Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How long does it take to write a novel?

Asking how long it takes to write a novel is like asking how long it takes to have a bowel movement. The answer: until it’s done.

In search of something a bit more concrete, I googled the usual suspects.

Hemingway purportedly worked on a strict schedule that produced an average of 500 to 1,000 words a day. But he also consumed an average of nine Papa Dobles a day, so I’m not sure I can trust him.

Stephen King shoots for 2,000 words a day, which equates to about ten pages of a printed novel. When he’s working on a manuscript, he writes every day.

Dan Brown, of da Vinci Code fame, still starts his writing day at 4 a.m. He writes seven days a week. He keeps an hourglass on his desk and, on the hour, puts aside his draft to perform push-ups, sit-ups, and stretches. But he seems like an asshole.

The process may vary, but the common theme is you must have a daily word quota and a deadline. I think 2,000 words a day is reasonable. So when I start my draft, my goal will be 12,000 words a week, with a minimum of 2,000 a day on the days I write.

That should put me ahead of my goal to complete a 120,000-word draft by August 27th. This draft will be ferociously bad. But that’s okay. It will tell me what the story is about. The real time, I’ve learned, is spent in the rewriting and editing process. Anyone can write 120,000 words. The tough part is making them good.


  1. The bowel movement reference really captured what you needed to say. and, it made me laugh.

  2. Well Crawford, you caught my attention. Not that you were trying, but in my small mind you were thinking about me when you talked about BMs....I'm in and looking forward to the updates.


  3. It takes me 2 minutes and 35 seconds to have a bowel movement. I am precise with my bowel movements. No time waster here!