by Alissa Lukara
With all the emphasis in our world on writing books fast, writers — myself included — can feel bad, guilty if they can’t or don’t complete a book in three months, one year or five years. As if writers don’t already have enough to feel challenged about in writing or publishing a book in this market that is changing with lightning speed.
Then, consider those writers and experts who have taken the courses that tell them they can write a book in a weekend or two weeks or two months. Maybe they caught the wave and did ride the high of writing fast. Maybe they even completed part or all of a rough draft.
“Rough” is the operative word here (and yes, most writers’ first drafts are rough).
Then, boom. Stalemate. The writer is on one side of the room. That rough draft on the other. And it sits there staring the writer down for months, years, even, because that individual does not know how to rewrite and complete the book.
They may not recognize that a rough draft downloaded in a few weeks or months for many writers, if not most, will take a year or two or more to expand, rewrite, finish.
Even Nanowrimo, the write a novel in the month of November non-profit, does not expect you to have a polished masterpiece by November 30. You participate in the spirit of fun, of letting go and seeing what you can do when you write with discipline and abandon. Then, you can take the draft and rework or toss it.
In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says, “It takes years to write a book—between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant. . . . Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a serious book in a year.”
She herself an exquisite writer and accomplished author averages one book every three years.
And yes, there are those exceptions. Great writing, meaningful writing can happen in a short time.
Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman in six weeks. Interestingly, I could not find how long his other plays took to write.
The first Harry Potter book took J. K. Rowling more than six years to write. She completed the series in 17.
Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom, took 9 years to write.
Isabel Allende writes approximately one book per year – working 8 to 14 hours a day. But research for a book can add years to her process.
Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Secret Life of Bees in 3 years.
Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help in 5 years (and had 60 rejections over 3 ½ years).
The mega-bestseller mass market author, Danielle Steele, works on several books a year, up to five at one time. She might be researching one, outlining writing and revising others. Even she says, one book takes her about 2½ years to complete.
I researched and wrote my first nonfiction book for a major publisher, in 8 weeks, working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. But the book already had a carefully planned structure and book proposal, and a tight deadline because of time-sensitive subject matter, Then, I had to recover from physical and creative burn out for 3 months before I could start writing anything new.
My memoir took 5 years of writing, mostly part time, over a span of 8 years. Today, I am 5 years into writing a novel, again writing it part-time, and after taking 2 years off to promote the memoir. Throughout that time, I also worked as a professional writer, editor and writing coach, president of a nonprofit website, speaker and facilitate online and in person writing workshops.
Do I wish writing the book was going faster? Yep. I cannot lie. But I also am not down on myself that it is not (at least most days) and know I will persist.
What about you? What book are you called to write that no one else could write? What book would be meaningful to one other human being? Or, what book would entertain a reader? Or, what book would heal you? Write the book no one else can write but you. Write it whether the process takes you two weeks or 10 years.
I would love to hear what you think. How long have you been working on your book? Do you have a disciplined writing practice or do you wait for the muse? How do you persist? Do you have an incomplete manuscript you are avoiding? How long have your favorite authors books taken to write? Please leave your comments below.
Are you ready to write your book — no matter how long it takes? Alissa Lukara, the author of the memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports writers to write and complete their books in her online writing workshop, Writing Books that Transform Lives. Find out about the next session that begins June 4th. Early registration ends Thursday, May 31. Meanwhile, find out how writing can change your life by registering here for the free eCourse, Complete Your Book — Transform Your Life: 7 Key Steps on the Writer’s Journey. Registering for it automatically subscribes you to Transformational Writers updates.