Thursday, March 24, 2011

nasty statistics and how they eat your soul.

At the library yesterday, my writer-librarian-friend Kate (with whom I would have talked all day, had she not eventually said, "Shoo!  You go write!") mentioned something she'd read that claimed this horrifying statistic (which I will now paraphrase):

If you haven't got the main crux of your novel written in six weeks, it's probably not going to happen.


"Isn't that interesting?" Kate (who is much more confident than I am) said.  And I was, uh, I was too mortified to speak.  Six weeks?  Let me just turn in all those new pens and notebooks and index cards now.  And can I get a refund on Scrivener?

Six weeks?  What can I do in six weeks?

... Zilch, man.  I can't do anything in six weeks.  I've been drafting this thing for SIX MONTHS.  And the rumor implies, to me, that it isn't even about the book getting published.  It's just about you finishing it.  Again, I ask, SIX WEEKS???????  What the almighty heck?

The other girl working at the library asked, "Isn't that a little fast?"  My thoughts exactly.  But, apparently, no!  According to what Kate saw, if the great big picture of it wasn't nailed down in six weeks, the novel probably wouldn't get written.

It feels unfair to the slower writers, you know?  Or maybe I am just horribly naive, and NO ONE takes this long to write a first draft.  And no first draft that takes this long to write becomes a book worth reading.  It bummed me out, too, because it actually makes sense.  A really strong, instinctive writer WOULD be able to draft in six weeks.  A strong, instinctive writer, with lots of experience and no day job or social life.  No to-read list.  No family troubles.  No doubts or disillusions.  And none of my neuroses.

Who's hoarding all this writing-magic, and how can I contact them for a free sample?

Thankfully, another woman walked in and we started a new conversation.  I hoped that Kate hadn't seen my face blanch so... loudly.

Anyway, the whole thing got me to thinking:  is my big picture NOT nailed down?  Had I to guess, I'd say I'm about two-thirds through, maybe a little less (depending on how wild my imagination is about to get), but I do know where it's going.  I DO know my big picture.  And I have no intention of quitting, just because some unknown-to-me observation claims that it's "probably not going to happen."  In fact, I won't even dignify the fear by considering it.  I know that even if I say I'm giving up, the story and its characters will continue in their relentless quest to be brought to life.

This painting by Bella Abati also helps.  [here]



  1. Six weeks?? That sounds a bit extreme. Aside from NaNoWriMo (which kicked my butt soundly three years in a row), I've never drafted anything in six weeks. It usually takes me up to a year to draft something from start to finish. And that's not counting edits! :)

  2. writing is more about perseverance than speed--i think the fact that you've been working on your novel for 6 months is actually a good sign that you'll finish it--most people abandon the idea altogether in a month or so, maybe that is where that evil statistic came from? anyways, there are So many things out there like that to discourage writers, but i think every writer has their own individual process and they just need to do what works for them.

  3. Seriously? I am working on a novel I started in HIGH SCHOOL. And I'm getting close to wrapping it up!

    Exceptions to every rule, I think...

  4. Wow, six weeks, huh? Maybe, if you don't have the main idea of what is going to happen written in your head. That makes more sense to me. Here I am, patting myself on the back because I got a first draft done in six months. And now I'm giving myself at least a year for revisions. I suppose once I have more experience, I might work faster?

    Oh, well. For now, just enjoy yourself.

    Ooh, another way we could look at it: if you're not pumped up about writing it six weeks into it, you're probably not going to finish. That makes sense to me.

  5. You guys are great. I like what you've all said, and a lot. Yes yes yes!

  6. My dear Julie. Next time I see you I will be bringing you a book about writing that really truly made me ridiculously happy. It's by Steven King. And no, It's not about writing horror or anything. It's just a really REALLY great book about writing and stories. And it does NOT say anything about 6 weeks. Love you lady!

    Take a peek inside. It's really kinda great. Freeing.


You like to comment? I like to respond!
Either by email or on your blog, starting... now!