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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » How long does it take to write a novel?

   
Author Topic: How long does it take to write a novel?
Wordcaster
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I just read that Dean Wesley Smith wrote a 75k novel in 6 days. Amanda Hocking wrote a vampire novel in 15 days with a few cans of red bull (all this according to their blogs).

Reason #48 why they are successful and I am not. Note to self -- stop slacking!


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axeminister
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A good time to ask this would be Nanovember.
My fastest was just last month. I think it was around 15K words in 2-3 weeks. That's breakneck for me tho. Plus the first 5K was already there so I just finished what I had already started.

Now comes the arduous editing process.

Axe


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EmilyS
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My best time is 120k in just over 12 weeks. However, I've been editing it for 17 weeks now, and still in progress.

This kind of question depends entirely on the book, and the writer. I think it's a pretty safe bet nobody ever wrote a book in 6 days while also working 40 hours at a regular job!


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Natej11
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A couple months ago I wrote 86k in ten days, a full complete novel. It's the first time I've ever done anything like that, although not the first time my inspiration has surged into a flurry of writing over a couple weeks where I complete the bulk of a novel.

It's different for everyone, but I think the potential is there for anyone to find the proper mindset to do so at some point. Having the free time away from other concerns is a different matter ^^.


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BenM
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How many hours total writing time would probably be a better measure - very few of us are full time writers. I averaged around 900 words an hour on my last novel draft - so it took around 140 hours to finish. And then, unlike DWS, I don't have 100 published books of writing experience so it will take maybe twice that again or more in editing.

Just remember with the advice you find on Dean and others pages: Sure it's meant to be encouraging (among other things), but it may not directly apply to your situation 'right now'.


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LDWriter2
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I think there are a couple of romance writers that turn out novels about once a month. and I think there was one writer--I have to check on his real name but he wrote the Dray Prescott books and a few others.-- who must have been cranking them out at almost that pace. He had at least half a dozen series going. Most of his books were shorter though.

But remember Dean has only done that once or twice and he did it after he knew his writing abilities.

I don't think I could do one in 15 days even with Red Bull. I don’t know how long Hocking’s novel was and I have done two 50,000 novels in a month apiece but that is fast.

But as in Dean’s case I think I would try if a real publisher was to offer me even $10,000 to do it. He got more than that. I would have to take time off from work but I think it might be worth it.

Some of my favorite newer writers take a year to do one novel. Of course they have jobs and one is also in a band. Evidently some writers etc., think it should take a year or longer to do a novel but I’m not one of them.

Right now I have done two 80,000 plus words novels and eighty to ninety percent of another novel in one year along with a few short stories. One of the finished novels was a 50,000 word novel I wrote this last Nov. I went back and added around thirty thousand words to it.

I think it all depends on the writer, motivation and how much time they have to write. Some seem to be able to crank them out very quickly and other writers take years.


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History
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It's been almost 6 years since George RR Martin his last novel in his SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series. And A DANCE WITH DRAGONS finally arrives next week.

It took me a year to write my first novel, but I did not write daily. In fact, I wrote the final quarter of the novel about this time last year during a three week period of vacation/medical leave (I found writing kept my mind occupied). At my most prolific, I can write ~5000 words per day--if that is all I do (I did so yesterday).

But as I've said, in other circumsatnces , it is not quantity but quality that actually matters.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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walexander
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I guess it would also depend on how much you already have outlined - if its the third in a series - that's going to be a lot faster - because you already know the characters and have a strong idea of where things are going.

If your starting from scratch its hard to imagine anyone just pulling names and cities out of thin air with no research and it all meshing into something coherent but I guess it could be done.

I guess if your cybernetic implants tapped directly into a world wide data farm that stored all the ancient spells, alien races, unknown worlds, cosmic philosophies, and backwards physics you could dare dream of, and then somehow twist it around into a whole knew imagining of the subject, and you already had all the necessary skills of a writer downloaded into your matrix... I imagine you could do a descent book in six days.

But as a scifi/fantasy writer I can 'Imagine' anything

W.

[This message has been edited by walexander (edited July 07, 2011).]


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LDWriter2
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Dr. Bob do you know that Dance has been leaked?


And W. go ahead and write that. It could make a good story and/or novel.


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Natej11
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Ugh A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. Five years ago it was the book I was anticipating most. The book I'd anticipated more than any other book ever. Four years ago I still got excited every time I think of it. Three years ago I pretty much assumed it would never happen, and for the last few years I've been somewhat pissed at George R. R. Martin for leaping into massive projects while he left the series on the back burner.

Don't get me wrong, I think his series is one of the best ever written. But I find it kind of hard to trust him after a six-year gap halfway through, and how clear he's made it that it's a very low priority for him. Why should I invest my interest into a series when the author isn't going to have the decency to actually keep going on it?

Sorry for the rant.


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Owasm
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I write at about a 1,200 to 1,500 words/hour in draft mode. So that would get me a 90,000 page novel in 60 hours. Two nanos - 105K in three weeks, 90K in 17 days.

I wouldn't ship those out, but if my writing skills improved, I think a novel a month is doable if you don't have to tinker with the drafts a great deal.

I think the big thing about a lot of production is being able to write without a lot of rewrite time. Add all of the revision time to the draft and a novel a month requires a lot of polish on the first go around.


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LDWriter2
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Well a little revisions might make those two books better.


But you could be right about how much time someone spends on revisions etc..

I have no idea about Hoskings and the romance writers I referenced but Dean spends very little time on revisions. I think with novels he does have someone read it over but I believe that is more to find misspellings, other nitpicks and to see if everything makes sense, more than redoing sentences to try to get just the right wording.


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Robert Nowall
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Of my completed novels, as opposed to things that have died on me and that I might someday get back to, the times have varied...about four years (the last one I finished), to a week (a fifty-thousand word Harlequin Romance, mercifully never published.)

Mostly it's me...I'm a five-hundred-words-a-day writer right now, and---

500 (words) x 365 (days in a year) = 182,500 words

---which is more than enough for a novel.

Except...I don't write every day, and my last effort, day-in-August to day-in-August, only made it just past one hundred thousand words before dying on me.

I still think I could do a novel in a week---if I did nothing else and let nothing else distract me.


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MattLeo
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Well, Amanda Hocking writes juvenile Paranormal Romances, so she's got a lot of stock plot, characters and (most especially) world building elements to work with. She doesn't have to explain what a vampire is to her readers, other than establishing whatever special ground rules she needs to make her story work.

That's not to say such genre writing doesn't take skill and creativity, in a way it requires more to create a standout story. But her readers and editors are looking for a story that fits within a number of restrictions, and since she's a pro who understands the formula, she can concentrate her attention on the things that would make the story seem fresh to her readers while not violating their expectations.

The thing that takes a long time isn't churning out word count. It's revision -- particularly revision to make things logical and consistent. If your hero blows his big chance at the end of Act 2, you have to spend Act 1 making that plausible and significant to the reader. That's the kind of thing that has you ripping out and replacing early scenes four or five or ten times until things work.

But... Imagine you are working on an English country house murder. The key creative ingredient in the story is the stratagem the perpetrator uses to establish an apparently ironclad alibi. That's *hard*; but it's not a lot of work. It requires an inspiration. Everything else is drafted to specification with enough craft that it doesn't show unless the reader has his literary critic hat on.

For example the *real* villain of the story can't be the murderer, it has to be the *victim*. Why? Because it gives all the characters in the story a motivation to do the manipulative, blackmailing old sinner in. You don't figure that out after you've finished the rough draft and then go back and rewrite the whole darn thing so it works. You can focus on writing the stock character the first time through with enough creative touches to make his nastiness vivid to the reader.


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KayTi
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I've been using the site 750words.com lately, which encourages you to write 750 words/day (roughly 3 manuscript pages.) I'm loving it, and in particular the data the site gathers about my writing so I can learn more about how I write. What I've found is that my average speed when I'm really going (which I can maintain for 750-1200 words/day) is about 45-50 wpm. Because 50 makes the math easier, this means I can finish my 750 words/day in about 15 minutes. If I can just get my writing time up to about 1 hr/day, I could easily be turning out 3k words/day. If I did that, I could write one novel a month, writing weekdays alone (60k.)

I'm 15k into a novel, finished a 16k word novella, and have been using 750words.com for 28 days. I'm in love. I clearly needed some kind of structure/goal for my writing to get my butt in chair.

