Carolyn M. Walker


Old Blog of Carolyn M. Walker

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Long is Too Long to be Working on Your Novel?


got time to write a novel? carolyn m. walkerYou're writing a novel. You've had the idea for some time now, maybe even let it stew for a little while before finally putting pen to paper. But now that you've started, it's taking you far longer than you planned. Does this sound like you? If so, you are not alone. At some point, I'm sure we've all wondered how long it should take a writer to finish a novel. I have heard that on average, the typical first time novelist takes anywhere from 2-5 years to complete a full length book. Of course there's going to be some give or take here.

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 Novel

Many 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 Focused

It 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...Realistically

Only 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."

The Takeaway

Whether you write 10 minutes a day or 8 hours a day, write slow and steadily or fast and furiously, keep chipping away at it. Keep moving and stay mindful of your progress. Eventually, you will have perfectly sculptured masterpiece you so desire.

5 comments:

  1. I don't think there should be a certain amount of time for writing a novel. My first novel took years. I changed it so many times. It started out a story about two women, mothers to the same child and at the end there was a legal battle. When I was done it was the story about an attorney representing one mother and the other mother was deceased (and there were several variations). A novel takes as long as it takes.

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    1. Michelle, I fully understand what you mean. There really is not definitive time frame. All I can say is keep working at it. Sure there are typical time frames that people might go by but that really does depend on the individual. My story has changed SO many times, it's crazy. In the end, the only one who can write my novel is me! :)

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  2. I don't think there should be a certain amount of time for writing a novel. My first novel took years. I changed it so many times. It started out a story about two women, mothers to the same child and at the end there was a legal battle. When I was done it was the story about an attorney representing one mother and the other mother was deceased (and there were several variations). A novel takes as long as it takes.

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  3. thanks for the tips. I am looking at writing an ebook and this post was really helpful

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    1. MaBelle! I'm very glad this helped you. I hope your ebook is coming a long or already published! I'd look to see it.:)

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