Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Pained Artiste...

I had a conversation with my friend last night about how long it takes her to write a novel. She's pretty fast at it. I'm pretty slow. At least I think I'm slow. In actuality, looking at what I've accomplished in the last few years, I think I write at a good pace considering I have a kid hanging on me all day.

My friend brought up a good point, though, about how some people take forever to write books and she gets a annoyed sometimes that these people think because it takes them forever and that it's a painful process that the book is some sort of artistic masterpiece.

I can understand that. I've fallen into that trap myself before as I huddle over my keyboard for the 18th month in a row still slaving away over the same novel. In the back of my mind I'm thinking, This is going to be freaking awesome!!! Because, you know, it's taking me FOREVER....

It's a consolation. Right?

Of course I know this just isn't true, especially if it's a first novel, which tend to take longer. Sadly, I have one novel I'd like to publish that I've literally had hanging around for 16 years. That's scary, isn't it? I haven't worked on it for 16 years straight, but I have worked on it for a lot of years. YEARS. It will be a masterpiece!!! *shakes fist in the air*

Yeah. Personally, I think everyone just writes differently and 3 years for one person might be like 6 months for another person - with them producing similar quality results. Sure doesn't seem fair, though!

What do you think about this? Because I honestly think it just takes me a long time because for a long time I had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I wonder if even know what I'm doing now!

Also, one of our readers, Erica M. Smith, emailed me about a blogfest she's holding. Check it out, especially if that novel you've worked on forever needs a beta reader!

Click Here

Includes Giveaways! (Beta readers! Not the fish!)


And I have some BIG NEWS over at my personal blog. Check it out here.


  1. Haha! You should read Emile Zola's L'Oeuvre (which is usually called The Masterpiece in English translations). It's about a painter who sacrifices his entire life to this one big painting that's supposed to be his work of genius. It ends badly.

    I don't know what I'm doing either, but I tend to work quickly. I don't know if that affects the quality of the work or not. In the end it's the writing that counts, not the amount of time it took. And writers who make a living out of their books seem to churn them out at pretty short intervals. After all, how else are you actually going to make a living?

  2. We all write differently . . . and at our own pace. I've been known to knock out a rough draft, 60,000 words, in under two weeks. I've been known to knock out a rough draft, 50,000 words in . . . two months. Then, I have to add in the distance between draft phases, the editing phases, and so on and so on.

    The time it takes you to write a novel to completion, i.e., no more changes, absolutely certain you're ready to publish, is all dependent on you.

    As for fair . . . well, life isn't fair, and we can only do what we can do. We work at our own pace and dance to the tune of our own drummers because . . . we're individuals. : )


  3. Writing pace is definitely different for everyone.

    I've been working with a hard core editor since I was thirteen, and the process has been painful enough and helpful enough that what I first write rarely doesn't necessarily require as many revisions and edits as what other authors' work might.

    That's not better. It's just a short-cut that saves time.

    Because that's how it usually goes for me, the more time it takes, the more insecure I usually am. Ennui and Malaise (on hold now) is at about 30K words that were written over about three weeks and will probably undergo very little major revision. It's going quickly.

    Sublimation, as you know, I've been grinding on for a year and it's at 51K. It's going more quickly now, but it's taken what feels to me like forever to get here. It's already gone through a ton of overhauls, and I know there are at least a few somewhat time-intensive revisions that will need to happen when I finish.

    I'm way more comfortable about Ennui and Malaise than I am about Sublimation.

    So, yeah. I think writing speed varies between authors and between works for each other. I also think what that difference means varies, and more importantly what the authors think it means varies widely.

  4. Thanks for linking to my blogfest!

  5. You know about my timelines, Michelle. With my short stories some work pretty well after one sitting. Others take months or years. My novel has taken years and my novella also took years, although that one had plenty of time breaks built into it, so it seems fast to me. I'm starting to think that the worse initial ideas take the most work to "fix" and that's why they take so long. So, you start further back and it takes longer just to get it up to a working state.

