Author Topic: How long did it take you to write your novel?  (Read 3774 times)

Offline Matt Walker

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How long did it take you to write your novel?
« on: February 11, 2012, 04:33:03 AM »
I only ask because I've heard that your agent and publisher will want a book a year, or at least a book every year and a half. Do you think you could manage that? It took my about 6 months to complete my current novel, LORNA, which is about 96,000 words, so I think I should manage it. But I know some writers spend a long time on editing and subsequent drafts etc.
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Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2012, 05:15:03 AM »
They call me SLO for a reason. I've been working on mine for about five years now. It's almost done.  ;D
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Offline Gyppo

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2012, 06:13:44 AM »
Matt,

It's going to vary enormously from writer to writer.  Some will hammer out a first draft in a couple of days if they don't sleep much and have no other commitments. (Example:  I wrote the first draft of Running Scared in 39 hours, in several large chunks spread over three days.) Others are going to take weeks or months to reach the same stage.

Then the editing, rewriting etc takes place.  If you're a 'sprint to the finish' type you have to allow a month or so between finishing the first draft and starting to edit.  Without this cooling off period you'll miss obvious errors and gaping great plot holes because the original telling of the tale will be too fresh in your mind.

You can make the most of this necessary gap by either writing something completely different, which helps to re-set your brain, or by pursuing some other hobby or trade for a while and staying away from the keyboard.  But how often is the latter going to happen?

Six months overall is a reasonable target though.  Obviously you need longer if you're writing damned great doorstops which need wheels to move them around.

If you can get into a pattern of writing 'other stuff', which could be the first draft of a sequel, between writing and editing the previous book you'll have a fairly constant flow of work.  So when your agent asks what you're planning for a follow up you can say  "I've already got the first draft finished."

I think in order to write that first draft almost non-stop you have to be very sure of your tale, and trust it to unfold as you work.  I have never written anything else so fast, although I probably type faster now than I did all those years ago.

I remember reading somewhere that Dick Francis used to hand in two novels a year, as regular as clockwork.

Hopefully Wolfe will come out of seclusion to comment on this question.

Gyppo
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Offline Joe Mynhardt

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 06:19:32 AM »
I'd be able to write a novel a year. Unless it's a monster.  :)
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Offline Annmarie

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 07:55:02 AM »
A novel a year? Only if I had a research assistant and very reliable child care.

If a publisher asked me for a book a year, I'd make sure I got both.  :)

It took me a year to do the initial research and story development of the historical novel I'm working on now. I wrote a first draft, had a baby, took about 6 months off, wrote a second draft completely different from the first. I'll be wrapping up the third start-to-end rewrite in a few weeks. Then a ca. 2-month break. Then I'll be going line-by-line. You guys will be seeing a lot of me in the review boards then! I think it'll take me till fall to do the line-by-line rewrites. Then the draft goes off to betas, then more tweaking, etc.

It'll add up to several years, with big breaks in between. That's the luxury I have until I have an agent/publisher who can dictate my schedule. Right now, I balance this novel with crucial life stuff like my little kids. As irritated as I get when they take up so much time when I could be writing, I love them and wouldn't want to miss these years when they're small and need me so much. That's more important than any book.

When they're bigger and ignore their mommy, I'll be setting the keyboard on fire.  :D



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Offline wanderer

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 10:49:25 AM »
Quote
It's going to vary enormously from writer to writer.

Each person will write slower, or faster....then toss in the type of subject and there is probably a wide variance.

Quote
It took me a year to do the initial research and story development of the historical novel I'm working on now.

I'm doing a historical fiction work and figure the research will take at least a year, then another year to write it.
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Offline BrigidMary

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 06:02:02 AM »
It took me a little over a year to write the book that landed me an agent. It took me a full year to write the book that actually sold to a publisher, and about 9 months to write the one after that. My next book is due August 1, and I've only written a few pages. :-) You'll get faster as you go, I think. But it's true that most publishers want a book a year. My contract specifies a book every 9 months, so there you go.

Good luck! I think 6 mos to a year is average.
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Offline Annmarie

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 06:44:06 AM »
It took me a little over a year to write the book that landed me an agent. It took me a full year to write the book that actually sold to a publisher, and about 9 months to write the one after that. My next book is due August 1, and I've only written a few pages. :-) You'll get faster as you go, I think. But it's true that most publishers want a book a year. My contract specifies a book every 9 months, so there you go.

Good luck! I think 6 mos to a year is average.

