IWSG – How long is too long?

InsecureWritersSupportGroupToday is the first Wednesday of the month. That means, it’s time for Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

Do you ever get discouraged because of “rules”? This one terrifies me the most:

β€œThe first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.” —Stephen King

I’ve been working on book 2 of the Niniers (Thanmir War’s sequel) for a while now. The first draft isn’t done yet. That quote hangs over me, whispering to me that my writing is crap because it isn’t finished yet. And now that I’m working on The Seven, it’s going to take me even longer.

Do you agree that more than 3 months is too long? Do you think time spent on a first draft impacts the quality? Do you have any rules that haunt you?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

32 thoughts on “IWSG – How long is too long?

  1. Three months?? Sorry, but that just made me laugh. I worked on the first draft of my first book for years, and my second book took that long, too, to reach the end. Granted, I was working on them part time around jobs and family. I don’t think there should be any time limit on first drafts or any drafts, for that matter. Everyone works at a different pace and around different obstacles to get to “The End.” With all due respect to Stephen King, there is no right or wrong amount of time. Whatever time you reach the end of your first draft will be the perfect time for it to be done.

  2. I had to chuckle, too. ‘Come Back’ took 2 1/2 years to write and polish. Writers get faster as they gain more experience and more confidence, but I don’t think one can put a time limit on it. You keep working on it until it is finished, no matter how long that takes.

    IWSG #179 until Alex culls the list again.

  3. Ok, I, too, burst out laughing when I read this, because my first drafts take YEARS. Maybe it should take only three months, but my guess is that’ll only ever happen if the following are true: 1) you write for a living and have no other job OR you are independently wealthy and have no other job; 2) you don’t have children, or if you do, they are out of the house or your spouse takes care of them and you only acknowledge their presence in the evening, once you’ve written your twenty pages for the day and have put them away and stretched and rested and had a nice drink; 3) you write according to a very clear formula and therefore have very little plotting work to do; and 4) you are a highly successful bestselling author.

    In other words, do NOT worry about it. Write faster if you can, and if you can’t, do the best you can. That’s all we can ever do πŸ™‚

  4. I think you meant too short, right? Well, maybe once I get more experience, time, etc, 3 months might be a possibility but not so much now.

  5. I pay no attention to anyone’s rules about writing. As far as I’m concerned whatever works is what I do, and if it takes a day great. A year, two, three okay.

  6. Well, I’m screwed!
    My second and third books took less than two months, but my first took almost a year. And my latest one was around four-five months. Ideally, that’s great, but we can’t all write that fast.

    • **snickers** love this reply. You go Ninja Captain!!!

  7. I personally think that’s nuts. Maybe it works for him, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If I tried to write my first draft in three months it would be horrible and would need a TON of work. I would rather spend a longer time on the first draft and have the other drafts go smoother with less fixes than spend twice as long on the second and third drafts.

  8. Three months are too long? LOL! Only if you’re Stephen King. For the rest of us, especially before we have a half dozen or so books under out belt, the correct time is “whatever it takes.” Some people edit somewhat during the first draft, preferring to fix logic holes when they come up, instead of waiting until after everything is written, and they’re allowed to take longer.

    • Great answer “Whatever it takes”

  9. Ha! Hahahahahaha. And ha again. My first draft took me 2 1/2 years! Everybody works at their own pace and everyone has other things in their lives that often have to come before writing. You just get it done when you can.

  10. I think a writer can take measures to make their process more efficient, and there is also a certain merit to getting lost in the moment and letting the words flow for the first draft. That being said, we all draft at different speeds. My ultimate goal is to be able to pull of a 80k draft in four months which will entail writing 1k a day five days a week. Considering my first novel is taking me around three years to bring through as many drafts, I have my work cut out for me. Also, I think about how I tend to work on two things at once which also impedes my overall progress. Besides, a lot of folks who whip drafts out left and right don’t go back and tweak them very much and it shows. We all find our own paths. Oh how well I know that, especially after teaching the writing process for years to students and now as an editor. As a writer, all of the “rules” don’t hold sway as I need to figure out how my process is unique and how it’s also similar to others.

  11. I write a slow first draft and go much quicker on the revision these days. So, I say how long it takes is now long it takes. Every writer has her/his own process. Don’t let someone else’s muck up yours. You’re good. You’ve got this.

  12. Emma Adams

    I think every writer has their own pace! My first novel took me 10 years, my second took a year, and my third took 7 months. Since then I’ve been fast drafting a book every 2-3 months, but that doesn’t take into account all the pre-planning – and revisions take much longer! It’s different for everyone. πŸ™‚

  13. I laughed, too. 3 months? If I ever wrote a novel in three months I’d look in the mirror and kiss myself. It took me two years to get my current novel together and the one before that took me one year. I think it depends on a number of things. Every novel is different. But I don’t think you should worry about it. As long as you get a novel done, no matter how long it takes, that’s what matters.

