It Should Take as Long as It Does…………….

20 Jun

When I do book signings I am asked the same series of questions over and over. Some questions are annoying, like “where do you get your ideas” (I pray to the Idea God and he shoves them up my bum whilst I sleep) and “wouldn’t you rather be a garbage man” (some days). Some questions are deep, like, “do you put a bit of yourself into all your characters” (yes but only the good parts – sly smile-) and “would you like your writing to change the world” (yes….I would like to write something that makes us all less of an a*% when we first wake up in the morning) There is one question though that makes me feel sorry for the people who ask it….especially if they claim to be writers (and almost all folks who come to book signings are), the question is, “how long should I take to write a book”….This questions garners that look from me…that look that I would give a squashed puppy on the roadway…the one that says, “awwwww….poor thing….”

If you have to ask the question (seriously) about how long it should take you to write your book, you simply don’t understand the art of telling a story. How long should it take? Really? Well how long would it take you to tell your whole story? Now before you all jump my oversized behind…let me clarify….you CAN ask how long should it take to edit. At the point of editing your story is done, told, complete-a-mundo! The editing process should have a timetable. But the writing….well the writing is art; it’s that thing that you have to do in your own time. You don’t rush a story because then it reads that way and if you are attempting to write “on schedule” well, your story will read like a list of things your characters did. You must TELL your story and that, my friends, takes time.

It took me a year to finish my first book, 7 months to finish the second one (it was a sequel) and 2 ½ years for the third. As I mention in a previous column, I’ve been working one one story for over 20 years…my point? Every story has its own timetable. Your story has to be told, not just written. To put an original work on a deadline…well…that’s just not right. One of the things I often hear from writers who are on book contract (i.e. has a contract with a publisher to complete so many books in so much time) is that they feel boxed in by the contract. It’s like being at the zoo…as long as the lion is behind the bars, you are fine, walking along…enjoying yourself. But let that lion out of the cage and it’s every man for himself….deadline your work and you might as well throw it to a lion….your sense of desperation is going to tear it up anyway.

So when you are planning for your next novel…put the clock in a drawer. Some things you just can’t deadline and telling a story is one of those things. This is not to say that you should take 20 years to write your next novel but….if that’s the time you need in which to tell your story as truthfully as possible, and then by all means take it. In the end, it’s not the time it took you to write it, it’s all about the quality….it’s all about how well you told your story, and that, my fellow writers, cannot be clocked.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on June 20, 2023 in Healthy Writers, Writing


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