Crafting the perfect story is a delicate and time-consuming art. But how much time should it take exactly? For some a short story could take years to finish, while other whip out novels in a few weeks time. There isn’t a unique answer as to how long a story should take, but there are factors that would help you determine whether you’re moving too fast or too slow.
The Size of Your Work
I know I just said that the size of your story doesn’t always matter, but let’s face it, it does to some extent. Sure there are exceptions where a short story or article could take longer to write than some novels, but more often than not, the larger the volume of work, the longer it will take to pen it down.
Some writers can write no more than 500 words a day, while some jot down up to two or three thousand. I once wrote a novel in 30 days typing around 3K a day, and another non-fiction book in 5 days with over 5K a day. However, the sequel to my novel has been a work in progress for over two years now and it’s still not even halfway through, which brings me to the next factor.
The Degree of Your Commitment
If you can commit yourself to a writing schedule and a number of words and pages per day, that’s a good way to measure how long it will take you to finish writing your draft. It is also a great way to ensure that you actually get the work done and stop procrastinating, she tells herself as she scrolls through the Twitter feed.
If you plan it out and divide your workload reasonably and somewhat equally throughout your days, you should have a plain idea of when your work can be done. Also, it’s a great way to help you turn writing into a habit, which is another great step into distinguishing yourself from amateur writers. Sure, not all of us can dedicate the same amount of time to writing, that’s why your schedule should be suitable to you and only to you. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t follow the Stephen King rule of writing 2,000 words a day and finishing your book in three months of less. Many writers spend years penning and plotting their work and it turns out great. What’s important is to keep at it.
The Readiness of Your Plot
Let’s say you decided on the size of your work and you worked out the perfect writing schedule. The next question to ask, is your story ready? Do you have most the plot points figured out? If your answer is no, which it probably will be, maybe you should spend some more time plotting. Some writers, such as Stephen King, prefer to figure out the plot as they go. Other, like J.K. Rowling, feel the need to know every little detail about the story before they start with their draft. I use a mix of the two approaches.
The good thing about plotting first is that you encounter less obstacles during writing, hence fewer encounters with writer’s block. However, in many cases, the plot can change as you write. I find at many times that my characters have a mind of their own and they tend of “go off script” so to speak. In that case, I tend to be flexible and change the plot as I go. Non-fiction writers especially tend to have the need to figure out most of their structure and content before writing. But there’s also another thing to keep in mind.
The Amount of Research
Research is important for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. I can’t tell you the number of stories that get rejected and/or ridiculed for lack of credibility and poor research. Even the novels that are pure fantasy and fiction demand some degree of research if nothing but for the sake of believability. The more you know your plot in advance, the easier and faster it will be for you to do research. However, not all research is a quick stroll down google pages. Some topics require field trips, interviews, browsing through archives, and long, daunting trips to the library. The more complex your topic, the more time you need to factor into the research which will make your writing journey that much longer.
The Force of Resistance to Temptations
The last but not least factor in determining how long it should take you to finish your story is your own will-power. Today more than ever, distractions are everywhere, from the internet, to the phone, to the tv, to friends and family, to responsibilities, to the radical changes in the weather, to a furry creature hijacking your laptop.
It seems like everything can be distracting, especially to us— the ADD generation. However, if you’re planning to get more things done in life than a few social media posts, you need to fight the urge to get carried away by temptations. Remember, the glory of achieving your goals is waiting on the other side.
So here are some of the things you need to factor in to calculate how much time you need to finish your story. Remember that a good piece of work is not measured by the time it took to get finished. Writing is not a race, but if you eliminate distractions and commit to a schedule, you will beat the greatest scribbler to the finish line. How long does it usually take you to finish a story? Do you follow a writing schedule? Share your comments below!