Every nine months? Must feel great, Brigid. Kind've like running on a hamster wheel.  :)  I read about your work on Goodreads. Sounds wonderful, and Gabriel is my dad's name, so your books must be good.  :)
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 06:51:06 AM by Annmarie »
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Offline Grey Colson

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2012, 09:48:08 PM »
It was my first one, but it took me 18 months to write "Code of Misconduct". It was 120,000 words at first. After the agent and publisher went through it, we went down to 99,500 words, but I am very satisfied with it. The reduction was for the good of the novel.

I think I could write the next one in about 11 to 12 motnhs, now that I have the hang of it. The first one was written without a firm understanding of where the story was going. With a little more pre-planning and structure, the 2nd book will move more quickly.

I think a year is a good rule of thumb. At least with me it is... 8)

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 03:27:54 PM »
I only ask because I've heard that your agent and publisher will want a book a year, or at least a book every year and a half. Do you think you could manage that? It took my about 6 months to complete my current novel, LORNA, which is about 96,000 words, so I think I should manage it. But I know some writers spend a long time on editing and subsequent drafts etc.

Depends on the contract you sign with the publisher. Most 'romance'-style houses ask their authors to produce a book or more a year. Mostly, a year remains standard if you write commercial or mainstream fiction.

Again, that's standard.

However, if you write historical fiction or something more detailed, it's not standard. The agent and publisher know that a poorly written, yet quickly written novel, loses more money than a novel well-written, and slowly written, over time. That's because the reviews for your poorly written novel will hurt the sales for your next novel.

You're only as good as your last book.

That's not to say some authors, who will remain nameless, churn out tripe because their fans will buy anything with the author's name on it no matter how awful it reads. It's a sad state, but bulk often outshines style when it comes to profit and the gory business we call the name-game.

That's another topic though.

Personally, to answer your question, I can write a standard novel in one to three months. That's the plot, theme, and characters. To polish to my standard, I'll take a year for the edits and rewrites. This time includes side projects like short stories, articles, and other related media. But, to be honest, I usually have four or more books on the burner. I do this because if a project fizzles, and it happens, you can still use good material from the 'flop' and salvage it into a bestseller.

One book, I'm still writing, has taken four years between other projects. If it takes longer, so be it. I'm not releasing garbage just to pay the bills as some of my peers have done. Again, no names mentioned.

But, I will say this: Your readership will wan if you take too long between novels. So be careful not to dangle the carrot with a stick more like a tree. They find someone else to read otherwise.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 03:33:41 PM by Wolfe »

Lin

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2012, 03:46:03 PM »
Well it's taken me seven years to write my first novel and six months to do a first draft on my second one - I've learned a lot!  Matt is right you have to practice doing it in a shorter time but if you are published then this has to become your full time job if you are a slow writer. Your publisher will want a book every year or less!  BTW Matt my daughter is called Lorna, I wonder if your character is anything like her - I hope not!  LOL

Lin x
« Last Edit: March 07, 2012, 03:09:54 AM by Lin Treadgold »

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2012, 03:23:23 AM »
Wolfe - good point about historical fiction taking longer because of all the research. I get confused when writers of genre fiction take years and years to bring out a book - especially if it's a sequel, like Dance With Dragons that took about 6 years to come out, or The Republic of Thieves, which was supposed to come out about 6 years ago, and you get tired of waiting. And when it finally does come out you read it and are disappointed. How many fans of Jean M Auel waited with baited breath for 10 years to know what happened to Ayla only to read The Land of Painted Caves and think, "What utter crap."

Lin - Yes, it's hard juggling a full time job with writing a novel; there just aren't enough hours in the day! Funny about your daughter being called Lorna - she's not a red-head too, is she? That would be funny! - there don't seem to be many Lornas about, which is strange because it's my favourite name.
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Offline Lizzie D

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 05:38:13 PM »
I think it took me most of my life to actually write, that which had been in my mind since a young woman. Once I got going, it really didn't take very long for the story to unfold. However, I write only historical fiction. As others have noted, it is the tremendous amount of research necessary, to make sure everything is date-perfect, at the end.

In my second novel, I made lists of all my characters, when they were born, married, died etc. When a monarch died, a railway came to a given area or a war broke out, I made sure that such things corresponded exactly, to the story and the ages of characters therein. Reseaching historical novels, is a long and arduous task, even though I quite enjoy it. The plus side of all the research, is that I learned a great deal about much I had not known before.

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Offline Laura H

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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 07:16:49 PM »
My hat is off to all of you who have written your novels.  I'm still in short story mode -trying to improve my skills.  My full length novel IS percolating, though.  I should get cracking on that.
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Re: How long did it take you to write your novel?
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 07:28:02 PM »
It varies.

My first novel took 19 months (although I spent 8 of those months considering the novel a completed short story)
My second took 3 weeks. (It was a more focused book with better writing. It was also very cliched.)