The Writing Life

How long does it take to write a novel?

I get asked this question a lot. If it takes only half a day to write a 1,000 word blog, then should it not take just 40 days to write a book?

The answer is that it’s almost right. I started planning Overboard in 2018, just after Heart of Glass was launched in June. I spent the entire summer planning by hand and drawing diagrams using visual and architectural ideas brainstorming techniques. I need structure badly and I can’t proceed without it.

I know it sounds so incredible now, but writing the first draft only took about 2 months (from October to December). I don’t work well on a methodical daily word count routine. I am too distracted by work and family life. What I do is commit 2 months and lock myself up like a prisoner on a project deadline. I just pause to eat and sleep and see the children. No cleaning, eating out, shows, restaurants, pubs or even reading. Instead I read books for “fun” during lunch or dinner or at bedtime and do not associate reading with the writing that I am doing so that I can have a clean disconnected treatment of my own novel. The rewrites took almost a year as the structure had to move around quite a bit, followed by two more final rounds by editors.

The irony is that the Kindle tells me it will take 5.5 hours for me to read Overboard. How long did it take me to write it has no bearing on the reading. The harder the write, the easier the read.

The next novel will be quicker to rewrite. I will still have to spend the two months but the editing rounds will be cut short as my planning is getting better and better such that my first draft will be a clean and nearly perfect manuscript by the time it goes to editors. My next novel is the prequel to Heart of Glass. The planning time will take up most of the pre-writing time because it involves some research into 1971 when the story begins.

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