Sunday, October 10, 2010

It Takes Time to Write a Book

But how much time does it take? I've read about authors taking decades to write novels and I've also read about books that were completed in a few weeks.

I wrote Underground, the novel that got me my agent, in 4 months.

I've been working on my current manuscript for almost year. I'm still working on the second draft, and if I am very honest with myself I think it's likely that I won't finish this book until 2011.

This is frustrating! I've been working hard at it. Why is it taking so long?

Well, I could blame the fact that I've been pregnant. I could subtract two months for horrific morning sickness and I probably subtract the last three months of the pregnancy too, because I was sicker than I was during the morning sickness part. But even if I subtract all the months when I was unable to be productive, this book will still take WAY longer to write than the last one did.

Why? Because it's a different book. There are new puzzles to work out and new characters to get to know and maybe some of those puzzles and characters have been trickier for me to get right.

Also, I'm not quite as clueless this time around. My writing pace slows as I make a conscious effort to use more action verbs and fewer adjectives and adverbs.

Plus I'm going to makes sure to give this one to a lot of great beta readers before my agent sees it. Underground was only beta read by family members before I queried. As a result it needed A LOT of post-querying editing and rewriting. Hopefully this one won't need as much.

I've accepted that every book is different and some might just take a little longer to bake than others. Every writer is different too, and though I'd love to be able to write a book every few weeks, I don't think I'm that kind of writer.

How long did it take you to write your novel? Are you one of those writers who can churn out a masterpiece every month? Or are you still working on the one you started 25 years ago?

36 comments:

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you for sharing this, Natalie. Since joining the online community, I've become conscious of the varying writing speeds among writers -- but never thought, until now, that it differs from novel to novel, too.

Diane said...

I. Don't. Think. So. Slow and steady here.... :O)

Catherine Denton said...

Ideas I can churn out. But I must be one of the slow ones when it come to writing the book. I'm still revising one I started two years ago. :P
Making Life a Work of Art!

Terri Tiffany said...

Good for you for keeping at it!
I take about six months on average to write it and then a few months more to edit--about a year from start to finish to querying.

Bethany Mattingly said...

I really don't know which kind of writer I am. I thought I was the kind that took several months at least to finish a book, but now I'm not so sure. For the past couple days I have turned up the writing by a lot and I've been able to do it all and then some. That just leaves me so confused, not that I'm complaining, just puzzled is all.

Adam Heine said...

Novel #1: 5+ years
Novel #2: 2 years
Novel #3: (estimated) 2 years

I'm severely jealous of people who can draft in a few months (or less). I don't know if I'm too obsessive or if I just don't use as much time as other people. Either way it's a constant struggle to not let it bother me.

Tess said...

this newest work is taking me much longer, for the same reasons you mention here. I'm nervous this time around. There is an expectation that makes me question every word.

It has been an interesting process in that regard. But, to answer your question...

novel 1: 6 months (will never sell)
novel 2: 9 months (ditto above)
novel 3: 5 months..sold...hooray!
current work: it's been four months and I'm still plotting...I'm telling myself it will be at least a year total, maybe more. we shall see.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm slow and steady- like a year or so per book slow. But I'm a busy gal so that's okay with me. Most of the time. ;)

I hope you're getting some sleep and feeling better!

ann foxlee said...

Adam Heine, you just made my day! I'm still working on Book #1, and just hit the 4.5 year mark. It's always nice to see that others take that amount of time too.
Even if I didn't work 60-hr weeks, I can't imagine writing a book in a few weeks or months. It can get a little discouraging to read about that kind of fast writing, but then I'll read a post like yours and feel just fine about my writing process :-)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Like you, it's different for me with each story. I rewrite as I write so I don't know how long each one has taken.

Adam Heine said...

Very glad I could help, Ann. Seriously, the reason I'm not shy about posting my slow, slow production times is because I know I'm not the only one :-)

Patti said...

I worked on my first book for two years before I started querying. Realized it was too soon, so I've been tweaking it on and off for the past three years. In the meantime I wrote another book, which took me almost a year to write just the first draft.

Erica M. Chapman said...

I know what you mean. It seems like this novel I'm writing is taking forever to write! I'm on draft 2 and it was my NaNo novel from 2009, so I'd say I'm averaging about a year. I know this one won't be polished and ready until 2011. I wish it were faster, but I want to make sure it's right!

As long as you feel it's right, it shouldn't matter how long, right? Thank you for sharing!

Good luck with yours ;o)

Ted Cross said...

My first percolated in my mind for more than twenty years before I began typing it out. It took me close to three years to actually write it. Things got faster and faster as I went, though, so if I can just get myself to stop editing the first one and move on to the second, I think it will go much quicker.

Em-Musing said...

Being a pantser means I never know how long a novel will take. Sometimes I write it quickly, but the editing takes even longer. Phew!

Tessa Quin said...

