How Long Did it Take For the “Greats” to Write a Novel?

Check out the diagram in this articleHow Long to Write Famous Books

Take a look at the shortest time (2.5 days for The Boy In The Striped Pajamas), and the longest time (16 years for Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings), and all those other books in between. Wow.  If you are a writer how long did it take you to publish your FIRST book?  Your MOST RECENT book?

Me? I worked on my women’s novel, “Sister Secrets” for at least four years two decades ago, but I never finished it. (The photo at left was going to be the cover, with the title in fancy white script.)  Now, many of the descriptions are out of date, so I will leave it firmly in the drawer to occasionally look at wistfully.

What about my collection of Middle Grade kids’ stories. It took me about a year to write all twelve, but putting them together in a single book? I tried. I sent in the first chapter to be critiqued…two times. The first one was semi-encouraging, but a month later the critique-editor retired!  (Sigh) It doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore.

They are email-letters from the kids of a fictional missionary family in Africa. They tell of adventures and misadventures, African friends found and lost, poisonous snakes and huge spiders, strange African cultural customs, and lessons learned.

I always tried to put in those lessons learned taken from truths in the Bible, like what happens when you disobey, lie, are prideful, hateful, or when you misunderstand cultural no-no’s etc. To write a collection, to connect them somehow, well, there are lots of explanations that I would need to add. Would that spoil them?

A second critique of the first chapter/story by a well-know children’s writer at a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) one-day event sort of slammed me.  “Hey, either write kids’ adventures, or Sunday School lessons. Not both!”  Why not? I asked silently. Why can’t I do both?  So those stories are also languishing on my computer. They did serve their initial purpose of informing and entertaining kids at home about a family who DID go to Africa. The kids here missed their friends, and reading the stories from fictional characters (based on the real family) helped them to understand.

Last year, I did the NANOWRIMO thing again (typing out 50,000 words on a novel) about a new kids’ mystery, “The Bible Thief.” But I didn’t finish it. Wanna hear why?  Because when I was two-thirds of the way through, my computer crashed and I lost most of the story. I had to buy a new PC and they couldn’t recover the story.

I gave up. Plain and simple, I gave up.

Moral of the story? I may not have what it takes to publish a novel. There is some stick-to-itiveness that I don’t think I have. I like to tell stories and get them out, but when faced with roadblocks, I simply turn around and head back to my den.

I loved telling stories for my granddaughters as they were growing up. I wrote them in letters from the character I chose for each child. The longest one – to the oldest girl – lasted from a nine-year-old riding her bike to a 15-year-old, young lady almost driving. The stories covered fun things, and scary things, and serious things, like a friend running away from home because of abuse. I also wrote and Kinko-published two mysteries for two of the girls. I had them bound and they loved them.

A couple years ago I wrote a short story about a special painting titled “Autumn Gold.”  I submitted it and actually got Honorable Mention!  Wow. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it:  Autumn Gold    And if you are interested here are two more short stories I wrote:  Abe’s Lady  and Jump!   Oh, and The Crow.

So I have a writing history.  I have ideas.  I write out short things, articles, book reviews. But a book? I fear that’s not going to happen for me. I guess my journalist writing style (quick and get it published) is what I’m left with.  I don’t have the long-haul patience of my writer friends, OR of these “Greats” who took from 2.5 days to 16 years to write their masterpieces.

How about you?  Are you a writer? Have you written a book? Have you published it, either by yourself or with an agency?  What are YOUR secrets of stick-to-itiveness?

And… lastly, how can I encourage you in your writing?

2 thoughts on “How Long Did it Take For the “Greats” to Write a Novel?

  1. Great blog post. It’s interesting to see other authors’ journeys. I congratulate you on all your posts! My first 3 novels took an average of 5 years each to write and self-publish. I’ve been struggling with the 4th one for 10 years now.

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