Writing A Novel … I Wonder How Long That Will Take?

Picture 1November is the National Novel Writing Month, and the quest is to write a 50,000-word draft novel in that time. Uh, I’m sorry, did I just say fifty thousand words in one month? Yes, that’s the challenge, and a formidable challenge indeed.

I remember having to write a one thousand word essay when I was in the seventh grade. When the teacher gave us the assignment, I sat there with absolutely no idea how long a thousand word essay would be. Then I realized, hey, it would be a thousand words. Astounding, don’t you think? Demonstrates how astute I was back then. But then my pondering continued. How many pages would that be?

Now I must tell you, this was to be accomplished during the two-week Christmas break back in 1957. And in 1957, in case you didn’t know, elementary school children wrote out assignments in longhand.

Still unsure of how many pages a thousand word essay would be, I started the following Monday. After deciding on my topic, I sat down with pencil and paper in hand and started writing. After what seemed like hours, I counted the pages. I gasped — there were only two! Now remember, as a twelve-year-old, I wrote in longhand and didn’t scrimp on the size of my letters. In other words, I wrote large words. For example, a six-character word would take up two inches of space on the page. Anyway, when I got done counting, I had a little over one hundred words. ONE HUNDRED WORDS! I anguished in total dejection, realizing the assignment would take me the entire two weeks to complete. I finished the essay and turned it in, all one thousand and eleven words of it. Wow, I remember thinking, I wrote over one thousand words! I was indeed impressed with myself.

Now let’s try to comprehend writing 50,000 words in one month. I managed a little over one thousand  in two weeks. That means I would have written a tad more than two thousand in a month. But let’s not forget my youth, inexperience, lack of attention, and absolutely no interest in the assignment whatsoever. I tell people who ask, that it takes me about nine months to write the first draft of a novel, which is usually three hundred pages in length, or about 110,000 words. I spend hours writing each day, but then I also edit my work as I’m creating the story, which takes time. But if I applied myself and just wrote without giving thought to structure or continuity, I imagine I could write a first rough draft in a month. But when I say rough, I mean really, really rough.

So, is writing a 50,000-word novel achievable in one month? Absolutely, and I’m sure there are a number of people who could do it in less time, and do it quite well, meaning the story would be sound and well conceived even in draft form. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. But if you believe you are, then why not give it a go? I mean it is National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge awaits you. However, there is less than twenty days left in the month, so I suggest you get a move on it.

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