…depending on how you count.

Tonight someone who had just read my book asked me how long it had taken to write. And as I generally do, I responded: “It depends on how you count.”

Really, how long does it take to write a novel?

All I have is my own minimal experience, of course, but let’s try to tabulate. Our counting options are below:

  1. Hours. I wrote for an estimated average of thirty minutes a day for roughly 182 days or six months–at least for the second draft. This works out to about 91 hours, or a hefty two-week timesheet.*
  2. Months. I wrote consistently for six months in one year, then let it sit for a while, then wrote for another six months, during which time I ended up rewriting virtually the entire thing. So that’s either six months or twelve, depending on whether I credit that first draft with really being part of the finished** draft.
  3. Years. I started seriously planning this book a little over three years ago. Serious planning involved making outlines, character sketches, and doing some research. This planning bears almost no relationship to what’s in the draft now, but it was a start. In short: planning in 2016, first-drafting in 2017, introspection and re-planning in 2018, and second-drafting in 2019 (with further edits TBD, perhaps also in 2019)?
  4. Decades. This story has been banging around my head as a little novel kernel since I was a kid. It was pretty insistent on getting out one of these days.

So there you have it, folks. If you’re looking for anecdata about how long it takes to write a novel, it’s somewhere between two work weeks and your whole life.

*I work in the government, after all.


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3 thoughts on “…depending on how you count.

  1. Great! I would definitely include the first draft in the timeline since they always say good writing is always about re-writing. I heard once that Flaubert spent hours re-writing each sentence in “Madame Bovary” (his first novel). Maybe that’s a myth! I look forward to reading your novel someday.

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