Someone asked me yesterday how long it takes to write a novel. The National Novel Writing Month (=NaNoWriMo, November) makes folks who don't write novels think it takes a month to write a full-length novel for adults.
Articles such as this (from Writers Digest) give a wild range of two and a half days to sixteen years.
Seems to me the definition of what constitutes writing a novel is what needs clarifying, because these estimates are comparing apples to oranges, or more likely— watermelons to olives. Technically, both are fruits. But this is where the similarity ends.
It’s not only the size and scope, but what do they mean by “writing a novel in X number of days.”
If NaNoWriMo is the definer, we’re speaking about finishing a first draft. Writers know that is just the beginning. It has become a sort of fashion among genre writers to fast-draft a first draft. A month’s first draft will be followed by many more, but you could claim to have written the novel in a month.
When the claim is that it took many years, we are not speaking of working on the novel five days a week for years. These books had long stretches of sitting in a drawer, real or virtual, before the writer finished the umpteenth draft and called it done.
If we look for any kind of metric, those who do not write novels would do better to ask about the general rhythm or work discipline of different writers. Every day? Only on weekends? Now and again? How many hours at a writing session?
And there, too, are wild differences. No wrong and right, just long and write.