So You Wanna Be a Writer, II: HOW LONG DOES IT REALLY TAKE TO WRITE A NOVEL?

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Answering Questions about Nonfiction Writing, Rita Writes History

Answering Questions about Nonfiction Writing, Feb 2008

Hi Everyone,

Hope you had a great weekend and are ready for more writing tips.

Last time, I posted the first part of this series, entitled, So You Wanna Be a Writer? HERE’S HOW TO GET STARTED. Now it’s time to move on to PART II, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

I sincerely hope these tips will benefit you. Remember, I’m not presenting myself as an expert, but I am only showing the things that have worked for me.

Hope you have a great 4th of July holiday. Drop me a line!

Best wishes and happy writing,

Rita Lorraine

PART II: HOW LONG DOES IT REALLY TAKE TO WRITE A NOVEL?

Okay, so now that you know how to get started being a writer, it’s time to address the crucial question, JUST HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO FINISH MY PROJECT?

The answer is, nobody knows for sure. You may have a day job (like the bulk of society), and must therefore scramble for hours in the evenings or on Saturdays to devote to your writing. Or you may work for yourself and have enough flexibility to write whenever your muse gives you a good swift kick in the pants. The point is, it’s not how much time you have, it’s how much of that time you are willing to use toward your goal. That, my friend, is the burning question!

Once you decide how much time your writing is worth, you can move on to your specific project. If you’re planning to pen a PB (Picture Book) or ER (Easy Reader), you may be able to get the story down on paper in one day. Of course, editing what you’ve written typically takes much longer. In September 2008, I got a thunder-bolt idea for a PB. I packed up my pencil and paper and zoomed over to the local public library to write without being disturbed. (For some reason, when the Universe gets wind I’m about to start writing, it sends brain waves to my friends and family to ring my phone off the hook…but that’s another story!). I wrote a 900-word PB in one-and-a-half hours!

But…though the words gushed forth like a fountain of cool, clear spring water, I’m still editing my book all these months later. The main reason for this is that an agent looked it over liked it and said it didn’t work as a PB. She thought it would be better as a MG (middle grade). This meant my 900 words needed to blossum into several thousand words. It took me another month to write the next 10 short chapters (I’m now up to 9,600 words), and I’ve still got a way to go, because the story is historical and I need to do a bit more research. So I’ve already spent over 9 months on the story, and I’m still not finished!

Now, that’s just an example of time spent on a PB-turned-MG. But if you plan to pen an epic like Gone With the Wind, you might be looking at years of writing. The truth is, nobody—not even your hairdresser—knows for sure.

Author/Actor Mike Myers reportedly wrote Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, in 30 days. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) encourages its participants to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel in one month! On the other hand, it took Alex Haley ten years to write Roots, and I started my African American Civil War historical, Shout When Jubilee Comes, way back in 1992. It’s 2009, folks, and I still haven’t finished it yet…although my first chapter did win the “Innerlit Moon Best First Chapter Award” waaaay back in 2007. Click here to read

As I wrote in Part I of this series, some Romance Writers say they churn out two or three books per year. Of course, this takes hard work and discipline, but if they can do it, so can you.

So how long does it take? Who knows. It depends on how much time you have on your hands, and how much of that time you’re willing to put into making your dream a reality. But one thing is for sure, the clock won’t start ticking until you sit down and start writing.

Best wishes and happy writing,

Rita Lorraine

NEXT TIME: HOW DO I GET STARTED?

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