By Brian Martin
I have a friend who has just finished university. Rather than looking for a ‘real job’ like so many others, he’s holed at his parent’s house finishing off the novel he’s been working on since we first met four years ago.
Now unless you’re taking one of the more taxing courses, university should throw up plenty of hours in the day where you can sit down and spill your thoughts and imagination onto Word documents. So before he bailed on further education we were kinda hoping to at least get a sneak preview of our mate’s masterpiece.
Apparently it’s nowhere near finished and won’t be until such a time as Edinburgh has trams and Glaswegians can look forward to a Commonwealth Games in their city.
For me, it seems a depressingly long time to put something together. While I’m certain (hey he’s my friend) it’ll turn out just great, it did get me thinking about the whole process.
Say you want to write a decent sized novel, something a little longer than Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist but a lot less than Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – maybe about 450 pages long. Just how long should that take you to draft up?
Well unsurprisingly it all seems to depend on the author. In the 1950s British pulp fiction and sci-fi writer Lionel Fanthorpe churned out a 150+ page novel every twelve days. Stephen King the master of horror also claims to write ten pages a day without fail.
There is however another end of the spectrum.
When celebrated Irish writer James Joyce was once asked by a friend whether he’d had a fruitful day of writing he replied that he’d had a good day indeed, managing a full three sentences.
Writing the words is of course just one part of putting together a novel. Most authors start with a plan and a schedule, but there are plenty who simply know the start and finish of their tale and don’t really know how the middle ties the two together. Those working on a trilogy or series of novels often find this a difficult obstacle to clamber over.
So planning can take you a day, a week, a month or you can skip it and deal with linking the loose ends together as you write.
Proofing takes time too. Even after you’re happy with a manuscript you’ll need a mate or two to give it the once (or twice) over. This can take about a month apparently.
After that you’ve got a book of sorts. You just need to find a literary agent who’ll take you on and try and get it published. Some authors strike it lucky and ping out a book, have it purchased and published in just over a year. Most don’t even see their work make print and those that do often need to chop, hone and edit their document heavily before it’ll see the light of day.
That said, with the advent of ebooks and the ease at which they can be published, it’s now possible to have your work out there within days of completion. Priced inexpensively (often they’re free) some of these rough efforts have already gone on to become cult favourites.
No two books come into being the same way. Some authors take decades to find an audience, others never do. The key to the process seems to be finding what works best for you and hoping that through perseverance someone will take a risk on your work. If you think you’ve got a book in you and like my friend you write at the same pace as James Joyce, why not make the most of your free time and get things kicked off now? I might even manage to pick up your first published work when I get his . . . probably around 2019.