How long does it take to write a historical novel?
I tell myself it’s a slow, meandering process, historical novel writing. A coffee here, research, a little bit of novel reading there (for inspiration purposes), research, a bit of wandering round the house (self-imposed isolation is a must), research, some food(you’ve got to have a break), research, some more food, research, perhaps a spot of Netflix, and, if there’s time, more research.
And that’s on a good day.
So where’s the writing? Where, indeed.
I have now written a novel. A historical novel. And how I ever got round to finishing it is still a mystery when I take a look at my working methods.
I’m not exactly prolific. One novel. Second started. Dread to tell you how long I’ve taken.
I read that Ian Rankin (yes, I know he’s not a historical novelist) can take as little as 27 days to get a first draft down. The bitter failed writer in me sneers when I read that he has a house he can disappear in, cut himself off from all distractions, and just get on with it. Oh, if we all had our own hideaway in the middle of nowhere we’d all be able to do that.
As I can’t even get to the end of a paragraph (and sometimes it’s far less than that) without rewarding myself with a coffee, another, better part of myself, knows that I’m delusional. Fooling myself.
Especially when I’ve committed myself to self-imposed purda and stopped seeing people just so that I too am distraction-free.
The coffees just keep on coming but the word count crawls along as slowly as ever.
I hate to tell you that getting on with it is not that easy.
I read somewhere that many artists and writers like to work with a memento mori to give themselves a kick up the backside – a reminder that life is short and there’s no time to waste. And so, not to be left out, I considered tracking down a skull for myself in the hope that evidence of my mortality might serve to get me working a little faster. Unsurprisingly the hunt for a skull took up many useful writing hours.
Then there are the inspirational articles, the how-to books, the courses, following writers on twitter (that took me a while to work out I can tell you). I’ve even adopted the habits of highly successful authors. Many at the same time. And guess what? Yes. I’ve passed many a happy hour achieving nothing in particular.
And so I just have to face it – I have no choice but to commit words to the page. One after the other.
That’s going to be my next move. Try writing. Build it up. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. Until I’ve got a chapter. Then another one. Who knows, as long as I don’t get distracted I might even end up with a book.
Will it be any good?
Now that’s quite a different story.