How long does it take to write a novel?

Stephenie Meyer wrote “Twilight” in  three months. Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” over the course of a few rainy days. The folks over at NaNoWriMo tell you to do it in a month. At least the NaNoWriMo folks don’t tell you to expect it’ll be good after a month.

It’s possible to write a draft in a short space of time, but a really good novel requires much more time and effort. I speak from personal experience. I’m a plodder. I take years to complete a work. As far as I can tell, most writers are the same. Novels are complicated, and require a tremendous balancing act. It’s the rare exceptional writer who can create excellent prose in a few short weeks. Mary Shelley is an obvious exception.

My first novel was drafted in a month, and then revised over the course of three months a year after the draft was completed. It was sold somewhere in-between those three months of revision. But that novel had a previous inception as a completely different story years before, so I had been thinking about it for years prior to writing that draft. And in the year that I put it away, I was still working out story problems in my mind. That all still counts as writing time. James Cameron recently announced that he was going to write a prequel to Avatar as a novel and that it would be ready for publication by the end of this year. That seems awful fast until you think about the many years he spent dreaming up the story in the first place.

Good writing takes time. A lot of time.

Be patient.


One thought on “How long does it take to write a novel?

  1. Tracey says:

    I posted the blog on my facebook fan page, and got this response from my friend Kathalina:

    Hi Tracey,
    Your blog title jumped out at me this morning. I’ve been writing this novel on and off for almost a year now and over the past few days all I could think about is how bad I must be at it that it’s taking me so long!! I can’t tell you how it felt to read your take on this. Thanks.

    I responded thusly…
    I’m really happy that the post helped and I’m also happy that you let me know. A lot of the time, I write blog posts and have no idea if they mean anything to anyone at all, so your comments are greatly appreciated. You can feel free to comment right on the blog as well, so that everyone can see your comments too.

    Just so you know, right now I’m working on a story that I think will never, ever, ever end. Sometimes I get so sick of what I’m working on that I think about abandoning it completely, but it’s really worth it in the end to have a finished story that you’re completely happy with.

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