect" MS out to a few agents to see what happens? Not all top agents, but at least a couple top agents in there, just in case?

    Also - I don't believe there's any such thing as a perfect novel, so I think anyone shooting for perfection is setting themselves up for frustration. I can read great works by acknowledged masters and still nitpick, if I'm in the mood to do so. So I definitely don't think it makes sense to hold out for perfection. But I can't say just how far short of perfection someone should be willing to fall.
    123456789 likes this.
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Some people get one finished in 3-6 months, if they happen to be able to
    pound one out that fast and edited.
    123456789 likes this.
  4. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

    Mar 18, 2012
    Likes Received:
    A lot depends on the genre. In some, it's common for a full-time writer to write a novel in a month, and the fastest writers might write one in a weekend.

    In other genres, you're expected to spend years. Or you're writing an 800-page epic where you literally can't get the words down that fast even if you just sit there and type all month without much time for thinking or revision.
    123456789 likes this.
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
    Likes Received:
    I think there's a huge amount of It Depends. But, yeah, I'm trying to set personal deadlines.

    I do NOT want the HFN to take me five years to finish. It's been about fifteen months so far, and I suspect it's going to take a little over two years (I'm thinking 27 months, a full year from now) to get to the point where I've done everything I can with the abilities that I currently have, and the novel is no longer helping to increase those abilities.

    Then I start submitting the thing and start the next one.

    I'm under the delusion that the next one will take more like eighteen months, assuming it doesn't require a ton of research, and none of my three pending ideas require a ton of research. If it's a sequel to the HFN, it would probably go faster, but does it make sense to write a sequel to a first novel, so that my second novel is essentially trapped in line behind the first? I'm thinking no. It would be delightful to imagine that I could sell the HFN someday, but I don't think I want to put that many months in that one basket.

    HFN is one kind of novel. Tulips and Butter is a very different kind of novel. And Shuteye is another very different kind of novel. If my goal is to be a published novelist, it seems to make sense to throw out hooks in different directions.

    Actually, if I take a six-week or two-month break between drafts for the HFN, I might actually outline (gasp!) a middle grade version of Tulips and Butter and see if I can knock off a nice big chunk of it in that time.


    I realize I'm drifting beyond your question.
    123456789 likes this.
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    East devon/somerset border
    Personally my first novel took 2 years. I've just finished my third which took 3 months. A novella takes about a month.

    I'm self published so the only deadlines I have are if I have set the date for preorders on amazon. But I try to set and regularly review goals in order to stay organised (The one exception is Day of the Eagle which is a Battle of Britain novel for which I have set a deadline of early 2020 as I have some military aviation museum shops interested in stocking it for the anniversary)

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice