How long does it take to write a novel?
When I was a teen, my favourite novel was Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan which the young Frenchwoman supposedly wrote in a three week sitting. However, I’m sure that legend is somewhat misleading. Though Sagan may have got the initial splurge down on paper in three weeks, it probably took many months of overhaul to bring to publishable standard.
Everyone writes differently. Everyone has their own approach. Some may write 2,000 words a day but may only be able to use about 200 of them come editing stage. Others might get 100 down, but they’ll be good, solid words you can bring forward. The former write from the outside in, the latter move slowly from the inside out.
‘Outsiders’ write manically, getting the story and the words on page. They’ll get a surplus of words on paper relatively quickly and will then spend the next six months to a year editing, rewriting, crafting, pruning and shaping. ‘Insiders’ tend to be methodical planners. They have a very clear idea of where they are going with their novel before they sit to write a single word and then they revise every sentence as they go. This method is quite painstaking, however the writer will not have much of an editing stage as they are, essentially, editing as they go. Therefore, it is hard to say how long it takes to write a novel. That very much depends on your approach.
The Six-Month Challenge
Having said that, I recently read about a ‘six-month’ challenge and I think it is a good regime for beginners. The idea is that you give yourself six months to write 80,000 words. You need to commit to writing 500 words every day. This figure is roughly a page of text, double spaced in 12 point Times New Roman font. Give yourself 45 minutes (at least) per day to deliver. Do not allow internet/phone/family/any distractions to interfere with this time. You may say that you are too busy but we can all find 45 minutes if we try. Get up 45 minutes early, skip your daily soap opera, cut down on your web-surfing etc… You’ll find the time if you want to. By the end of six months, you should have 80,000 words to spend the next six months polishing and editing. I am seriously thinking of doing the ‘six-month challenge’, to work on an idea I’ve had for a novel for a while.
I’m thinking of starting on October 1st. Would any of you be interested in joining me in this exercise. The team spirit would carry us all forward and would keep us focused.
Honk if you’re in!