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How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel?

Updated on June 6, 2012

What You Must Understand

What every writer should understand is that writing a novel does take time and it depends on a great deal of variables that can inhibit the writing process for any given person. If you are a strong writer who shells out 2,000 words a day, then sure you can give yourself a reasonable 3-4 month goal on a novel. However, if you write everyday, but can only do 500 words or less, it's going to take longer. If you have school, a full time job, a family, sports, or any other activities, it's going to take time so you must be adamant about giving yourself a reasonable time span to write your novel. Most writers should give themselves 6 Months to a year to write their complete first draft. If you're taking longer than that, it's okay. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you cannot write because of things going on in your life. These things can include, but not limited to:

1. A Major Move: An out of state move can be stressful for you and the family. Once you're settled, head back the writing desk and pick up where you left off.

2. Illness: If you're physically unable, get well soon. When you're better, start up again.

3. Death In The Family: When you're mourning a loss it's difficult to do anything enjoyable. When you're ready, head back to the desk.

4. Stress At Home or At Work: Stress can prevent anyone from doing something they love. Stress inhibits all things and it's understandable that writing is the last thing on your mind.

5. Too Much Responsibilty: If you've got a family and two jobs, mortgage, car insurance, bills, bills, bills. That can bog you down. Once you've been able to get things done, come back to the desk. Too much responsibility happens a lot to single parents and even parents who have a husband and a nice house. The family is more important, take care of them first.


Goal Setting

If you really want to write your novel in 6 months to a year, you must be very realistic about it. If you work full time or have other responsibilites, it's going to be difficult. Those who work outside of their writing tend to spend less time writing because of it. Writing is physically and mentally draining just like regular work. Combining the two can tire you a lot quicker and therefore cause you to slack just a bit. But that's OKAY, as long as you hop back on the train and quickly. The best way to get your book done in six months to a year is setting that as your your goal. When I say this I mean you need to phyiscally write down "I want to finish my book in 6 months to a year." It sounds silly, but it's best to do this because writing a goal down always helps it to come to fruition.


Simplifying The Goal

Okay, so saying that you want to finish your book in 6 months to a year is really broad and it kinda makes it hard to follow since you might not write every day. The best way to do is this analyse the desired length of your book. If you want to write 100,000 words in 6 months, then you'll have to figure out how many words per week or per day (whichever you prefer) you need to write in order to meet this goal. Let's use 100,000 words in six months. Does that sound hard? It kinda does, because that's A LOT of words. How about we break it up a bit?

100,000 Words/6 Months = 16,667 words per month. Still sound hard?

16,667 Words/30 Days = 555 words per day. Sound good?

If you want to know how many in a week, just multiply 555 X 7. That number is 3,887 Words per week.

Once you've broken this down, 555 words a day doesn't sound that bad. It's less than an essay you'd write at school!! Once you've hit your daily goal, you're golden. If you get behind, just try to catch up a little bit each day to reach that goal. As a writer you be true to your goals and reach them to the best of your ability.

Writing Schedule Example

8:00AM - 12:00PM
8:00AM - 12:00PM
2:00PM - 5:00PM
3:00PM - 5:00PM
4:00PM - 6:00PM
5:00PM - 8:00PM
5:00PM - 8:00PM
9:00PM - 11:00PM
This is my Writing Scedule. Yours can be similar. It doesn't have to be as detailed. You just need to be aware of when you're available to write. This is a 23 Hour A Week Schedule.

I Don't Know How Many Words My Book Will Be

That's understandable. When I wrote my first book, I wrote until I felt like the book was complete. I had no idea about word count or if it would really matter. My goal was simply to finish within a year and I reached that effortlessly by staying on top of things and writing on a consistent basis. Here's a good tip: If you want to be published, research required word counts and make your goals in reaction to that. I've read from some publishers they want a minimum of 80,000 words for a novel. These numbers vary between publishers, so you'll have to look it up. 80,000 words is bad, even easier than the 100,000 words.

Go above and beyond those minimums if you want as long as your book doesn't feel too long. Sometimes it's best to let your book come naturally, when you're finished, check the word count. If it's too low for publication, add a scene or two to your book. Sometimes this happens, it's frustrating, but it can happen. Once you know how many words you need, you'll be pretty savvy to how many words it'll take per day to finish your novel.

It's Taking Me More Than A Year To Complete My Novel

There are several reasons it is taking you a long time to complete your first draft. Sometimes you don't know what you're doing until it's too late. The Following is a list of things you can do to inhibit your progress and prolong the time it takes to write your book.

