Novel Writing Takes How Long?

Novel Writing Takes How Long?

“The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.” – Stephen King, On Writing

Nice advice from Mr. King there, huh? And probably an achievable task if writing is in fact your full-time job. For many of us, especially those of us whose career is still in its relative infancy, that just isn’t the case. Or maybe it’s just me.

My first book took three years of on-and-off work to complete a solid first draft, which was rewritten again, again, and again. Of course, when I started it was something I did as a hobby between work, graduate school, and life.

My second book took about a year. It started as a NaNoWriMo experiment that was later scrapped and rewritten. But I still had a solid draft by the end of a year. Still a long time, I suppose.

I recently finished the first full draft of my third book. I started in the spring and churned out the first half of it in about two months. I was excited. I bragged about how easily this one was coming. Then, somewhere during the summer, I hit a wall. I knew where I needed to end up, but I couldn’t get my characters there. I took a break that lasted longer than I wanted it to. A couple months later I came back to the project and shook up my usual process. I prefer to write linearly, but since that wasn’t working I skipped to the end and worked backwards. It did the trick. By the end of November I had a complete – and rather strong, considering – draft. 

I suppose if these examples are any indication, novel writing does get easier with practice. It’s like anything else: the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Riding a bicycle. Playing the piano. Writing a novel. Sure there are plenty of factors: quality of your story, time commitment on your part, the tendency for life to totally screw up your schedule. But each book has come more easily than the last. Maybe by Book #4 I’ll finally fit within Mr. King’s suggested seasonal timeframe.

For now, here we are with a good working draft of another new project. 

Meanwhile, what about you guys? How long has it taken you to complete a solid first draft of your book(s)?


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