The Daily Journal, Friday, August 23

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Happy much-belated 90th birthday, and welcome
* Topic: How Long It Takes to Write a Novel
* Daily Diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I don’t get writers’ block— …however, I do have lots of bad writing days. [But a] bad writing day is a million times better than a no-writing day.” Stephanie Feldman (short story writer and novelist)

“Taylor Swift says she will be rerecording her early work. If she does this the right way, she will probably destroy the market value of the Big Machine label. This is an artist who knows her power, and is willing to use it.” Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Patreon

Happy much-belated 90th birthday to one of my few literary heroes, Henry Patterson, better known as Jack Higgins. Jack authored at least 70 novels, and there has never been a better suspense/thriller writer. Ever. My go-to guy when I want to study how it’s done.

Welcome to another old friend, Ralph R, who just joined us at the Journal. Welcome aboard, Ralph.

Topic: How Long It Takes to Write a Novel

Recently a friend and I chatted briefly about how long it takes to write a quality novel, and why.

There are two camps: those who believe taking a long time to write a novel results in a better novel and those who admit to understanding basic math.

It takes about 60 hours to write a 60,000 word novel. That’s about an hour per 1000 words (17 words per minute). That includes time for spot research and for revision, especially if you do the latter in the creative voice as you go. (I call this cycling.)

On the other hand, in-depth researching, outlining, rewriting, critique workshopping and all the rest is nonwriting time, even if a writer enjoys that sort of process. This is a fact, not an opinion. “Writing” is derived from the action verb, “to write.” It means moving forward, putting new words on the page.

So how is it that a woman my friend met at a writers conference told him it took her 10 years to write her novel?

How is it that a former English teacher I talked with a few years back told me she’d written 3 novels in “only 8 years”? (This is the same woman who said Heinlein’s Rules, sight unseen, would never work for her because she doesn’t write science fiction.)

For the answer, let’s go back to basic math.

Even if those novels were 120,000 words long, that’s still only 120 hours.

120 hours spread over 10 years averages out to the first woman writing 33 words per day. Meaning the woman wrote, on average, 2 minutes per day.

360 hours (three 120,000 word novels) spread over 8 years averages out to the second woman writing 124 words per day. Meaning the woman wrote, on average, almost 8 minutes per day.

But let’s be realistic. Let’s say a novelist writes a 120,000 word novel in only one year. Now the average output jumps to 328 words per day: that’s about 20 minutes of writing per day.

Write two such novels in a year and you’re considered prolific: that’s an average of 660 words per day, or about 40 minutes of writing.

Even if you write six 120,000 word novels in a year, you’re still averaging less than 2000 words per day. Or two hours of “work” per day.

But now let’s slip even farther into reality.

The fact is, readers attended the same elementary, junior high, and high schools the rest of us attended. They also went on to the same colleges, sat through the same lectures by non fiction-writers about what it takes to write a fiction. They learned all the same myths, which first reared their ugly heads, by the way, in the ’60s.

That’s right. All the stuff about outlining, rewriting, critique workshops and time equaling quality is a strictly modern phenomenon. It has nothing to do with the reality of being a storyteller and writer.

Unfortunately, readers’ perception still enters into the equation.

If readers hear that it took a writer 10 years to write a novel, the readers automatically assume the novel must be wonderful. After all, it took 10 years of seemingly endless, mind-numbing labor to write.

And it is exactly for that reason that so many perceptive professional writers tell readers they do X-amount of rewrites. It’s for that reason that they tell readers writing is terrible drudgery, strictly a “higher calling” or a “labor” of love. It’s why they say writing is simply a matter of sweating blood, or sitting down at a computer and opening a vein, or some other dramatic nonsense.

Others, in the old days, split their stories and novels among several pen names specifically so they could continue to write and put out work without flooding the market with one name.

Today, with the advent of indie publishing, things are a little improved. Readers are going more for quality stories and not delving so deeply into how long it took to produce those stories.

Still, Dean Wesley Smith, Lee Child and only a few other “names” share their process. Dean says he shares his because he’s “bulletproof.” I suspect the other big-name writers are in the same camp.

I share mine becuase I simply don’t care. Readers either read my work or they don’t. Either way, I get to experience the unbridled fun of telling a lot of stories.

Tell readers what you will. Writers tell lies for a living—or if you wish, they put the truth in its proper perspective. Surely doing the same with readers won’t add too much to your list of sins.

The bottom line is this: I wish you the same unbridled fun.

As for those who really do take 10 years to write a novel (or 8 years to write 3 novels), they won’t be around long. Who can stand that much drudgery?

Rolled out way late this morning at 5. Wow is the world ever different at that time of day.

I’m writing today. We’ll see how much.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “First Stretch Goal in Less Than a Day!” at I post this mostly for his discussion of short story writing beginning in the fifth paragraph.

See “Universal Book Solutions: Anatomy of a Book-to-Screen Scam” at

See “Writing CONTEST #153: Woodstock” at Interesting.

See “50 Best Writing Websites of 2019” at I post this one tongue-in-cheek. I encourage you to browse their list, see how many of the websites merely regurgitate the same tired old myths. You might pay attention to the ones that don’t.

See “Spooky Research Trip to State Lunatic Hospital” at

See “Bulletproof or Bullet-Resistant?…” at Interesting science details.

For current Bizarro World events (and a bit of fun), see “San Francisco Has Lost Its Freakin’ Mind…” at

Fiction Words: 0 (yesterday)
Nonfiction Words: 1180 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1180

Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Glynn Marco (novel)

Day 1…… 3222 words. Total words to date…… 3222
Day 2…… 1170 words. Total words to date…… 4392
Day 3…… 3191 words. Total words to date…… 7583
Day 4…… 1374 words. Total words to date…… 8957
Day 5…… 1952 words. Total words to date…… 10909
Day 6…… 1021 words. Total words to date…… 11930
Day 7…… 2733 words. Total words to date…… 14663
Day 8…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 14663
Total fiction words for the year………… 373400
Total nonfiction words for the month… 23180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 241250
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 614650

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31