How Long to Write a Novel?

Holly Robinson, author of Heaven Lake and Beach Plum Island wrote almost 18,000 words in one weekend. It took Robinson nearly 25 years to sell her first novel and now she is writing one per year. It seems impossible to predict the success an author will have with any project, let alone how long it takes to complete. At the Newburyport Literary Conference Jenna Blume, Andre Dubus III, Wally Lamb, and Richard Russo agreed that it can take anywhere from four to ten years to write a novel. On the other hand, authors like Jane Green and Toby Neal take an average of six month to produce a novel. There really seems to be no fair estimate of the time it should take to produce a successful novel. According to Robinson it should take “As long as it takes to write a good book for readers and to satisfy yourself as an artist. Nothing else matters.”

New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder claims “the most successful writers aren’t the most talented. They’re the most stubborn.” Any writing process seems to be acceptable as long as the writer is dedicated to that process. Whether a writer binges and puts 20,000 words on paper in a weekend or types 2,000 works a day seems to be irrelevant. Infinite number of processes exist and there is no right way or right amount of time to complete a project. I understand that contracts and time frames do exist and contracted writers are subject to their agreement. Regardless, different writers employ different tactics to produce their best work.

Stephen King in an interview with Business Insider says that it should never take more than three months to produce a draft. King writes ten pages a day for three months which adds up to approximately 180,000 words. That is an exceptionally long novel and a process that many writers stray far from. It works for King.


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