How Long Does It Take to Write a Romance Novel? (Revisited)

September 26, 2012

People are very curious about the length of time I spend writing a story. How many words? How long does it take to write something like that? Do you write eight hours a day? Do you write on weekends? In fact, “how long does it take to write a romance novel” is one of the top search terms that bring people to this blog.

It still surprises me, because after years of writing, I can’t give an easy answer to this question, and I’m amazed that people think there’s some schedule-of-events that if followed will produce a work of art. It is art, people. It’s creation. (I’ve never attempted to write a novel other than a romance novel, so I don’t know…but I imagine these questions are universal across genres.)

I’m 5,000 words away from finishing my second rewrite of a manuscript. When I say rewrite, I mean changing 99.9 percent of the words. Basically, I keep the characters, keep a couple concepts and write a brand new story. With this manuscript, I’ve don’t it twice.

Now, I know not every writer does this. Some write the first draft, set it aside, reread, make a few changes, pass it off to beta readers, make changes again, and then the manuscript heads out on submission. If it’s rejected, the writer tosses it under the bed and never skipping a beat continues with whatever new project has caught her eye.

Yeah, that’s not me. I’m a hopeless optimist. I see value in everything. I want to take another crack at it, change this scene, delete that. And while I’m aware that this mentality slows my writing progress, I’m loath to try it any other way for fear of giving up too soon.
So when you ask me how long it takes to write a romance novel, do you want the sanitized answer or the truth? Sanitized: I can write a first draft in three months—easy. Truth: I’ve been working on this current manuscript off-and-on for over a year.

See? No easy answer.

Regardless of what you write, how long does it take you to write the first draft? How long does it take you to prepare a manuscript for submission?



2 Responses to “How Long Does It Take to Write a Romance Novel? (Revisited)”

  1. Hi Elley,

    I have one ms like that. I’ve picked it up goodness only knows how many times, and I really need to get it written because readers are waiting for it.

    But that one is the exception. How quickly it takes me to write depends on many things. I can and have written a 17 K Novella over three days. Within a week it was subbed and accepted. It basically wrote itself. I’m a panster, so when my characters speak, I listen. In fact, I don’t get a choice in the matter, lol.

    I have also written a 60 K novel in three weeks. The first draft anyway. The polishing etc took much longer.

    I set myself a 1 k a day wordcount goal when I am actively working on a story. I will usually exceed that by far, but on the days I don’t, I then don’t feel as though I failed.

    So, after all that waffling, it depends on the story, for me. Some I write really quickly, others take longer. 🙂

    • Hi Doris!

      I agree that individual projects can alter my writing speed. I also agree that some stories write themselves. I sure wish more did. I love when that happens. It makes me feel like the words pass through me instead of come from me. 🙂


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