How long does it take you to write a book?
During book signings and workshops, readers and beginning writers often ask this question. Usually I have to answer, "I don't know," with an explanation.
For those of us who are full-time or contracted writers, I suspect the answer comes easier. You may be able to pinpoint when you wrote the first word of the first draft and count until you get to your editor's deadline. Contracted writers know they can produce one book a year, or one every other year or three a year. If they don't know at first, continuing projects will teach them.
For me, a published, but currently uncontracted writer whose fiction career is sandwiched in between other things in life, "how long" is hard to define. I tend to measure the process in pieces: background creation, first draft, research, rewrite chapter-by-chapter, rewrite again. For most of my projects, the whole process may span a couple of years, but I suspect the actual writing time may be closer to 6 months.
If I'm working on a project every day, I know that it takes several weeks for background creation--character sketches, basic plot and theme, crafting a few key scenes. I can produce a 150-page first draft in a long weekend. Some writers like to have their research completed before they write; I tend to build a beginning base and research the rest along the way. So, perhaps count a few weeks there. I need a few days per chapter rewrite, and the final rewrite takes a few more weeks.
But I do know that when "A Private Proposal" was rejected by one publisher as being too "soft" for their line, I looked for publishers who would accept "softer" romance, found Avalon Books and revised the manuscript in one week. When I'm motivated, I can produce.
And of course, I've not counted the time we take to savor an idea, chew on it, play with it in our heads and make little notes. The time we take to listen to a conversation or watch an interaction or observe people and tuck those impressions away for use later. That's all "writing time", too.
So, how long does it take you to write a novel?