One Writer’s Journey

October 12, 2017

How Long Should It Take to Write Your Book?

I’ve been thinking about this since early yesterday when I read Sarah Callender’s post, “Bun in the Oven: The Gestation Period of a Novel.”  Sarah wrote about working on her novel for 4.5 years, writing several drafts before she discovered a plot.

When I write fiction, I’m a lot like Sarah.  I have to write to realize.  Usually before I start writing I know who my characters are and more or less what is going to happen.  But as I write, I’m feeling my way through the plot.  By the end of draft one, I have managed to record a fairly accurate version of the plot.

But I haven’t included much at all about the setting.  At least not past chapter two or three.  Early on, the setting is vibrant.  I use all of my senses.  I pull in relevant details.  But by the end, I’m writing the plot.

The good news is that by the end of that first draft, I have a much better idea who my character are.  I can go back and write the setting with that in mind.  What would character X notice?  And what about character Y?  Then of course I have to go back and work in the relevent bits of characterization.

That’s something like three drafts just to get what I consider a solid first draft.  Then I can analyze it all with Darcy Pattison’s Novel Metamorphosis.  This book is a great tool for comparing the story in my head with the story on paper.  Once I’ve worked through her book, a workshop in print, I’m ready for several more drafts.

So how long should it take to write your book?  As long as it takes.

Seriously.  It’s a process not a race.

Not that you should think I’m relaxed about this.  I love it when I’m making progress but I also do best when I’m working on fiction and nonfiction simultaneously.  The best way to do it is to write draft 1 on a piece of fiction while working up a book for Abdo.  Why?  Because I have just over a month the write an Abdo book.

Ready set . . . write!  It must work at least sometimes because in that time I can produce a solid manuscript.  Fiction?  Pfft.  That’s a different situation.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go annoy my self with fiction.  I have some characters to torment.



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