So you made the mistake of telling someone that you’re writing a novel, and now you feel a sense of urgency to get the book finished. But why do this to yourself? How long has it been since you first started charting your course? Six months? A year? Two years? Maybe you have even written quite a bit, but you know that it’s a long way from perfection. So what do you do – rush it, just to get it done? The answer should, of course, be no – not if you are passionate about what you are writing and want it to be something that makes you proud.
After all, there’s a lot of precedent from successful novelists, and comparing the time frames of their writing to your own could do you a lot of good to help relieve that pressure you imposed upon yourself.
Living Life is Giving Yourself Time to Think
Many people have said it before, but a novelist who is passionate about writing their book is likely working on their book a lot more often than the time spent actually writing words on a page. If you have found yourself thinking about your story or the world you’re developing as you’re taking a shower or going for a walk, that thinking is an integral part of the writing process. You should give yourself plenty of time and opportunities to do a lot of thinking about it. What’s the rush, anyway?
Sometimes, just living life is enough to help you figure out a breakthrough in your writing. After all, you write what you know, and if you stay in one place all the time and never go out and live your life, you’re seriously missing out on untold sources of inspiration that could be vital to your finished work.
Singer-songwriter Tom Waits was so dedicated to his beatnik/hobo persona that he would opt to live in squalor in order to stay true to an ideal. If he was to write songs that sound like they come from the dregs of society, he would subject himself to the life they lived.
He knew that his songs would be more authentic if they came from someone inside that world, so he would intentionally cancel reservations to better hotels on his tours so that he could stay in cheap motels where life was harder and people were at their lowest. Even after he was successful, he opted to live in a small apartment in a bad part of town rather than purchase something nicer because he could afford it. All for the sake of his art.
It’s not recommended to subject yourself to such extreme conditions for the sake of your writing, but it just goes to show that if you’re willing to give yourself the opportunity to break out of your little world, as Tom Waits put it, then you may find truths about life that you can include in your novel in some meaningful way.
Examples to Live By
If you want some concrete examples of authors who spent a long time writing their novel, then here are some examples to live by to assure you that it’s okay to take as long as you need.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling – SIX YEARS
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein – SIXTEEN YEARS
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – TWELVE YEARS
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – TWO AND A HALF YEARS
- Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – TEN YEARS
- A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – FIVE YEARS
Some authors are able to write their book in a much shorter time frame, but it’s not a race. It’s a journey, and you get to decide how long that journey will be. The correct answer is as long as it takes to write your best work.