How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel? by Onil Lad
I’ve stopped beating myself up over how long it is taking to finish my novel. It’s counterproductive and, anyway, there have been so many obstacles in the way. Just when I build up a head of steam, I get super busy at work, or I get roped into training for a marathon or some new challenge pops its head up.
Word counting is off the agenda as well. I’ve tried to write a novel in a month or fifty thousand words in fifty days. The one time I forced myself to write regardless of what came out, I ended up with a mess. The time was wasted, there was next to nothing that could be salvaged and it took me a long time to pick up the pieces and start again.
With a short story it’s easier to keep the motivation going, as I always have a work in progress that is nearing completion or something sent off and awaiting feedback. I feel like I am in the mix; there isn’t enough downtime for the doubts to set in and one failure doesn’t make me want to give up altogether.
Writing a novel can take six months, a year or, in my case, longer. The thought of throwing in the towel grows greater as the years roll by. If I was to call it quits now, I don’t think that I‘d have the heart to start again.
When I’ve spent so much time on one project, I want my story down on the page, but there’s less chance of that happening if I try to force it out. Also, I’m conscious of the fact that I need to get this one right and include all the things I ever wanted to say.
So, I’m not rushing it. I’ve gone back to the beginning and started re-writing my early chapters. I know that it is only a first draft and a fair chunk of it will have to be cut at some stage but, as I rewrite, I keep refining my manuscript.
To keep my motivation up I’m considering sending the first few chapters out for review. I’d like to make my first fifty to a hundred pages as good as possible instead of waiting for a complete first draft. As I go back and work on my earlier sections the middle chapters are becoming clearer and are ready for some serious work.
I recently came across an interview with multiple Hugo award winning author Vernor Vinge: When asked why the time between books is so long, he claimed that he has had writers block since 1960 and he finds it hard to write first drafts. He says “Once I have an initial draft, I can work much more efficiently.”
This gives me hope. On the other hand, I’ve also read a discussion on the Authonomy community board where one writer has been trying to write fantasy for over thirty years without finishing one project. Gulp.
Writing Novels in Australia