Self-control when writing a novel

Self control when writing

How long does it take to write a novel?

An easy rule of thumb is:

Total word count goal ÷ Average words per day = Days to completion.

80,000 Word count ÷ 1000 words per day = 80 Days to completion.

Feel free to plug in your own numbers, but please remember, this is just an estimate to completing the first draft. You must also consider variables that can play havoc with your calendar.

  • How well is the story planned? Do you need to stop and think about narrative directions?
  • Revisions or elements that don’t work. Rewriting or removing parts as the story unfolds.
  • Time management. Can you commit to X number of hours for X number of days?
  • Distractions. Are you able to remain focused and write?
  • Fluctuating daily word counts. Some days you’re over, and some days you’re short.

These are just a few things that can impact your goal, and they can also affect the quality of your work.

Some writers put tremendous pressure on themselves by racing towards an imagined chequered flag.

In doing so, they unknowingly corrupt an experience that should bring pleasure.

When writing becomes a means to an end, i.e., publishing quickly to make some money, the beauty of writing is lost. And worse still, the writer risks becoming stressed and resents putting words on the page.

Below are some points to consider when your mind drifts away from the narrative and starts thinking about the end product.

How long does it take?
How long does it take?

Don’t rush your work

Some writers will plan a narrative for months in the run up to November.

This is when the National Novel Writing Month is held, or NaNoWriMo for short. And when 1st November comes around, they write to a daily target with a goal of completing a novel in one month.

This is just a bit of fun to train themselves in planning and writing. But it’s by no means a way to attack your first book.

There is no clock to worry about when writing your debut novel.

When I began writing, I was focused on how to tell the story.

I will admit, most days saw me drifting off and visualising myself holding my novel. It was my ultimate goal and kept me moving forward. But those thoughts were a reminder of what I wanted to hold.

My book. One that readers would enjoy. Not a quick story that could’ve been better.

How long does it take to edit a book?

Again, we can apply the formula: Total word count goal ÷ Average words per day = Days

Writing, not racing
Writing, not racing

It can be a daunting task. And if you rushed the first draft, this step will take much longer.

But if you applied some patience when writing your first draft, you will probably be able to double or even triple the daily word count in the editing stage.

You will have to do several read-throughs of your manuscript to find and highlight problems. And with each pass, you’ll polish out more and more errors.

In doing so, you will be left with a clear, well-written, and readable draft for your first editor to work with.

Rushing through the self-editing phase will only hurt you.

By this I mean the quality of your work, additional costs (because it takes longer to for a professional to work through), and adding weeks to your timeline.

But, if you take your time, with your self-edit your developmental editor will be able to work quicker whilst focusing on their primary role.

However, if they are stumbling over your words, it will be like running through mud.

Another time factor when talking about editing lies with the professionals and cannot be helped.

If you have researched an editor and you like their work, I encourage you to wait for availability. Sometimes it can be tempting to search for someone who can start work right away. But you risk cheating yourself.

Waiting is better than rushing
Waiting is better than rushing

If they can start right away, or offer you a really short turnaround; you must ask yourself, why?

Off on a tangent

During the aftermath of a bad storm, my roof was leaking into my bathroom. I called my roofer, but due to storm, he was too busy to fit me in. Instead, I did a quick search for someone else.

I was away with work when the new roofer turned up so my wife had to show him the problem. When he called me, he quoted me almost £5,000 to fix the roof.

“Chimney pointing needs to be redone. New roof tiles and felt. New guttering.” All in all, a new roof.

But when my wife called later, she told me that he didn’t even go on to the roof. He stood at the edge of back of the garden, blocked the sun with his hand and took a squinting look.

Anyway, I called my usual roofer who squeezed me in for a quick look. He went onto the roof and re-fitted ONE tile. No pointing, no felt, no new tiles, no guttering.

That was six years and no leaks ago!

There’s a reason why the other guy had no customers and was able to fit me in immediately!

That being said, an editor’s calendar is dictated by clients.

These clients are writers who may miss their date. Maybe they didn’t finish their draft in time, or maybe they couldn’t afford the service at that time.

What I’m saying is, just because an editor has an unexpected opening, doesn’t make them a dodgy roofer.

How long does it take to make money with a novel?

Unfortunately, this can only be answered with a shrug.

It takes as long as it takes
It takes as long as it takes

Some people plan a launch day that nets them hundreds or even thousands of sales. Then there are others who click the refresh button to see empty graphs.

Even if you follow all of the self-publishing steps, watch YouTube videos until the wee hours of the night, and do everything right, you could be waiting weeks or months for someone other than friends and family group to buy your book.

I am so sorry, but this is the truth of it.

However, you can take steps to increase initial sales, but it requires a lot of pre-release work.

Engage with book bloggers, book reviewers, other authors, and reading groups.

Tell them your release date and ask if they’d be willing to read and review your work. Those who accept are called ARCs (Advance Reader Copy reviewers).

They don’t buy your book. You gift them an ARC and wait for their review.

In doing so, you can create “hype” around the release of your novel which can lead to early sales. This approach demands social networking and a lot of patience.

Make networking work for you
Make networking work for you

You should start doing this a month or two before your release date.

If you leave the requests too close to the release date, the reviewers might not have enough time in their schedule to accommodate you.


Writers can put pressure on themselves by trying to find a short cut to the end.

There is no shortcut to producing a good book. And if your only goal is to earn quick money, it will seep into your narrative and sour it.

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Would you like to read a rushed novel?

You should only glance at the horizon to look at your main goal. The rest of the time, your eyes should be on the here and now, and focused on the quality of your words.

But most of all, enjoy the experience of writing and publishing a novel. Embrace everything you learn along the way. And cherish your work.

Tomorrow will be here before you know it, and with it, your self-published novel.

Good luck.

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