Writing Process - Drafting

Reader Question :: “How long does it take you to write a novel?”

Back in the summer, I gave people the option to ask me questions about writing novels. You can still drop any queries over on that post if you want to. The first question was from Elsie Strangeland

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“How long does it take you to write a novel?”

It’s a good question, and one that I had to think about.

Unfortunately, the answer is “it varies.”

I took me seven months to write the first draft of Planes Shifter. The last re-write took about two months.
Yet I wrote the sequel in twenty-seven days (about 65 hours to reach 80,000 words).

I managed to draft a summer project (92,000 words) in fifty days, but then I’ve taken three months to write the first 30k of The Felled Gods. So in theory, somewhere between one month and seven. For a new story set in a new world; it’ll take me at least two months.

In practice, I’ve been working on Planes Shifter since early 2012, and will be picking it up for another read-through in 2015. I began planning The Felled Gods in April, then began writing in September. It’s now December, and I’m only a third into it. So although the writing of a first draft may only take 30-60 days, the planning, research and revision takes even more time.

The Felled Gods required me to create two ‘new’ religions, and balance technology versus historic items in a post-apocalyptic cut-off-from-society setting. Although I can write novels without finer details, some aspects need at least a vague idea which can be consistent throughout the book. It’s hard to direct your characters through a town when you don’t know if they have wooden huts, skyscrapers or camp out in makeshift tents. That doesn’t just change description, but how they move, how they view their tribe and how combat or travel works. Those kinds of details may take me a few days to work out before I can return to my outline or manuscript.

Defining a Deadline

I work best with deadlines. With Planes Shifter, I wrote the first 30,000 words in around six months and then the final 45,000 in two and a half weeks. Because I had a deadline. Five of my novels have been NaNoWriMo projects, creating a daily and monthly goal.

By maintaining a WriteChain goal, I edited Plane Shifter and began TFG. At the moment, I’m trying to work out what kind of goal will help me to keep writing in 2015.

Because that’s really the answer to this question.

It takes as long as it takes: Some stories are fast-paced and you know where to take the scenes. Some are hard, with difficult emotional baggage and confusing twists that mean you need to take a few days off, or skip to another part.

It takes however many words you call a draft (I aim for 80-85k for a first draft). It takes hours at the laptop, typing away and sketching out ideas.

If you can give yourself a reason to write on a regular basis, to add words and follow your plot, you’ll end up with a finished story in the end. 

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