Looking at how long it takes to write a novel
Last week I wrote about the ups and downs of writing. Sometimes I am cranking out the words and other days I am struggling to find time to write.
As I read about the experiences of other authors, I hear about authors who write thousands of words a day. And while it is good to have a writing goal and to be actually writing, is it worth it to write a lot of not so good words or should you strive to write quality writing? Do you want to cut a lot of what you write?
Well, I guess that is right, but I do hate deleting a lot of what I write so my writing is slower as I strive for quality passages verses a high number of words. And of course, I do edit as I write so that takes longer to write. But I am getting off the topic here.
Today, I wanted to talk about how long it takes to write a novel, and how you should take it with a grain of salt when other authors say they crank out books every month, every other month or how ever often they say they write a book.
If you ask 10 authors how long it takes to write a book, you will probably get 10 different answers. For some it takes 10 years or 4 years or 1 year or 6 months. It can take a long time to write a novel if you have research, complex plots or if you spend a lot of time fine-tuning sentences. How often you write and for how long, your level of writing experience, the genre, and length of novel also play into how long it takes to write a novel.
This is that grain of salt thing I mentioned when listening to how long it takes authors to write a book. Here is a list of books and how long they took to write. Note the word count, some of these books are short. I could certainly crank out more books if my stories were 28,000 or even 53,000 words.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – 3 weeks (67,000 words)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – 6 weeks (28,000 words)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – 3 months (112,000 words)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – 9 months (53,000 words)
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – 1 ½ years (19,500 words)
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – 2 years (95,000 words)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 2 ½ years (99,000 words)
A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin – 5 years (293,000 words)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – 6 ½ years (77,000 words)
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 10 years (418,000 words)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – 12 years (655,000 words)
The argument for writing books faster is that your readership grows exponentially with each book. Fans of your first book will often read your second one. And readers who find you later on, if they like your writing, will go back and read your other books. If you take too long to publish your next book, there is a chance readers will forget about you. (Or so the thinking goes among some authors.)
But cranking out sub-standard books is also not a good thing which sometimes happens when authors rush their stories.
So, when aspiring or newbie authors ask how long it takes to write a novel, it really takes as long as you want or need it to take. And that is different for all of us.