1. Editing and Writing Simultaneously: This is number one because most writers don't realize is that when you stop to edit things you have previously written, it halts the writing itself. The best way to solve this is to NOT edit your draft until you have finished writing it. You will finish a whole lot faster. After six months or a year you've forgotten what you wrote. This can come to your advantage.It allows you to forget what you've written and can help you pick up grammatical errors and typos a lot easier.

If you feel inclined to go back and change something in your plot or rearrange a scene, make a note of it, come back to it once you've finished your draft. Also consider that some scenes may be dropped in editing. There's no point in editing something that won't be there in the future.

2. Losing Interest: Sometimes a work is not so exhilirating and it's very difficult to write about it. If you have no passion or excitement for the work at the current time, put it down for a moment. I suggest thinking hard about whether you want to write the novel and examining your true intent on the work. If you find that you're just burnt out, take a break, come back when you're ready. Also consider that writing is hard work and it is draining. Perhaps you're losing interest because you're tired or cranky. Find something to excite you again, watch a good movie or read a book. When you feel revved up, come back to the laptop.

3. Procrastination: Don't leave your book unattended, it's like a baby. It needs constant nurturing and you must not put it off longer than you should. I know work was hard last night and you're exhausted, but if you know you have no other time to write but after work, WRITE. Always write when you have time. If you keep it off, you'll never finish within your goal time.

4. Saying Yes: Saying yes to activities with friends and family is okay most of the time, but if it begins to get in the way of your writing, say no. If you're truly dedicated to your writing, don't let your friends distract you from this. Yes they are your friends and they will be there once you've finished. If you find that they keep you away from your goals, tell them you'll be away for a while. Also it's good to have friends who adhere to your goals and are understanding of that. They will probably ask you "aren't you supposed to be writing?". Those are awesome friends! As writers, we must experience life to the fullest. That is how our characters get depth and it helps us unwind from the stiffness of the computer chair. Go out, have a good time, then get back to writing!

5. Misplacing Files and Hard Copies: Guess what? Your writing is important. I suggest every writer keep their files in order and their hard copies in safe place. If you lose your things, it'll be more work on your part. Not only will you have to go back and rewrite it, but also you'll scramble to get back to where you want to be. Keep your book files in a flash drive or online like Dropbox or Skydrive from MSN. Keep your hard copies in a safe place as well. If you lose your book information and files, you'll have the worst time trying to recap and remember what you wrote. It may or may not be as good the second or third time around.



In Conclusion

Set your goal, know your word count, understand when you can and cannot write. These are important things to know about writing in a timely matter. Be realistic about your goals and understand that no one can write faster than their life can allow it. If you work full time, give yourself a year. If you work part time or unemployed, six months is a great goal. These goals will vary from person to person as everyone writes at a different pace. I just finished a 114,000 word book in four months. However, I've written three before this one. Once you've written more books, the process won't be nearly as long. Also add a month or two to your goal for preliminary and final edits for your work. Take your time, work at a good pace and reach your goals if possible. Hope this was good advice. Send me a comment with your feedback, would love hearing from you. :)


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    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 4 years ago from Hampton, GA

      No problem!

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for a very useful hub! ;-)

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      No problem, Ian!! I'm so glad this article was useful to you!!


    • Ian Dabasori Hetr profile image

      Ian D Hetri 5 years ago from Papua New Guinea

      CN. This is a beautiful piece. I thought you wrote the article for me alone . lolz. Atleast thats what many writers seek to achive. making the reader feel as if the writer was talking to him.

      Im bookmarking it for reference reading. as a matter of fact, im working on my second book and this hub refreshes me up a bit. its really a very informative and useful hub.

      thanks for sharing.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      I'm so glad it helps you Mbn. Continuing a book that is remotely good is very scary. It's a fear of success and a fear of change... how will this change your life? Is it a change you want or don't want? What will come of it. It's the uncertainty that's scary. I can definitely relate to that feeling. Just start back up, take whatever advice that is useful to you and finish the book. You at least owe that to yourself. Thanks SO MUCH for the visit and comment. :)

    • Motherbynature profile image

      Motherbynature 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I started writing my first novel 2 years ago and stopped after a family crisis. This hub helps me in so many ways. When I think of continuing my book it actually scares me.

