When I tell people I’m a writer, most of them ask me one of two questions: “Where do you get your ideas?” Or “How long does it take to write a book?”
Since I had a new novel out this month, I thought I’d answer both of these questions.
I came up with the idea for my contemporary romance Damage Control in February 2014, while I was working on Departure from the Script, book 1 in the Hollywood Series. Michelle, the butch main character of Departure from the Script, expresses her admiration for Grace Durand, an actress who, according to Michelle, is “sizzling hot.” On the surface, it sounds as if Grace has it all: she’s rich, famous, and beautiful.
But fame in Hollywood is fleeting. I started wondering: what’s the worst thing that could happen to a world-famous actress like Grace? Her success is based on her ability to believably portray the girl-next-door characters in romantic comedies. What if something happened to threaten that? What if she got caught in a seemingly compromising situation with another woman? She would, of course, immediately hire a public-relations expert to convince the world that she’s straight. Which she is…until she falls in love with her new publicist.
That’s the core idea that I came up with in February 2014. I set out to do research, mostly on publicists in Hollywood and how they work. Since I had already written another book set in Hollywood, I didn’t have to do much additional research into movie making and the everyday lives of actresses. From February to December 2014, while I was working on other projects, I put in a total of 163 research hours.
During that time, the characters started to take on shape in my mind, so I sat down to put together biographies and character sketches for each of them. How did they grow up? What weaknesses do they have to overcome? And, of course, the most important question: What kind of ice cream would they prefer?
Once I had a good idea of who my main characters were, I outlined the novel, using the index cards in Scrivener, a software for writers. The great thing about it is that it allows for an organic development of the plot since you can always add, delete, and change scenes and rearrange their order. I prefer to know the major events and turning points of a story before I write it, but I also want to leave enough room for spontaneous ideas.
Plotting took me about ten hours during the last week of December.
I started writing the first draft of the novel on January 1, 2015. Until the beginning of March, I had written 141,000 words, which took me a total 376 hours. I wrote every day, aiming for a daily word count goal of at least 2,000 words.
When I typed the last sentence, what I had wasn’t really the first draft, though. I work with a great team of beta readers. Three of them read each chapter as soon as I wrote it, and then I immediately revised it according to their feedback. Then three more beta readers went over the complete novel, and I revised it again. So what I ended up with was more like a seventh draft, which went to the editor and then to the proofreader, who both went to work immediately.
Because of their quick (yet thorough) work, we were even able to publish Damage Control early, in April instead of June.
All in all, it took fourteen months from the moment I came up with the idea for Damage Control to its publication. I spent more than two of these months writing—and keep in mind that I write full-time. It would have taken me twice the time if I still worked in my old job.
Not counting promotion, I spent a total of 549 hours working on this novel.
I actually consider that pretty fast. I’m sure the next books, especially my historical romance, will take much longer to write. Each book is different, and that’s very much okay with me. It’s part of what makes being a writer so exciting.
So, to sum it up, the answers to the above-mentioned questions are: it depends.
Have a great rest of the week,
3 thoughts on “How long does it take to write a novel?”
This is a really interesting insight into a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks Jae
Interesting info, Jae, thanks. I think this is very quick cos you are working really focussed and 2000 words a day is good going! Glad you do though as I really enjoyed Damage Control. I’m thinking of exploring Scrivener…
Jae, thank you so much for giving us the background and insight into Damage Control. I always enjoy your blogs but especially the ones where you talk about your writing process and the hours you put into writing my favourite stories.