How long does it take to write a novel?

Among the (online) writing communities that I frequent I see this question asked time and again. New writers wonder just how long does it take to write a full novel? What even qualifies as a novel?

Industry standard generally dictates that a novel must be 50,000 words or more, but the issue of timing is quite a bit more complicated than a simple word count.

My first novel, a 105,000-word historical fiction which is out in the publishing world right now, searching for a literary agent, took me SEVEN years. Woah. I know that seems like a lot and it absolutely is but that was then and this now. That seven years included year long sabbaticals from writing while I focused on toddlers and a new career, hundreds of hours of rereading and editing, time waiting on feedback from critique partners and beta readers, and more editing.

My next foray into novel writing began in November 2022 with NaNoWriMo which is a program designed to help motivate writers to complete 50,000 words in a single month. With this lofty goal and the knowledge of how long it took me to finish my first novel I went into NaNo carefully optimistic with no real expectation to finish. Surprisingly, I did complete my first draft of a currently unnamed novel in just over the 30 given days. I hammered out 60,000 words and expect through editing to add 20,000 more.

So feasibly can a novel be written in a month? Yes! Likely I could have written it much quicker than that had I not been writing within the time constraints that accompany a full time teaching job. But is it finished? No way. I intend to work on the completion of a first round of personal edits before seeking out a critique partner and that first step alone could take months. After that, critiques and a second round of edits will begin. Beta readers will be sought out to provide much broader feedback and a third round of edits will take place. At that point it is possible that I could begin querying literary agents.

So while simply writing a novel could take as little as 30 days, actually completing a work worthy of reader eyes will likely take me around a year and thats if I buckle down and do the darn thing.

In the mean time I will continue querying my historical fiction novel and refreshing my email a hundred times a day to manifest that next agent rejection. The querying trenches are tough but what is another day? Another day to write. Another day to dream. Another day to do the thing that I love.

Fellow writers: Just how long does it take you to complete a novel?

Published by ALNovelist

A mom, wife, educator, and fledgling author all rolled into one.

3 thoughts on “How long does it take to write a novel?

  1. This was very insightful. You did amazing expressing how challenging it can be but if you keep plucking away. You can accomplish anything as a writer. I find this inspirational. As I am knee deep in my first nonfiction novel about the American revolution. It’s encouraging because it’s taking much longer then I expected to get that first draft out but I am not holding myself to anything. Just keeping focused on writing and researching as I go and doing what I can. ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

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