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  • P. Barrera

How long should it take to write your novel?

Time is always the most changing variable when a new author is trying to pin down their schedule. How much time should you devote a day to writing? How much time should you devote to your first manuscript? When is it appropriate to call your manuscript finished?

The long and the short of it is this: THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER.

This morning, as I was sifting through the articles in the Infinity Flower Daily, I found this article by Ed A. Murray:

Writing a novel is a very personal process—and one that, for the bravest aspiring novelists among us, becomes very public when the decision is made to publish. It cannot be rushed.

But there has to be a middleground between cranking it out too quickly and sitting on it for years without doing anything, right?

Most authors will tell you that their novels took varying lengths of time. As most of you know, Return to Royalty took 10 years!

That being said, there is no set time limit. Stephen King recommends that a first draft be written in 3 months, but is that feasible for most? What about life, jobs, families?

If writing was all you did, then maybe, but we have to plan around our lives. So what does this mean for you?

1. Don't rush it.

Creativity can't be rushed. Creativity comes and goes, surging and waning like tides. You can't force something that's just not working. Keep these things in mind. If you have a deadline, try earnestly to make it, but if you cannot, don't put yourself down over it. Just remember that books, like people, mature on their own timelines.

2. Plan your writing each day to develop routine.

Routines are extremely important, especially when you are starting a new novel. You must train yourself to sit down and write. You must give yourself time every day to do this; time away from spouses, kids, friends, commitments. You need personal space to think and allow yourself to write. Schedule a time to write each day, and stick to it. Set a timer so that you only write for 30 minutes or an hour, and just focus on writing during that time. As you become accustomed to your routine, your writing will become easier and flow more naturally.

3. Make your schedule work for you.

Just because someone says that your draft/novel/whatever should be done in a certain amount of time doesn't mean you have to believe them! Make your own timeline that you're comfortable with, or just wing it. Don't worry about when you'll be at the end, just know how you're going to get there.

As Ed states in his article, even established authors don't have set timelines. He uses the example of Ian McEwan and Cormac McCarthy:

One example was Ian McEwan as we started reading Atonement. McEwan wrote his 14 novels in a 38-year span—averaging one novel every two or three years. Sure, he once published books in back-to-back years, and he once also took six years to publish a new novel, but taking the overall picture helps you to understand his general writing process.

But even that exercise is not a science. Look at Cormac McCarthy, for example. You could take the number of novels he wrote and calculate the average amount of time he works on a book, but it would be a little misleading. He took seven years between Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, as well as between Cities of the Plain and No Country for Old Men. But he also followed up that book with The Road one year later (and has yet to publish another book since 2006).

There is no right or wrong way to approach writing. As Ed says in parting:

So here’s the best piece of advice I can offer: do not rush the process. It’s okay if you’ve started several novels but cannot seem to complete one. We’ve all been there. It’ll come. Just stick with it. Let the process dictate itself.

What are your thoughts on your own writing process?

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