I've been working on mine for a year in a half. And then I wrote a short little MG in two weeks! Okay, so it only took me roughly a month and a half to write the first draft of my YA, but I've been rewriting...and rewriting...and rewriting ever since. The MG is sitting in my folder now, ready to be revised when I've distanced myself some more from it.

Jessica Nelson said...

LOL It can take me a while. I'm averaging about six to eight months.

Lisa said...

I've been working on my current project for almost a year now! I started it during NaNo. But I've let it sit some and worked on others. I'm a slow writer. If I try to force things, it's worse than if I took my time. I can't churn out a book in a month. It's just not in me! I need to let things unfold naturally!

Nicole Zoltack said...

It varies for me. One novel took me almost 10 years to write (was my first attempt at writing a novel). I've also written a novel in 4 months. I'm a panster so it depends on the story itself as to how fast I can write it. If I plotted more, I probably could write faster.

paulgreci said...

Quantifying this stuff is difficult for me. I just finished a first draft--that took four months. I'm not sure how long the 1st revision will take.

My quickest book, the one that I was offered representation for took about six weeks for the first draft and then a maybe a year of revisions but I was working on other books as well.

I think every book is different and we are different writers b/c we grow and change as we write!

Sara B. Larson said...

I think every book is different. I've written one book in 2 weeks, and one book took me four months. So it just varies on the story, the plot, the characters, the voice... all of it. Great thoughts on this! And good luck with your WIP! (And your sweet new baby) :)

Susan R. Mills said...

I wrote my last novel in 3 months, but I spent 11 months rewriting it. I'm taking this next one slow to avoid all that rewriting. Sometimes, slower is better.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ugh! The first draft of my book took very little time. Re-working it into an entirely different genre and revising took over a year. I'm still chewing and brewing over what to do for book 2.

Carolyn V. said...

I wrote my current wip in 3 months. But the revisions are taking me tons more!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Writing isn't the time consumer for me. Revising is. #Lesigh

Joanne Fritz said...

I'm constantly amazed, Natalie, that you've got four little ones AND you've written a couple of novels! I only have two children but I never had the energy to do anything else when they were little. You are truly amazing.

I'm a very slow writer. Donna Gambale (of the FNC) said recently that she takes a long time to finish a chapter because she "marinates" a lot. When she said that I realized that's exactly what I do.

It'll be two years in December that I've been working on my first novel, a MG fantasy. I felt fantastic when I finally finished the rough in the beginning of September. Yes, it took that long because I DIDN'T write every day or even very frequently for the first year or more (I'm a prime example of what you shouldn't do). Once I started plugging away at it on an almost-daily basis, it only took 8 months.

Only.

And that's just the rough. Who knows how long it'll take me to finish the revisions. I'm hoping to have it done and ready to start querying by the end of December, but November and December are the busiest times at the bookstore, so we'll see.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Just entered my second year for novel 1. I'm thinking I'll need at least one more year.

L.T. Elliot said...

It's taken me a year+ on my current WIP. =P I think it's time to kill someone off or something. ;)

VR Barkowski said...

About a year. I can either draft quickly and spend eons editing. Or I can craft the first draft with care and do minimal editing. It still turns out to be a year.

Janna Qualman said...

This is such a great post. Not only is every writer (and every writer's path) different, but every book, too. It's something worth remembering.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That is so interesting because it takes me a LOT longer to write a book now too. You think with all the practice it would get easier. LOL

Medeia Sharif said...

I feel like my current novel is taking longer than the previous. I know I'm busier than I was a few years ago, but I've also developed higher expectations of my writing which has both slowed my pace and improved my skills.

Heagar said...

Thanks for the post Natalie! I've been working on my current novel for probably about 6 months and I'm only half way through my first draft. I think our novels change with the seasons of our lives. If it is a stressful time we are more likely to be preoccupied and have a harder time relaxing our brains enough to write. If things are going great I'm able to hone in on my creative juices more.

Kory and Sharese say: said...

Hi Natalie! It has been a long time. How are you. I read through your blog and noticed you just had another baby!!!!! I am so happy for you guys. I was also sad to see the problems you guys had to go through to bring him here. I am so sorry. I am glad you and the baby are doing well and are home. I would LOVE to come by and see you some time when you are feeling up to a visitor and to just catch up. I still want to invite your family over for dinner but probably in a few months when your baby is older. We miss you guys in the Ward. Check out my blog and leave comments and lets stay in touch.

Georgina Dollface said...

Since I haven't come anywhere close to finishing a WIP I started a few years ago, I'm in awe of your timelines. I am writing for myself so I don't have anyone to answer to. No one is waiting for me to finish. I don't have any contracts or advances. While creatively, I suppose that takes some pressure off, maybe having someone waiting for me to finish would be a good motivator. I have full-time income doing something else and so I suppose that tends to define my writing more a hobby than as a profession. - G

notesfromnadir said...

It's great that you're being so precise as it may mean fewer rewrites down the road!

Yes, depending on your subject matter, books vary in the length of time it takes to write them. But it's good that the journey is always different!