This is a question that most writers are asked, and unsurprisingly, the answers vary considerably. What might take one writer two weeks to write might be completed in just a few hours by another. Asking how long it takes to write a novel is like asking a painter how long it takes to finish a canvas—it’s different for everyone. Typing speed, creativity, research, editing speed and the length of the novel itself will all play a part.
What most people don’t realize is that writing the novel isn’t really what takes so much time. I could sit down and hammer out 80,000 words in just a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean the work would be good (or even satisfactory). It takes a long time to write a novel because you have to work out those little details like character development and plot progression, not to mention coming up with everything that happens to carry your main character to the climax.
But on average, how long does it take to write a novel? For many writers, first drafts are finished just two or three months after the novel begins to take shape in their minds. For others, a single novel might be a five-year labor of love. There really isn’t an average amount of time, especially since some novelists will take a year to write one, then finish the next within three months. Some writers have been quoted as saying that novels become easier to write as you progress; while your first novel might take two years to write, your fifteenth might only take a few weeks.
If you’re worried about how long it takes to write a novel, your best bet is to look at the situation objectively. Most writers give themselves a quote each day (or each week) to keep them motivated. Some require themselves to write for a certain number of hours, while others prefer to restrict themselves to word counts. If you plan a 20-chapter book, for example, and decide to write a chapter a week, you would have a fully-written manuscript in just 20 weeks (about 4.5 months).
Novelists such as Dean Koontz caution writers against forcing yourself to write a minimum word count each day. In order to make writing a novel easier on yourself, you might begin padding your sentences with unnecessary words just to get your writing time out of the way. It is also important not to push yourself to write for too many hours each day because you’ll burn yourself out.
You also have to realize that how long it takes to write a novel isn’t always within your realm of control. If you publish your first couple of knowledge successfully, you’ll likely be offered book deals by your publisher. For example, your publisher might give you a contract for four books, and will probably give you a deadline by which you must complete them. When you are given time constraints, you don’t have the luxury of setting your own limits; they are already set for you by the Powers That Be.
Writing a novel doesn’t have to be a painfully rushed period of your life during which you force yourself to write constantly. Rather than worrying about how long it takes to write a novel, concentrate on writing the best manuscript within your ability to create.