Do you ever get asked how long it takes to write a novel?
It’s a pretty common question, but if you’re anything like me, the answer can be tricky.
Writing is about more than bum on seat time
I just delivered my third manuscript in the City Love series, which is going to be Scarlett’s story. The first draft took me 3 months. It’s the quickest I’ve ever completed a first draft. I managed 65,000 words in 8 weeks at one point, which for me, is fast. I don’t write full-time and do it around part-time work and looking after my son so I was pretty pleased with that.
But then you need to add on editing time, as well as a period for your beta-readers. There’s lots of stopping as starting after the first draft stage, which can feel very unproductive but it’s necessary to the process.
Don’t forget the daydreaming phase
Writing is about so much more than the actual writing though. There’s the daydreaming phase (as I call it), which is that embryonic stage of a novel’s development that is focused on imagining your story ideas to life.
How long does that take?
Um, how long is a piece of string?
Daydreaming development is essential to every novel
That early stage can look different for every writer, and indeed, every novel.
The first book in my City Love series, The Boyfriend Sessions, started based on a lightning bolt moment where a woman flees a romantic proposal in Paris and is then forced by her friends to systematically assess her relationship history. Everything with this book just came to me, easily and fluidly.
The third book in the series which I’ve just delivered to Momentum wasn’t quite so straightforward. The lead character, Scarlett, is a tricky (beautiful) beast, and I would estimate I went through a good six months of daydreaming before I put pen to paper. Then WHAM! It was done within 3 months.
Every writer needs time to daydream
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that daydreaming is an essential part of the writing process. You need thinking time. That period to experiment with ideas and to get to know your characters before you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard).
I think sometimes as writers we forget this. We’re so focused on the word count and getting things done, we forget about the importance of letting ideas gestate.
I’m currently working on the fourth novel in the City Love series. It’s about a woman called Cate. Compared to Scarlett she’s sugar and spice and everything nice. Making the adjustment between the two women has been work enough, but then stupidly, I thought that after penning Scarlett’s story in 3 months I could just sit down and do the same with Cate.
I got 20,000 words down (good words) but then I stalled. Fortunately I’ve learned to ride the frustration and go with it. The final edits for the The Pitch, due for release May 28, came through about then too, and that was actually the break I needed.
Switching to editing mode gave me a break from writing mode, and as those few weeks went by, I started to daydream about Cate’s story. As that happened, things became clearer.
Now I’m almost ready to start writing again. Almost.
I think I might indulge in another daydream or two first . . .
How about you? Do you need dedicated daydreaming time to make your writing happen?