Before I get to today’s post, I want to give a shout-out to Eight Lady Jeanne, who recently said good-bye to the day job in order to devote all her time to writing, with the intention of publishing a trilogy of paranormal romances early next year.
I’ll admit to being envious. My fondness for shoes, books, and travel (not necessarily in that order), along with a job that has turned into something really great in recent months, pretty much guarantees I won’t be making that kind of life change any time soon. I’ll definitely be living vicariously through Jeanne though, and cheering when I can finally click “buy” for her books.
Completing a book and finally being able to release it into the wild (aka publishing it), brings me to today’s post. Do you find yourself fielding the “is your book done yet?” question from friends, family, or well-meaning strangers?
When I started working on my first book after the McDaniel program, I used to hear that fairly frequently from a variety of sources; frankly, more frequently than I liked, as the writing process dragged on and on. Now, on book three (with the first two not really fit for public consumption), I haven’t heard the question in a while. I’m not sure if folks have lost interest or if they just realize the writing process takes as long as it takes.
I know the process has certainly taken longer than I expected it would back at my first RWA Conference in New York when I made the decision to “give this writing thing a try.”
For fun, I asked Google today: “How long does it take to write a book?”
The answer: Six months.
No really, that’s the answer that came up, along with this text:
“It can take a long time to write a novel, if you’re doing research or you get stuck, or if you’re fine-tuning sentences or having trouble with point of view. On the other hand, other writers, like author Jane Green, whose newest novel, Tempting Fate, is a NYT best-seller, writes her books in six months” ~ Huffington Post, .May 20, 2014
Fortunately, further down in the results set, I found an answer I liked a little better:
“Writing a novel takes as long you want or need it to take. . . As long as it takes to write a good book for readers and to satisfy yourself as an artist. Nothing else matters.” ~ Holly Robinson, Author
I’ve had to adjust my expectations about how long it should take to write a book from my early optimistic days. Among other things, I woefully underestimated the challenge of combining writing with a full-time job. This year, having been reminded that democracy is a participatory activity, that challenge has been even greater. I also underestimated the difficulty of getting those great scenes out of my head and onto the page consistently.
Fortunately, when I start to feel discouraged at my snail’s-pace-progress since completing the McDaniel program, I can head over to the Argh Ink website of our mentor/teacher Jenny Crusie for confirmation that writing takes as long as it takes even for award-winning authors.
Naively, I started out writing with a spreadsheet (I am a numbers person after all), mapping out how much I needed to write each day in order to meet an arbitrary deadline that seemed reasonable. There were, of course, charts. Things kind of went off the rails fairly quickly.
Turns out, although I’ve been able to successfully complete a November NaNoWriMo manuscript twice (though the last one took an extra week or four), that’s not a pace I can sustain or that I even want to sustain. Writing to that kind of intense schedule invariably left me stressed and cranky and grasping at excuses not to write, which took the fun out of the whole process.
Live and learn.
Now I’m following a more relaxed path to the finish line and focusing on enjoying the process along the way, rather than making myself crazy over the end result.
So, how long does it take to write a book? I’ll let you know when I get to “The End.”
In the meantime, what kind of expectations did you have when you first started writing and what would your answer to “how long does it take to write a book” be?