03 July, 2019

How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?

How long does it take to write a novel? I didn't note it on my calendar, but a peek back in time turned up this blog post first referencing what became the seed of my manuscript. The answer, therefore, if you're me and you're writing a 300-something-page novel-in-stories set against society's collapse amid a fast-spreading pandemic, is this: it takes about eight years.

I put the final touches on the last page yesterday. How to describe the feeling of putting a project like this to bed, after every day of the last ninety-five months involved the application of thought to it? It still doesn't feel real.

Friends tipped off about my project's wind-down asked me what near-, medium-, and long-term plans I had for afterward. I hadn't given it a lot of thought. Working on the manuscript occupied significant mental resources. I kept pushing other things aside in order to make room for writing, but the work only involved some actual writing.

Halfway through, in 2015, I drew a little comic about writing on one's feet. I drew a lot of comics that year. Too many, really. Once I realized that, I drew a comic announcing I was done drawing comics for a while. You know, as one does.

I engrossed myself in weird, wide-ranging, seemingly irrelevant research, from survivalism to trangenderism, from satellite navigation to garden irrigation, from neurophysiology to Islamic theology. You've got to turn over an entire library, some sage soul said, to create a single book. That applies to scholarly works and works of post-apocalyptic zombie fiction equally, I discovered.

The characters this research allowed me to write are like parts of my self. I know them intimately — arguably too intimately, since so much of who they are, from their histories to their favorite smells, although known to me, never made it onto the page. Is this the sense that every writer experiences at the end of a long literary journey? These nonexistent characters were alive in my head. As of yesterday, because they have no possible future, they face a type of purgatorial, eternal now, having ceased to be. Is this what parents feel like, sending their kid off to college?

Nature abhors a vacuum. Another project (courting publishers doesn't count) will fill the void left by this one soon enough. I have no plan to force it. It'll come when it comes. Meanwhile, as my latest post on recently read books attests, I have ample leisure reading at my disposal and plan to indulge in it... just in time for summer.

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