My WIP’s Anniversary

Last August, after finishing my literary novel BODY COPY, I started writing a new one.

Coffee has helped fuel this first year of this novel-in-progress.

Aptly, I titled the folder “new novel.” It was about two kids from music-box collecting families. I wrote some first-draft scenes. I jotted down notes about them and their parents and their houses and their lives. Then I started writing about one of the pieces in one of those collections.

This particular piece was such a bizarre and wonderful object I wanted to explore its roots. Who made instruments like these? And why? As I began researching the subject, I found myself with one historical character. Jean-Jacques Blanchard. The son of a music box making family that specialized in a specific instrument that was produced in France.

Somewhere around then, I went to lunch with a writer friend, Jackie Shannon Hollis, who suggested I follow my story. The historical part of it. I was fighting that concept, thinking perhaps I could take my two contemporary characters and feed in this fascinating object history around them. Somehow. But my last novel played with the intersection between past and present. I didn’t want to commit to that dance again.

Jackie flat out suggested I write historical fiction. Me? Really? I spent a lot of time considering that option. As I considered, I wrote more pages about my music box family. A plot developed.

I created a new folder, “Jean-Jacques,” on October 24, 2010. He’s now my protagonist’s brother, but that’s another story. What’s important is that I launched into this historical novel, LOST NOTES, last October. Which means I’ve just completed my first year working on this first draft.

I can’t even begin to guess how much longer this novel will take me. BODY COPY took six years. This one feels pretty fleshed out, for a first draft, but I know there’s a lot of work to be done. At least a year’s worth. Perhaps more. So I’m celebrating this anniversary by opening a document and continuing to work.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Does it depend on the subject, or do you have a pretty consistent timeline or series of goals?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Fiction, Revision, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to My WIP’s Anniversary

  1. Maggie says:

    For me, the actual writing doesn’t take that long – maybe about two or three months. It’s the revision, rewriting, and editing that can take two or three years – or more depending on how long or in-depth the story is.

    Happy WiP anniversary!

  2. Leila says:

    For me, writing takes awhile. I set goals, but I also leave them flexible. The novel i’m shopping took 3 years. Mainly because I’m a schizophrenic writer and distracted by new ideas. Each idea has it’s own time line. I find that sometimes they just have to simmer while I’m finishing or starting something new.

    • I love the concept of “each idea has its own timeline,” Leila. Thanks for that insight. I’m in a simmering stage right now and I’ve adjusted my goal and priorities accordingly. And I think I’m simmering because of a new idea that hasn’t fleshed itself out yet.

  3. Congratulations!
    It depends. If I give my novels the time they deserve, I can have a draft in a few months. Editing is a whole new story. I’ve been editing my first novel for five years now. Although, that’s special circumstances. It needs a re-write.
    As a pantser, I’m not one for goals. I just write. 😉

  4. Laura, it has already been said. It’s not the writing … it’s the rewriting, editing, rewriting more and then after two or three good readers go over it … again. How long depends on how badly you want the final-almost-done draft to be really good. Tess Gerritsen a forensic thriller writer (Rossoli & Isles on cable is based on her characters) she has a string of NYTBS in the top ten, movie and TV offers … and she wrote in her blog … “…when I get to the eleventh draft, I feel like I’m almost there.”

    You’ll somehow know when “it’s done” … write on 🙂

  5. Liz says:

    happy anniversary, laura. it’s a wonderful project.

  6. tamarapaulin says:

    Happy day! Those are wonderful book titles.

    My recent book was just under a year from start to finish, but it’s not literary, and didn’t require a ton of research. I was able to work full-time on it for a few months. (Or, as full-time as you can get with a novel — I can’t work on a document for much more than 6 hours in a day.)

    • Full-time writing for a few months! Wow, Tamara. That sounds like a dream. I have a writing friend who has gone off on a few cabin-in-the-woods retreats that have allowed her to do that with her new novel. She’s making so much progress. You make an excellent point about research slowing down the writing process. It feeds it, definitely, but it also slows the actual writing.

  7. bridget harwell says:

    What struck me, Laura, is your enthusiasm for this. I felt the energy coming off the page. It sounds like a wonderful project to fill up your life (at least part of it) in a challenging, creative way. The time line doesn’t seem all that important. Makes me want to get back to a novel.

    • Thanks for the insight, Bridget! It’s true that being invested in a novel can be such a fulfilling experience. The book feels like a rich part of my everyday world, and I’m a happier person because I’m writing it!

  8. Emma Burcart says:

    Happy anniversary! I like the idea that you were fighting writing the historical novel, and eventually gave in. Isn’t there a saying that what you are resisting is what you should be doing, or something like that? I’m sure it was said more elegantly, but that is what I am taking from you post. Sometimes there is a story that wants to be told, and it has to hit you over the head before you will listen and write that story. My first novel took me three years, once I actually sat down and wrote it. There were a few years of starting and stopping and trying to figure out what it actually before I actually began the novel. My current WIP seems to be coming much quicker. It is also plotted out more, so maybe that’s part of it. But, I am also learning my process as a writer, and that helps. I have learned that I can’t just bust out 1k words a day. I am slower and more methodical. I look at each word and sentence as I write and rewrite as I write. Maybe that’s “wrong”, but that’s the way I am.

    • You make an excellent distinction between actually writing the novel and letting it percolate in your head, Emma. It sounds like this new book is really benefitting from the process you used in novel #1, and your own awareness about your methods. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about doing things the “wrong” way, i.e. against the widely held opinions of what writers are supposed to do or not supposed to do (like revising while writing your first draft). And everyone keeps telling me–and I’ll remind you!–that we need to do it our own way and that rule-breaking is part of our individual processes. It sure sounds like your methods are working!

  9. Kara says:

    Happy Anniversary! I feel like when I write historical it takes much longer as I get wrapped up in the research. Not that there isn’t research for contemporary, but it just seems more time consuming with the historical because I question every little thing and want to make sure it is accurate.

    • That’s such a smart point, Kara! Historical adds this whole other dimension of making what’s on the page realistic. I’ve gotten tripped up a few times with facts and while they add an often useful framework, learning about that era is definitely time-consuming. I’ve fudged a few details here and there just to keep going on a certain scene, but usually I scramble to find some obscure yet important fact around every corner!

  10. Happy anniversary.

    My answer is apparently fifteen years. from start to finish. Now, in that fifteen years (1990-2005) I did write two novels, so I was multi-tasking, and one of the novels was really long. Of course, the other was short. Anyway, I’m trying to do the new one faster by telling myself that it’s not really a novel– just a book of short stories. We’ll see if that works.

    • Thanks, Anthony!

      Well, 15 years divided by two novels isn’t too far away from my 6-year track record. Tell me if your self-talk about “it’s not a novel” works! I kept telling myself this book wasn’t historical, until I fully committed. I would have been too apprehensive to try writing historical without that kind of tricky logic.

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