I also don't agree with the idea that revisions have to be labored over, but that's me. (I tend to agree with Dean on that front - lots and lots of revisions revise the life out of stories.)


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Foste
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Wordcaster, did they mention if those were first drafts or revised novels?
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Meredith
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If the story is "there" I can write a first draft in four to six weeks. But it's going to need at least three revisions.

Also, I'm learning that, for me at least, I need an extended "rest" period--much longer than a month, probably at least six months--before the last revision. There are things I just don't see sooner than that.


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axeminister
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Meredith, OSC said for a novel, a year is the proper time to put it to rest.
Crazy, right?

I guess that's OK if you have stories in the bank. Always working one year ahead. Otherwise just wait as long as you can.

Axe


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Wordcaster
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@Foste -- I'm sure the times mentioned are for a first draft, but I find 1-2 weeks exceptional for completing the first draft of a novel.

I also find it interesting all the comments about how fast one could finish a novel. For me, I've only finished one and let's just say it took me more than a couple weeks. I've been busy with infant twins, but that is an excuse, not a reason for my lack of production.


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Robert Nowall
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On the speed of novel writing among those who got them published...I read once that the late C. M. Kornbluth had a deal for a novel, but really hated outlines, so he holed up in a hotel room for the weekend and wrote it up...
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LDWriter2
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I usually wait a few weeks to do a revision even though it doesn't seem to make a different how long I wait... I usually miss things-nitpicks and not so good writing.

But some people revise, at least partially, as they write and some pros don't really do revisions. Some do five or more. That would probably take few months.



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mbwood
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Hmm, itís not the speed of putting words on paper that is important - itís making the story come to life and the words become invisible.

Iíve learned this over the years (after completing eight novels), and Iíve also come to the conclusion putting more time in the front-end results in a better novel. Yes, I outline, complete with a chronology, cast of characters (including bios) before I start on the novel. At this point, I can put a lot of words down in a short time. Yet the first draft is nowhere close to the final version, for it has to go through a workshop or critique to catch all those items to which Iím blind.

There are those writers who Ďcrank outí novels and it shows on close reading. I prefer those authors who truly care about their stories.

Remember the first rule of writing... Write!
MBW


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Wordcaster
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quote:
Remember the first rule of writing... Write!

Absolutely. The reason I posted this topic in the first place was that I was shocked how quick a couple of authors could churn out novels. My ideas take longer to formulate, so writing a novel in a period of two weeks would never happen. But the thing they definitely did to achieve the quick schedule was to write. Whether one spends every waking hour writing or a couple hours a day, persistence definitely pays off.

@MBWood: eight novels complete? You're seven ahead of me and the one I finished isn't even an adult novel.


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mbwood
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Hello, Wordcaster;

Yes, eight novels completed, with another underway plus a memoir. However, keep in mind that this is over a twenty-year plus period, which works out to be over two years per novel. When I look back at my first novel (since rewritten several times), I cringe, it was terrible - there was so much I did not know about the craft of writing. Iíve since come to appreciate the comment (I forget who made it) that writing - like many things in life Ė is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. During that time, I've also read widely - especially outside the SF genre and observed the craft employed by great writers. And I still have a lot to learn.

Another saying is that you need to write a million words before you are ready to write your first novel. Iím well over that mark and Iíve learned a thing or two along the way. Rushing a novel may work for a few, but for most it just doesnít.

Remember the first rule of writingÖ Write!
MBW


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axeminister
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Terry Brooks has said it takes him about 45 days to write one of his novels, but he thinks about them for months before he writes a thing. (I'm sure he makes notes as well, unless he's got a super memory.)

So, do we count the time spent thinking about the novel as writing it?

I imagine Patterson doesn't take very long either, but he has notes galore to choose from. He's always "writing" something.

Axe


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Wordcaster
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I think back to this presentation I heard from a photographer from National Geographic. He said the way he can separate amatuer photographers from professional is by their questions.

The amateur photographer asks, "how many shots did it take for you to get that picture?"

The professional photographer asks, "did you get it?"

I guess writing can be seen the same way. Just as professional photographers don't judge their finished product by how many shots it took, writers probably shouldn't dwell on how many hours it took to complete their project. The real question is whether or not a quality story was finished.


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