So how long is too long?I have been asked in the past how long it takes to write a novel and while I am a writer I cannot answer that fairly yet because I am still working on my first novel! A brief bit about my own experience...my story idea came to me in 2002. I worked on it part-time for 3 years, stopped completely for 3 more years and then picked it back up for another year, only to change the entire concept.
Fast forward 4 more years and a college degree later, my writing style had changed so much, I decided to start the entire project over. Today, I'm 3/4 of the way done and steadily moving. If you count the restart, I'd say I'm right around the 2 year mark. Will this be typical? I hope not! Did this help you in anyway to better understand your own writing timeline? Doubtful! This goes to show that everyone's pace is different. While there really is no definitive timeframe out there for completing a novel, fortunately there are ways to keep yourself moving at all times, instead of wondering why you are stuck in second gear!
Choose a Target Size for Your NovelMany of us may not know how long our novel is going to be but the sooner you get an idea of it, the easier it will be to realistically pace yourself! In my case I knew my story was going to be epically long. Knowing this early on has helped me get a better handle on what to expect.
Novels typically range from between 50,000 and 100,000 words, dependent upon a whole plethora of variables (like genre, typesetting, book type, etc.). For mass-market paperbacks, 50,000 words will land you at about 200 pages, while 75,000 words are at about 300 pages. And we've all seen those massive door-stopper books that double as lovely paperweights. :)
Stay FocusedIt sounds like a no-brainer but let me tell you, it is anything but! There are too many other elements in life that want to get in the way and destroy your pacing plan! Online, there are a dime a dozen of "quick writing courses" and "draft helper" tools designed to get you writing your full length novel in as little as 30 days. I say don't worry so much about being prolific to start--worry about writing, period.
Pace Yourself...RealisticallyOnly YOU know what will work best for you and the only way to discover this is to pace yourself realistically. If you are busy and can only drill out work for 30 minutes a day, do it. Work on it every day and devote a space of time only for your writing. Make it a habit and stick to it. Do what works and is attainable. Nothing will stop you quicker than setting a goal that you cannot keep up with.
Understand that "Prep and Pause" is Okay!
Writing a book entails a lot and there is far more to it than just writing the words! What about brainstorming, plot development and planning, character fleshing, and downright research? All that takes time and you know what? It's totally okay. I like to call these things "prep and pause" moments: Moments when I STOP writing and focus on what makes the writing work in the first place. These things are important and should be given time just like your actual writing. (And don't get me started on editing).
Even if you are staring at the wall, thinking about how to best kill off that final main villain, you are working. It's part of your creative process and it should not be cut out or rushed along. Prized bestselling author of The Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins once said: "Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you’re working out character and plot problems."