Timelines For Writing

More than once I have seen authors talking about what their timeframe for writing their novel should be, and some people have struggled with not quite understanding how long the writing, editing, and publishing process can take. I think NaNoWriMo has something to do with this.

I have a close friend, Randall ‘jay’ Andrews, who runs a writing boot camp where you go from idea to novel in three months including editing time. Now, during that boot camp you write 1,000 words a day every day without exception other than weekends. It is an intensive course, and I will admit that I struggled to keep up with it because I had other things in my life I had to focus on (clients, books I was preparing for publishing, etc.). It is, however, about the shortest length of time I’ve ever seen to have a book from idea to polished form. Mr. Andrews has also been in the writing business over 40 years and writes 1,000 words a day every day without fail. I’ve seen him do it from a hospital bed where he had to fight with the doctors and nurses to let him have his laptop long enough to do it.

Most of us are not Mr. Andrews.

The manuscript I have been working on since NaNoWriMo 2014 is in the final stages of self-editing. Granted, I have a lot more writing to do than most people since it’s my vocation, so my personal projects often languish. But I am about a year-and-a-half into this manuscript, and it is still needing some polish before I send it out to my publisher. I did write 50,000 words of it during NaNoWriMo, but the novel demanded several rewrites before it finished, and I am going through it again because I stumbled my way through world creation and needed to fix continuity errors.

And I do this for a living.

There are writers out there who can hammer out a manuscript in a month. I’ve seen Mr. Andrews write 50,000 words in an evening on his birthday for several years straight. It’s impressive to watch. However, I cannot even begin to pretend to have that level of skill. Of course, I have five years, professionally, to his forty.

Manuscripts take time to write, and rushing through that process at breakneck speed will, for most of us, damage the integrity of the work. The 50,000 words I wrote during NaNoWriMo ended up being reworked so much I almost might as well not have written them. I don’t regret the experience, and I still reserve November as my personal writing month because I desperately need the retreat, but it didn’t produce a workable novel for me.

Whether it takes a month or five months or ten months or a year or two years, so long as you are making forward progress there is no “right” timeline. After all, how long did Harper Lee (RIP) wait between books? Just make forward progress on your novel and work on it and give yourself patience.

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