    • bethbrownauthor profile image

      bethbrownauthor 5 years ago

      Wow, lots of useful information for a writer wondering how long it SHOULD take or WILL take to write that first novel. I find that much of my time lately has been creating blogs, marketing my book, and so I haven't tended to my baby (wip, novella) and it's difficult. Yet, sometimes, taking a breather from it can be positive. You return, review and notice parts that don't sound just right. : )

    • samislam profile image

      Sam Islam 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Sounds good, CrazedNovelist! Your hubs are inspiring for false-start writers such as myself :). Keep up the great work!

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      You're very welcome and I invite you to question me further and seek my help, guidance, and opinions when writing your novel. I'm a pretty good coach when it comes to writing and I hope you become successful at completing that first novel. It'll be easier than you think, though. Don't rush yourself though, that first novel probably takes a year, but if you're really dedicated I'm sure you can do the 6 months or less. Just dive in!! :)

    • samislam profile image

      Sam Islam 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Extremely useful information! As someone who has started (but never finished) a handful of "first" novels, I can attest to the fast that it's definitely a time-consuming activity. The next time I give it a try, I'm going to use this hub as a reference point. Thanks for that!

    • profile image

      laurinzo scott 5 years ago

      Thanks CrazedNovelist , for the encouragement. I may just well take you up on that!

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Keep me posted on your progress and if you need anything, let me know! I'd love to also read some of it for you. I am always excited when a person has decided to write a novel. :)

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 5 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Great tips... something for me to consider , since I definitely wish to write one soon.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Thanks a lot Rahul!! :) I'm so glad this will help you in your endeavors. I figured this would definitely be an important topic for a lot of people. Writing a book is... difficult and time consuming to say the least. However, once you've reached that finished line, it's very rewarding.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Aubrey, this one is going to help me for sure...

      Very useful.. brilliantly written

      You are one heck of a writer :D

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      That's good to hear... like screenplays are a tad different, but they both do they same thing; They both tell a story. So you're doing good if you can get your screenplays done in 6 months or less. Excellent! Thanks for your comment!

    • PenHitsTheFan profile image

      Amy L. Tarr 5 years ago from Home

      I know novels aren't the same as a screenplay, but I've written screenplays in as little as three months to six months. Besides formatting, I'm assuming a novel probably takes about the same amount of time. The brainstorming process takes the longest, then I outline the scenes and the actual writing is pretty quick for me.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      :) Thanks a lot!! And you're welcome!

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 5 years ago from Norway

      Thanks CrazedNovelist for a interesting hub! Although I am not a novelist, this may be of some use when I sit to write my papers which may sometimes appear like a novel :)) voted up!

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Not a problem! Thanks for reading it! I appreciate the compliment and I hope it was useful to you.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great Hub with great tips. Thank you for sharing it.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      :) Thanks! I'm soo glad you were able to relate to it. I definitely did all of the above too when I wrote my second book... took me two years. :( No more of that!!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a useful, well-thought-out article. It took me much longer than a year to finish my novel, due to all of the above! Making a schedule and sticking to it, as well as possible, is really important for me. Voted up and across the board except funny.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      I don't mind at all!! Thanks so much for the support! :) Learning from other people is what this place is all about and I'm so glad you liked it and I hope it's helped you in some way.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Great hub, Crazed! I liked it so much, I shared with my followers. :) Hope you don't mind. :)

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Thanks a lot, man! Yeah I figure it's the best way to really log when I write. It also helps that you know when your mind is in the right place. My strongest mental energy is when I wake up, after work, and at time later at night. So my schedule takes place at those times. Though I have to meander around my full time schedule as a cashier. Thanks a lot for the follow, as well. Really appreciate the support! :)

    • bdom7711 profile image

      bdom7711 5 years ago

      Great tips. I've actually never considered making a 'writing schedule'; I've always just wrote when I felt like it! I'm looking forward to reading more from you.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      I really appreciate that. I was hoping that I was helping someone with the hubs and really excited that you've read my other hubs too! :) I've only been on here a few days. So far I love it! The community here is so supportive and thoughtful, a lot better than other places I've been on.

    • normskismith profile image

      normskismith 5 years ago

      This hub you wrote is similar to my way of thinking. We all have our different ways of articulating how we produce our craft. Yours is very clear, and you make it sound like writing the novel is easy, which it is once you have a plan, follow it and stay focussed. Love your other hubs too, they will be of help to me as well as the many who will visit you. Keep 'em coming. Bless

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Thanks so much!! :)

    • normskismith profile image

      normskismith 5 years ago

      Nice - very nice. You got talent - Looking forward to reading more


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