  14. Three months!? More like three years. First drafts me forever to write. Each new projects takes less time than the last, but they still take much longer than three months.

  15. LOL, you will notice that quote was by a least a 30 year veteran of writing successful books, as well as working with TV shows and movies. I think it can be done in three months, but I do not think it is the rule. I think every writer is different. Is it something we all wish we could do, oh yeah, but do we? I say the majority probably not. It is a goal to work toward, and a great one, if it is you only source of income. I think with time and many ms. behind me I might get there, but not yet.

    I am still working on my first draft. I have projected early 2015, but I am beginning to think that may have been wishful thinking on my part.

    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit

  16. *snirk* Three months? Granted each book I write generally takes less time than the last, but I think I need that long just to work out the trickier aspects of a plot. A year, maybe two, seems normal to me for everyone who doesn’t already have a substantial list of books to their name.

  17. I’d never read this “rule” before and I hope it isn’t rock solid! I spent a year on my latest ms. I finished my debut novel so quickly I thought it would always be that way. Not so much LOL. I agree with others that “whatever it takes” is the best rule as far as I can see.

  18. Take whatever time you need. I have learned a good lesson on this, my third manuscript. I let my crit group read it as I wrote the first draft. Talk about confusing–their brainstorming was too good making me wonder about all the possibilities for the story. Sheesh…Next first draft will be the bare bones so I’ll have a better grip on the plot and characters before my buddies start planning other endings and characters!

  19. I struggled with this idea too, maybe because I love so much of what Stephen King writes in On Writing. If I wrote only one story at a time (a luxury for a writer with a full time day job) without revising another and critiquing someone else and etc, writing a story in three months might be feasible. But I’ve made my peace with the reality that it’s not going to happen.
    Fortunately, my stories still feel fresh to me if I put them away to work on something else for a while, so the distance he talks about when putting a story away and pulling it back out isn’t an issue for me.
    I find that comparing oneself to other writers always leads to worry, so I try to only take what works for me, and set the rest aside. πŸ™‚

  20. 3 months!!! Jimminey Cricket! It takes me forever…A year ago I actually finished my first draft in 3 months and it’s been in revisions ever since. Finally it’s being published. No 3 months is not too long. Good Luck.

  21. It usually takes me a year to do a first draft!!! I usually write the first 2/3 in one month during NaNoWriMo, then it takes me the rest of the year to figure out how to make it all work and finish it, so it sort of ends up being a first and second draft, I suppose.

  22. Three months? Seriously? πŸ™‚

    More like a couple of years for me, especially if the story is for a novel. πŸ™‚

  23. First draft should = three months?
    Well then, I am in SERIOUS trouble….. πŸ™‚

  24. Even with NaNoWriMo I find three months very tight… but then I don’t produce books like Stephen King. Rules are guidelines as far as I am concerned, and made to be ignored. It also depends on how much plotting you have done, and how much you edit as you go.

  25. Yikes! It took me four years to write the story I’m querying right now. I write slow, plus there were computer crashes, pregnancy, and then exhaustion from getting up mulitple times a night once the baby was here. So don’t think your writing is crap! You’re simply living a life in real-time. =)

  26. Know the rules, then break them! I think Stephen King’s quote was more designed to stop people from working on the same novel for years–maybe like Michael Douglas’s character did in The Wonder Boys! I think his novel was 1,000 pages or something at that point. Plus it stops the procrastination factor, since much of the reason it takes us so long to write is that we don’t work at it every day. Am I alone in thinking much of procrastination in life is just plain fear?

  27. I hope three months isn’t too long. I think I’m approaching the three year mark with my current WIP. But it seems like I’m in good company. =)

  28. The man must be a machine, especially given the size of some of his books, but then he’s had a lot of practice! He says a lot of things that make sense, but this isn’t among them. It’s different for everyone, and every book, too. You’re not doing anything wrong if it takes longer – and many have full time day jobs, which he hasn’t had to do for a while. Give yourself a break. You need to try advice on for size, adapt it and see what works for you – there are no hard and fast rules!

  29. Everyone writes at a different speed. Some people do a ton of research, others don’t need to, they use their imaginations to create new and exciting worlds. I can’t imagine putting a time limit on a novel, but I guess it’s always a good thing to have goals. It keeps us writing and achieving. But don’t be hard on yourself just because you aren’t writing as fast as Stephen King!! πŸ™‚

  30. I think it depends. Three months is about 830 words a day every day for a 75k first draft. If you write every day than no, three months should be a breeze. But personally, I’m not a full time writer. I usually get two hours to write four to five times a week. I can fit in more piecemeal, but solid uninterrupted time to write is hard to find.

    Take the time you need. But I would set goals. I estimate a first draft should be around 75k for my current work (I work by adding detail in subsequent drafts, so my first are usually light). I decide how much time I can devote (holidays mean less time) and divide that number by the number of words I think I can write. BOOM you have a deadline.

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