How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeI’ve joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. On Wednesdays, we all post about our… well… insecurities.  Like the group name.

How long does it take to write a novel, anyway?

I’ve been working on mine for the last two years.  Give or take 20 years.

I first got the idea when I was in college, and though it’s evolved quite a bit since then, some things haven’t changed.  I’m working on writing it and editing it and all those novel-type activities.

I start to doubt myself when I realize how long I’ve been working on it.  It shouldn’t take this long, should it?

If you ask George RR Martin, he’d say between 1-6 years.  Stephen King comes out with a new book once or twice a year, plus short stories.  And Nora Roberts?  Four or five books a year.  Wow.

So, I guess the point is that it takes as long as it takes.  I’ve written several (bad) practice novels.  Each time, I get a little better.  Since joining a writer’s group, I’ve made a lot of progress with my writing.  More than I had with online writing groups.  It’s tempting to just want to be done with it, to say that it can’t possibly be good enough if it’s taking this long to write, but that’s just not true.

I really believe that failure only happens when people give up.  And I’m not ready to give up.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”

-Neil Gaiman

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20 comments on “How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

  1. Welcome to IWSG.

    I know what it feels like to just want to be done with it. They say it takes 6 months to build a Rolls Royce, but only 1 week to make a Toyota.

    I know a book isn’t a car, but there’s a good comparison in there somewhere if you look hard enough.

  2. Hello, from IWSG! I’m probably on the faster end of things as far as *writing* a novel goes, but a lot slower on the *revising* a novel than some of the people you listed. And I just assume that some of my writing will never be revised. I need the habit of writing, but it generates an overwhelming amount of volume.
    Good to meet you, and Good luck!

  3. You’ll know when it’s ready, it doesn’t feel that way now, but you will. I do think some ideas ruminate for many years, some of our best. You’ve got the best inspiration posted. Just follow your heart!

  4. Nancy Gideon says:

    It takes as long as it takes! It’s a journey with twists and turns and unexpected adventures. Why rush it? But it does feel good to finally reach the end. Here’s to a dedicated journey!

  5. Margo Kelly says:

    You’re right! It takes as long as it takes. It takes longer when we stop to compare ourselves to others (but don’t we all do that sometimes?). Enjoy the process and have fun writing (and revising). 🙂

  6. jennienzor says:

    I love this quote. It’s perfect for me this week because I made a couple mistakes with my querying that I’ve been kicking myself over. And you should take as long as it takes with your novel. I try not to pay attention to what other people are doing. I’m lucky if I can write a novel in two years, but sometimes it’s been much longer.

  7. I think stressing about how long it should take is only going to make it harder. Don’t give up! Keep going! But also avoid stressing yourself out over the time it takes.

  8. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    Hi, Doree! I’m making the rounds on IWSG Day, and I’m glad I had a chance to read your post. I try very hard not to compare my writing progress with that of other writers. I get discouraged sometimes because I’m a slow writer. But you’re so right; it’s giving up that means you’ve failed. Hang in there! You’ll get to where you want to be! Loved the Neil Gaiman quote on making mistakes and doing things that scare you! Happy writing this month!

  9. diedre says:

    Welcome, Doree! Every writer’s journey is his/her own. The time (it takes) is never as important as the telling. Thanks for sharing the Neil Gaiman quote, it’s a good one. Another is “Don’t be a writer – be writing!” I look forward to reading about your progress – we’re all going somewhere and it’s nice to have you join us!

  10. jmh says:

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog this month, Doree! Hope to see you again.

    You’re right in that it takes as long as it takes. A lot of writers who “churn” them out get very formulaic. If you go back to the beginning of their careers, you’ll find they usually spent a lot longer on the first book they got published.

    I believe in you! Never give up.

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