  6. I agree that pace varies from writer to writer.

    One other factor with my first (and second!) novels, was that I was learning the craft so it would appear to be done, then a re-read would reveal all I'd learned and back I'd go for another round.

    Unfortunately, I can imagine that lasting indefinitely.

  7. It's tough to put a time frame to it, especially when you are unpublished and balancing writing with a day job and parenting (and whatever other life events may get in your way).

    I came to the realization this year that I write a lot less in the summer. Not that I don't want to, but my responsibilities as a parent change. Once the weather turns and chases us inside, and the evenings come sooner, I'll spend more time with my laptop.

    And congrats on your big news!

  8. 1. Michelle's Big News is really Big and really Cool!

    2. My first novel took about 5 years to write. I spent about 3 years on my second novel. I wrote a first draft of my third novel in five months. I wrote a first draft of novel #4 in seven months, and I should have revisions finished in two weeks. So I'm getting faster at writing, apparently.

    But of course:

    Novel #3 is a loose version of Novel #1, and I spent a month doing nothing but outlining before I sat down to write.

    Novel #4 is a loose version of Novel #2, and I spent several months doing nothing but outlining before I sat down to write.

    When I write Novel #5, I will already have been thinking about the story--outlining in my head--for over a year before I sit down to write.

    So I don't really know how long it takes me to write a book. I don't think there's any correlation between time spent and quality of the work, frankly. And of course I envy everyone's success, no matter how hard or easy it was for them.

  9. Congratulations on your big news, Michelle!! :D

    And here is how I think about the grueling process of writing:

    1. How long a novel takes from start to finish is not the same as how much time you spent on it. If your days were filled with other things, like parenting or fun or travel or work or whatever, it will take you a lot longer to log 100 hours than someone who writes full-time.

    2. The amount of effort put into a novel might not directly relate to how good it is, BUT it does directly relate to how much you learned. I think of brain exercise like physical exercise--the harder it is for you to do, the better it is for you. The more effort it takes, the more mental muscle you are building. The project you're working on at the time might not be a work of genius, but the effort involved will make you a better writer in the long run. Challenging ourselves is always worthwhile, regardless of the primary end product.

    My husband has a friend who says, "Everything is worth the effort." He's a very Zen guy who has lived quite a full and interesting life--without seeming to have accomplished a whole lot so far. But I love his philosophy. He might not have a bunch of accolades under his belt or material rewards to put on the trophy shelf, but he's one of the most interesting and fulfilled people you could ever meet. Sometimes, the biggest beneficiary of effort is yourself, if not your project.

  10. I've totally missed commenting over here! Sorry, guys! I love your comments, so thank you for stopping by! I personally feel that it depends on a person's lifestyle how long it takes them to write. I have a child who is quite intense. I have lots of other obligations, too, and I don't have as much time to do all the nice quiet writing I'd like to do. Or reading. I don't feel that a certain time-period makes my writing good or bad. I wrote Cinders extremely fast and it's one of the best things I've ever written, in my opinion.

  11. Great post!

    My mouth hangs open when my mom tells me that she wrote her fisrt novel in six... months.

    Seriously how did she do it? While at work? With two demanding children? (I was six.)

    Sigh... anyway, I think my book is great (or will be) because it's a great idea that it works on. I've never thought about the fact that this is my second year writing it as a guarantee for quality.

    Strange, because now that you mentioned it, it seems like a kind of leap I would have made.


  12. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a writer friend of mine. She's been working on her latest book for five years. She has other books that have been published, but she's hit a snag. Anyway she told me she's going to make this next book perfect. And you know what I did? I laughed and told her there's not such thing. Heartless, I know, but it's true. Just when you think the book is perfect, guess what? Your editor will show you just how wrong you are. And then the copy-editor will do the same thing and when your book is finally released there's a slug of reviewers who will tell you exactly what they think, too.

    Writing the perfect book...well, you be the judge. =]

  13. Having never written a novel, I have no idea!

    My writing seems to run out in only a few paragraphs, I can't plump it up.

  14. Don't worry. We all write at different paces. It's taken me almost 2 years, and I'm still not finished!

    When it's ready to come out, it will.


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