What does it actually take to write a novel? This episode is all about what to expect in terms of effort, time investment and emotional exertion. This is all about transparency. Writing a novel is hard, and it takes a long time. But it’s worth it!


Speaker 1: (00:00)
Hello writers. Welcome to the let’s. Write your novel podcast. I’m Stephanie Dethlefs, writer and book coach. And this is the place to be. If you’ve got a story on your heart, but you need a bit of clarity, accountability, and support to finally write your novel. In each episode, I give you one skill or strategy to apply to planning, drafting, or revising your novel. And we’ll also take a peek into your mindset about the process I’m here, because your story matters. You deserve to write it and you have a reader out there who needs it. I’m so glad you’re here. So let’s get into it today. I wanna share with you my perspective on what it really takes to write a novel, both physically and emotionally. This perspective comes from both my own experience and supporting a number of other writers as they move through this process.

Speaker 1: (00:55)
Here’s the truth. Writing a novel is hard, and it takes a long time. Anyone saying otherwise is not giving you the full picture. I get so frustrated when I see ads for programs or services that say you can get it done in 60 days or 90 days. I’m sure there are writers out there who have figured out formulas and structures that essentially become fill-in the blank books that are easy to whip out quickly, but for you and for me, people who are working on their first or maybe their second novel, this just is not realistic. I’m not here to criticize anyone’s process because there’s no quote unquote right way to write a novel. I just wish that everyone would be a little more transparent about what it actually takes so that when someone like you or me jumps into the ring, we know what we’re really in for.

Speaker 1: (01:46)
But on the flip side, I’m not here to scare you away from it. Either writing a novel can be incredibly satisfying, kind of like running a marathon might be for some people, not for me, but maybe for you. I don’t know but we wouldn’t just step out our front door and go run a marathon without some preparation. And so that’s what I’m hoping to offer you here today. While most of these episodes are narrowed down to a specific skill or strategy today, I wanna take a bird’s eye view of the big picture so that as you enter into this amazing process, you know what to expect, whether you’re someone who loves to plan your novel or someone who’d rather just jump in and start writing the early days are always pretty joyful, right? You’ve got an idea. You’re excited about it. You’re motivated. You’re likely finding pockets of time to get some writing done.

Speaker 1: (02:39)
If you’re willing, willing to do some of the deep thinking ahead of time, that I’m always suggesting you may find that new light bulbs are turning on every day and the story becomes more and more exciting to think about. I’ll tell you what I wish I could bottle that early energy and save it for later. Don’t you . We could make millions but this early stage is not without its doubts, right? From the very get go. We have to be willing to manage our self-doubt and work through it. If we stop writing, we’re proving our self-doubt to be true. That self-doubt is just fear. The primitive part of our brain is just trying to keep us from taking a risk that’s its job, nothing is going wrong. So if we can just let it be and let it come along for the ride and not fall into the pit of despair, then we can still write our self-doubt doesn’t need to keep us from writing our novels, but it takes a level of awareness and a certain amount of work to manage it. So during this stage, I always encourage my writers to get very clear on why they’re writing this book, what they’re trying to say with it, who they’re writing it for and how they’d like this story to come together. Because if you can get clear on these things and even better, if you write them down, then you’ll have a resource to keep coming back to when that self doubt creeps in.

Speaker 1: (04:06)
Have you been wanting to write a novel or started and gotten stuck? Would you like to finally make some progress before the end of this year? My small group program is currently open for writers. Who’d like to find a little clarity, accountability, and community, as they write in addition to personalized coaching and feedback from me, you’ll move through my signature system to move writers from idea through revision, with the support of some fellow writers. If this sounds appealing to you, I’d like to invite you to schedule a free no commitment call with me at hello writers.net/group. We can talk about your project, give you a practical next step and see if the small group program is a good fit. If you’ve been thinking about working with a coach and the price of one-on-one coaching has been a barrier, then this is a great opportunity for you to take advantage of coaching at a lower price too.

Speaker 1: (05:01)
And I’m not gonna open this program again until the end of the year. So now is the time to take advantage again, that link is hello, writer.net/group. There’s this phenomenon that has happened during the first draft to every single writer that I know it’s this moment where we no longer feel like we know what we’re doing. even if we’ve planned the story out to the final chapter, it starts to feel like sand slipping through our fingers, the multiple storylines and the characters within the novel start to feel fragmented and disconnected. Not only that, but the words that are coming out on the page are nowhere near as beautiful as the images that are in our heads. So while the writer might know that they need to keep writing forward, they may instead spin around in the first few chapters, revising them over and over until they hardly resemble themselves anymore.

Speaker 1: (05:56)
And all of the confidence that they had in their craft skills start to dissipate. So assuming that a writer has done the work, I just talked about to understand why and how they want to tell this story. My suggestion is always to just keep writing forward to intentionally study mentor, text for how other authors approach various skills and to stay present with the doubt. It won’t hurt you if you don’t let it. So how long does it take to write a first draft? Well, that’s a question I can’t answer specifically, of course, but here’s a strategy to estimate it for yourself, time yourself, as you write a page or a scene or a chapter, whatever, then divide the number of words you wrote by the number of minutes it took. This will tell you about how many words on average you write in a minute.

Speaker 1: (06:48)
Now, if you have 30 minutes a day to write, you can figure out how many words that might be. And then you can figure out how many days it will take you to get to the average of 80 or 90,000 words for an adult novel. Okay, so now it’s six months later or a year or a year and a half or however long it took. All of which is okay, by the way, it took me three years to finish my first draft of unspoken. So it’s later and you’ve finished your first draft, please, please, please take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment. How many people start writing a first draft and never finish it? I have so many people have. So when you reach this point, a celebration is definitely in order, but now it’s time to revise. And here’s where I wanna be totally honest with you.

Speaker 1: (07:38)
Revision will probably be the longest phase of the process. Be prepared for that. You will not just read through it once, make some changes and be done with it. No, you’ll make several passes. Each one with an eye to something specific. The early passes will be looking for big picture issues, such as the narrative drive and the character development. Then with each pass, you’ll gradually get more narrow checking things like point of view, showing versus telling emotions on the page, three dimensional descriptions and all of those things. It isn’t until the very, very end that you go through it with a fine tooth comb and look for word choice, sentence, structure, grammar, spelling, things like that. My suggestion before diving into revision is always to step away from the manuscript for a bit, for each of us, that length of time is different. And then be before beginning a new pass through, get very, very clear about what it is you’re looking for and try to ignore everything else.

Speaker 1: (08:45)
Of course, getting another set of eyes on it can always be helpful, but you need to revise until you’ve exhausted all of the possibilities first and your mindset. Well, at this point, you may start to wonder why you ever set out to do this in the first place. And so this is a great time to go back to the reasons you wrote down when you were excited in the beginning, remind yourself who this book is for and why it matters to them. Remind yourself why it matters to you and picture yourself finished with it. How amazing will that feel? Writers? It’s never my goal to discourage you, but in this episode, I wanted to be completely transparent about the process, writing a novelist hard, and it takes a long time. Anyone saying otherwise is not giving you the full picture, but you can do it. I know you can, and I’m here to help anytime you need it. I’ll talk to you next week. Thank you for being here. If you like, what you heard, would you please take a moment to leave a review on iTunes so that it can reach more readers who like you could use a little support today? I would appreciate it so much. Remember your story matters. Happy writing.