A few weeks ago when I was chatting with my agent, we realized it had taken nine months to get from concept to proposal for my fourth novel.
NINE MONTHS. LIKE THE TIME IT TAKES TO GROW AN ACTUAL HUMAN.
Granted, in that time, I had sold and packed-up a four-bedroom house and moved cross-country, all while parenting my adult children through some milestones in their lives. I was also in the final editing stages with my publisher for LEFT TO CHANCE, and if you somehow missed it, that novel will be published in November. I also moved into my very first apartment (at age 52) and hit reset on many things me.
It’s no wonder then, perhaps, that finding the story and the voice took longer than I ever could have imagined.
I did have the luxury of no contract (looking on the bright side) and no deadline. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and LEFT TO CHANCE both took me about a year to write, while THE GLASS WIVES took about three years. TGN and LTC were written under contract, and that lend a legal urgency to things. While I hope to be writing the rest of THE LAST BATHING BEAUTY under contract as well, I can rest easy knowing that the character and story development took shape in its own time, because it could. I now have about 60 pages of THE LAST BATHING BEAUTY and give myself about a year to write the rest, whether on deadline or not.
I have friends under contract who need much less time to write their novels, and who publish at a much quicker pace than me. I seem to be birthing a book every two years, and I suspect (hope) THE LAST BATHING BEAUTY will be out for summer 2019, keeping me on track with that. Some authors have a book or two a year. Romance authors write even more. I have friends who spend two to five years writing books, even under contract.
Writing a book takes as long as it takes.
Even under contract, the amount of time varies. Does writing a book in a year mean 40 hours per week (HA) with weekends off (what is this weekends off people speak of)? For me it might mean two days of 12 hours of writing and then no writing for three days. I have never counted hours and I don’t count words — I write the number of scenes I need in the time it takes to write them.
I know I’m fortunate. I don’t have a day job and I don’t have carpool or kiddos. I do have freelance work that figures in, and while it’s not pulling on my pant leg when I go to the bathroom and I can do it on a Sunday morning, it is still brain time away from my own book.
When I’m finished compiling more historical info for TLBB, I’m going to get back to writing. It’s the first time I have an idea of how much I need to write in a prescribed amount of time. 25 chapters by March, when I will show the finished book to my agent and she’ll give me awesome feedback (it’s what she does) and I’ll revise to have a polished draft by June. Which will mean that, from a strictly writing standpoint, it will have taken me about a year. Since this is the longest and most complex book I’ve undertaken, tacking two timelines, I’m gearing up for the challenge. And the fact that I’m approaching this novel differently, is going to make it a smoother process. Note: I did not say an easier process. I doing think anything about writing a novel is easy, but I do think that having incorporated many tenets from Story Genius (by Lisa Cron) I am encountering many fewer surprises in the motivation of my protagonist. This doesn’t mean I know exactly what she’ll do, but it does mean that I know WHY she is doing whatever it is she does. This is a switch for me. And I love it. (I also alway use Donald Maass books, and that hasn’t changed.)
How long does it take you to write a novel, writer pals? Is it faster or slower than you would have expected? Any tips besides DO NOT TURN ON THE TELEVISION? (I am quite easily distracted.)
Below is a sneak peek at some of my historical South Haven inspiration. I’ll be there in just 8 days!