how long does it take to write a novel?

Since I have recently finished my first novel, it makes perfect sense that I should be able to answer this question without sounding precocious.  (Did anyone else just sing super-cali-fragilistic-expialidocious? If so, you're welcome.)

What I can answer is how long it took ME to write The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  Frankly, this it going to vary greatly depending on:

  • How long your novel is.  YA adults are going to be shorter than adult novels.  Also, certain genres are expected to be longer.  Sci-fi or fantasy, for example, require a lot of world-building description and therefore, the books tend to be longer.  (I do not have any alien appearances to describe in this book.)
  • How often and how much you write.  If you are like one of my writing friends, you will write at least 600 words, five days a week before work.  (Dedication!)  If you are like me or my sister, you will write in thirty second increments whenever you can, interrupted by children and laundry and dishes and lunchtime and playtime and Seuss-reading, then for like three hours twice a month from 11 pm until 2 am until you accidentally whack your head on the keyboard and take that as a sign to bail and go to bed.  (By the way, the next day when you re-read what you wrote, the last few sentences about enchilada pizza should be removed.)
  • How much editing you do.  Apparently, some people edit as they go.  This is not me.  I have no less then 29 versions of The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  Changing little things and big things, polishing the writing, fixing inconsistencies... so much to be done.  Then after your first person reads it (my husband, in my case), they'll give you a ton of new ideas, ask questions you hadn't thought of, and point out holes you thought you'd explained.  So, more editing.

Back to the original question, though, I first started taking myself seriously (after a conversation over grilled chicken with aforementioned dedicated writing friend) and believing I could write something novel-length in May 2014.  So, two years and three months for 94,710 words. That's my answer.  820 days.  19,680 hours.  Hmm... doing the math, that means I wrote just under five words an hour on average.  Although, I didn't account for sleeping or going to the bathroom or driving.  (Ahh, that's the reason it took so long.  Too much sleeping!)

Maybe my second novel won't take me as long?  I'm currently about 3/4 of the way into my next project (which, in case you're curious, is unrelated to The Senator's Youngest Daughter; it's not a sequel or something), and I already know it's going to need extensive editing.  I don't outline my writing explicitly, so there are a bunch of things that I've sort of "discovered" as I've gotten to know my characters, so they'll have to be seeded earlier in the story.

My writing style

+ my available time

+ extensive editing since I am a rookie

= 2 years, 3 months


starred reviews, one two three four five

The only "reviews" The Senator's Youngest Daughter has had so far come from my pre-readers (all family and friends), so I'm sure the emailed notes and scrawls in manuscript margins have been tempered with love.  

I looked back just now at my Amazon reviews of the fiction I've recently read.  Chances are, the authors aren't reading my review, but honestly... they wrote what they wanted.  It's their own book.  So why does my opinion as a reader matter?

(Han shot first!)  

I bet each author's personal review would be five-star:

I wrote exactly what I wanted.  I had some great ideas, and I got some helpful feedback from others to make them even better.  I'm offering you, reader, exactly the best I can do.  Five stars, self.

It would be silly to think that anyone wouldn't love their own creative work.  Maybe you don't love everything you write for work or school, but those are things others asked or required you to do.   When you do it for yourself, the final product should be precisely what you want.

So, my review for myself on The Senator's Youngest Daughter is:

Good job accomplishing something you've talked about forever.  You made me laugh so hard!  We have the same sense of humor.  All your characters remind me of people I know and dearly love.   


While not technically "reviews," my wonderful and loving pre-readers gave me invaluable feedback.  Along with about ten thousand "I don't get this" and "What?" and "Reword" notations, here are some of my favorite comments:

  • Good job on the explosion.  It was surprising, and I was sucked in.
  • I've decided [he] is a reverse Scarlet Pimpernel.
  • Ha! Atlas Shrugged!
  • Do guys wear diamond earrings? I am so naive.
  • I really hate [him].  Good job.
  • BOO! I am sobbing like a weirdo.
  • This gives me a Terminator flashback. Linda Hamilton is so buff.
  • And the triumphant music swells!
  • This is "Where is the rebel base? Tell me or I will destroy your planet."
  • Why does everyone call everyone else "stinker" in this book?
  • Could [she] be skeptical, incredulous, doubtful, stupefied, dumbfounded, cynical, etc., etc. without rolling her eyes?  I’m beginning to think she needs to see an ophthalmologist.

If you do me the honor of choosing to read The Senator's Youngest Daughter, I do hope you take the time to leave me a review.  Just remember I'm a person, and I will cry really hard if you are mean.


my website launch for me

Well, I did it.  I bought my own name as a domain.  I bought a hosting package.  I bought a stock photo.  Apparently, it's all real once you put your credit card information into the little "buy now" form.

Does this mean I believe in myself a little more?  Maybe.  Does it mean Matt is still on board with my far-fetched dream of calling myself 'a novelist' after over two years of this journey?  Apparently.  (Either that or he's entered the stage where as soon as I mention my book, he just starts nodding.)

The Senator's Youngest Daughter by Kelley Rose Waller.  There it is.

My first draft of this project, entitled simply "Doghouse" is dated May 22, 2014.  Although that file is already 9,000 words... so I must've started before that.  Ah, memories.  Back before I knew Matt would tell me I was like "a woman possessed" and I stared at my laptop through two family vacations because I had this story bubbling up inside me and it just had to get out of me and into coherent words.  Ok, semi-coherent words. 

I've written my 'thank you' list for the Acknowledgements section, and I'm already dreaming of how I'm going to promote this project online.  I have a lot of plans but no idea if anything will come of them.  Yesterday, I sent my sister the final-final-final-final copy which probably still needs a little more tweaking. (By the way, I've come to the recent conclusion that as soon as you label a document 'final', a bunch of new ideas magically appear in your brain, so that is my new trick to solve writer's block.)

So many people have read this project for me, and several others have disappointed me by their lack of enthusiasm to participate.  But looking back over this journey... having an idea and pursuing it, I'm proud that I saw it through.  It doesn't have to be about sales and readership; it can just be about me still "having it" in me to finish something that mattered to me and no one else.

This stage of life as a mother of young kids is a quick way to have your inspiration and your energy for life sapped.  A quick way to forget that you were once creative and fun and had thoughts and opinions and knew about things and could enter adult conversations and talk about current events and people respected you and... Alas.  

I'm not trying to complain.  But maybe I did need to prove to myself that I still have something of ME left in this heart and brain.  That there's a little blonde KELLEY still dreaming in there.  That there's something that didn't change or melt away or grow up.  Something that still says it's ok to want to be a violin virtuoso or a gymnast or go to Narnia or, in my case, to write a novel.  

So this is a website launch for me.  But I still hope you enjoy what you find here.