This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Not only is this the most commonly asked question I get from my non-writer friends, it's the talk of many a writer at the moment with NaNoWriMo approaching. Inspired by Keris Stainton's and Catherine Ryan Howard’s recent blogs, here’s my take on how long I think it takes to write a novel.
It's a difficult question to answer. Do you start from how long it takes to get to The End? The time it takes you to write and send it off to an editor? Or the time it takes to appear on the shelf?
I started Universally Challenged last October and I published it on Amazon this August. You may think that that would make the answer ten months, but in reality it was shorter than that. If you take out the time I was editing Millie and the American Wedding to turn it into an ebook, the time it took to market Millie, and the time I spent re-editing Millie. Then add to that my full time job.
Now that I’m free from the day job, I’ve just written my first novel as a full time writer. It took me six weeks. Technically I haven’t finished the book in six weeks. I’ve sent it to a freelance editor to line edit it and I’ve also sent it to my four trusted test readers. I’ve then got another edit based on their comments to do before the book wings its way off to get copy edited. I should also add that I had done the research for this book in the summer before I started writing it.
I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of being a bit snooty with people that have made claims about writing and publishing novels quickly. Earlier in the year a self-published author had tweeted that they were writing the first draft of a novel and that they were due to publish it a few months later. At the time I remember thinking that’s crazy. How can they know the book will be finished? How can they know it will be edited in time? But low and behold said book is now on the shelves, and to good reviews.
I think that our traditional perception of how long it takes a writer to write a novel is skewed by looking at successful authors. How many books they have published a year is not the same thing. Many successful authors are self-publishing other books on the side of their traditional publishing deals, which means that they must write novels quicker than we would think.
If you, like me, read Novelicious’ Writing Room feature each week you’ll know how many ways there are to write a novel. Everyone seems to do it differently. Everyone has different demands on their time, and everyone writes at different paces.
It is also worth remembering that just like every writer is different, so is every novel. If you’re writing historical fiction then you’d expect it to take you longer to write it, because you’ve got the added amount of research to incorporate.
So I guess in answer to my original question, how long does it take you to write a novel: the answer is as long as it takes YOU to write it.