How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel

Maybe you're planning to write a novel or maybe you're a novelist who has never done the math, and you're wondering how long it actually takes. I wondered the same thing and decided to find out (with the help of the WordTracker app). Here's the breakdown:
Plotting: 1.6 hours
  • I use a collection of plotting worksheets I've borrowed from others and some I've created myself. I don't do extensive outlines, so your time may vary here depending on how much detail you devote to it.
Writing 1st Draft: 41 hours
  • This time reflects a 63,000 words manuscript.
Editing: 39.6 hours
  • This included three rounds of edits.
Total: 82.2 hours
Of course, this isn't the final number. Your number may be completely different depending on a variety of factors. And this doesn't include professional edits, which will likely take an additional 40 +/- hours, bringing you to a grand total of approximately 122.2 hours. I haven't received professional edits yet, but this number should give you an idea about how long you should expect to write a novel and edit it.
It doesn't sound so bad, right? Wrong. Theoretically you could write a book in a little over two weeks if you wrote eight hours a day, but rarely is that possible. Most of us don't have that luxury with family, work, and other obligations. And writing is hard. It's difficult for me to write more than three or four hours at a time. It's exhausting. It feels like I've run a marathon after a good session. It's a good kind of exhaustion, like I've really done something, but it's tiring nonetheless.
It's like Hemingway always said: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a [computer] and bleed." 


Dale Day said...

Oh Lord but I wish it took so little time.

Maybe that works for you, but I estimate the time to be hundreds of hours more than you've listed. If you are going to do it right, consider the hundreds of hours you should spend on research to ensure you aren't sticking your foot in your mouth.

Vanessa Eccles said...

I did not include research because depending on the topic it could vary significantly. This is simply an estimation, of course.

Christy Shuler said...

Wow! I wish my first novel would've taken that long! Because of several rewrites it took me about four years to complete, though I don't have an estimate on the number of hours. I'm working on my second and hopefully with the right amount of organization it can go much quicker!

I agree with you. Writing is exhausting, but a good kind of exhausting. When I sit down and pour my heart out it drains the energy right out of me and I find myself needing a break after a couple of hours.

Vanessa Eccles said...

My first novel took me years to complete too. I'm better now at putting myself on deadline to complete first drafts. You're right about organization making it go smoother. Good luck with your second novel, and thanks for commenting. :) Happy writing!