Monday, October 30, 2017

How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?

As NaNoWriMo prepares to launch again, the usual debate has begun over how long it 'should' take to write a 'real' novel. I will leave the definition of a 'real' novel to more intelligent minds, since many critics believe that genre novels aren't 'real' books, and I believe that many modern 'literary' novels are merely set in a 'literary' location (New York, the antebellum South, a war-torn country) and have an unhappy ending.
Let's agree that a novel is a story, and that it substantially longer than six words. How long does it take to write a novel?
It takes as much time as it needs to finish the story. Some authors can write several books each year, especially if their income depends on it. Stephen King regularly produces enormous books and include 100+ page novellas in his short story collections. Other authors take years to complete books, especially if life (or rehab) gets in the way. Then there's the unfinished "trunk novel" that was put away in a different decade because the writer realized that it was turning out to be a different story than the one she'd thought, and the ending hasn't come to her yet (no names, please).
Writing a story is a noble undertaking. You may never finish it, you may write like crap, you may use the word "really" fifty-two times in the first chapter, you may start off with a weather report and your more hip friends will tell you why that's 'wrong'. But you have begun something that is an extension of you in some way, yet has a life of its own.
You may think that 'inform' merely means to give data to someone else, but it can also mean to give principles or a defining quality to something else, whether it be something written or a way of living. You inform your story via who you are; that's why Travis McGee and Hercule Poirot are so very different. It's why Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't like A Wizard of Earthsea.
Stories also inform your own life. If you've been told you were "the good son" through childhood (a loaded phrase), you are unlikely to embezzle funds from the family business and take off for Cabo with your au pair. If you see yourself as a geek girl, you will join every fandom under the sun and sneer at reality TV. If you tell yourself you are a writer, you will write a tale - and if you tell yourself that you are a good writer, you will finish that story after November if it's not done, and you will review your manuscript to remove those repeated words.
Are you ready to go?