Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How long does it take to write a book?

"But how?" "But when?" "But why?" I'd ask my Gran.
She'd answer me, "'Cause y's not zed."
So I'd ask my Grandfather instead, "How big?" "How long?" "How wide?"
He'd throw the questions back and ask, "How long's a piece of string?"

But seriously, how long does it really take to write a book? Is the editing (and re-editing, and re-editing over again) a part of writing? What about querying and waiting for replies? What about that startled jump for joy when someone says yes, followed by, "We'll assign you an editor later. Please continue to work on your manuscript?"

"When's later?" I want to ask. And how long will it take?

I started my first post-childhood novel about six years ago. It's still seeking a home. I took it out last week to polish it and found my dreams were slipping through the holes. Much editing later I'm letting it rest. Suffice it to say, if it ever sees light of day, this masterpiece will find itself somewhat over six years in the making.

I started my second post-childhood novel as soon as I finished the first. Since my first first-draft was written very quickly, that makes it somewhere around five and a half years ago. Many drafts later, one competition and quite a few submissions, it found a home with StoneGarden.net. I've just finished another pass on editing it and almost think I like it, but it's scary how much the thought of its being released to the public eye can terrorize me.

My third post-childhood novel is the start of a fantasy series. I keep hoping they might have found a home, but the home keeps telling me maybe... Maybe I'm suffering a serious case of wishful thinking. But the series still has another book to go, so I've time to wait.

My fourth is a rather odd mystery that definitely needs some editing. Who knows how long that will take.

My fifth I started writing as a child. I've rewritten part one. The rest is still wandering round my mind. Will I have to confess how old I am to admit how long it's taking to write that book?

Meanwhile, Steve O'Brien, author of Elijah's Coin and Bullet Work, will visit my blog tomorrow to answer the question put to him--"How long did it take to write?" Hope to see you there/here, tomorrow!

12 comments:

Stephanie Cowell said...

I've published 5 novels and one took five years to write, two took under a year each, the other two 2 years each. Like kids, all different! Plus all the unfinished ones! (I am the author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET...that's the 5-year one!)

Bearman said...

I am waiting for someone to think I am interesting enough to write my memoir. Haha

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sheila .. thanks for coming over to comment on my blog and stopping by ..

How long is a piece of string - I hope the string will get shorter as time goes by! Writing the book - can be anytime .. getting it published is the next thing .. and that's a different matter!!!

The main thing is enjoy the process .. cheers Hilary

Ruthi aka abitosunshine said...

Oh my! And I thought writing a book of poetry takes a long time! I'll check in this evening after work and a nursing home visit to see the answer to the question!

sarah said...

the waiting is the worse...I'm not a good wait person. Great post on the dance of a writer..

jenniferkoliver said...

I think it depends greatly on a lot of factors - the subject matter of the novel, how much planning and research is involved, personal circumstances that can effect how long it takes to write. Plus the other things you highlight in your post. It's probably easier to break the question down into smaller parts. How long did it take to write your first draft? How long did it take to do the first round of edits? That way, you can gradually begin to piece together how long it takes overall.

Thanks again for dropping into my journal with a comment! It's nice to meet you. :)

Cold As Heaven said...

For me it seams to take forever

Cold As Heaven

Maria Papadopoulou said...

There is no right time really. It can last from a few months to a few years. I have heard of people saying they wrote a book in a few weeks.

It all depends on how clear the story and the characters are in your head and how willing you are to finish within a certain period.

Anonymous said...

It took me just one day to finish my poetry book. Of course, it was quite small...and poetry comes too naturally for me.

Maria Papadopoulou said...

It took me just one day to finish my poetry book. Of course, it was quite small...and poetry comes too naturally for me.

J.G. Harlond said...

How long to write a novel? I think Jennifer has got it right. Break it down into its component parts: how long to decide on the plot (then make continual adjustments); how long to decide on characters (and take into account those who barge in unvited while you're writing); how long to do the editing & how many drafts are necessary before there are no typos left?
It took me two years to write 'The Chosen Man' - but I had to do a terrific amount of research and background reading before I could even start. My question is this: how long should one wait between books? Long enough for all the fuss to die down about the release of your special 'child' - or should one start immediately - on the rebound - a new love-child regardless?

Sheila Deeth said...

I love your post on those characters barging in uninvited, Jane! That waiting between books question is interesting. I seem to be rushing from finishing one to getting on with the one I put on hold--except how do I choose which one?