How long should it take to write a novel?

Last week, while perusing the NYT website I started reading “Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking,” by Julie Bosman. You should also read the article, hence the link, but the gist of it discusses the new pressures on authors because of technology and a consumer culture based on instant gratification.

It has long been the norm for authors, especially genre writers (romance, mystery, thriller etc.) to publish a book every year. EBooks have made instant publishing possible and publishers are pushing authors to double or triple their writing schedule to keep readers interest.

As a reader, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. I have no problem admitting that I am impatient for books from the authors I love.  The faster they end up on my kindle the better. However, as an aspiring writer I echo the sentiments that it would be a bad thing for an author’s career to be judged on productivity and not creativity.

The article also made me start thinking, how long should it take to write a novel? How long will it take me to write mine?

Some of you know (I have a hard time decipher the ratio of real life friends to internet friends of this blog’s readership) that I have been working on a young adult project that I call “dreamers”. I started writing my senior year during January break, thinking if I can write this novel in a month then I won’t have to find a job. After leaving my first job and moving home I wrote the bulk of the book during my 2 months of unemployment. I’ve tried to balance writing with working, something I plan to recommit to this week.

It’s been almost 3 years since I started thinking about the project, and 2 years since I started writing, and while I know a month seems like a silly amount of time to spend on a book I’m starting to wonder if the end is in sight. If I am meant to be a writer, shouldn’t I be done by now? Or is the time I’m spending, less about procrastination and more about adding meaningful depth to my work? Hard to say, my guess is that it is probably both.

I wonder if there is a quality loss that accompanies the pressure to write more faster? Or if the more your work, the more you have to work with.  I keep remembering something I heard Eugenia Kim, author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter, say. She talked about how difficult it was to adjust her process from taking 12 years to write her first book to being expected to write the second one in under a year. Now it seems like with eBooks, the pace might be even worse. Right now, I kind of hope that is a problem I have someday.

5 thoughts on “How long should it take to write a novel?

  1. I personally don’t think the creative process should be limited in any way. If I knew I only had a year to finish a book, I’d be more frazzled and anxious to finish on time and I wouldn’t give much thought to the quality of the book; forced writing does that to you. I prefer to write only when my muses are cooperating!

  2. I think you should just take as long as you want to write it, I don’t mean slack off and just get to it another day, but you know in yourself when something feels finished or ready for people to see. You shouldn’t feel pressured to have something finished when you aren’t ready. I wish you the best of luck with your book though and one day you’ll get there. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself haha.

  3. It really depends. I’d much rather wait a long time for a new novel, movie or TV season to come out and have it be brilliant (as I did for BBC Sherlock) than have only a short wait and a terrible sequel (Breaking Dawn, if Meyer had taken more time it might have ended better). Don’t push yourself and just let it flow.

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