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How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?

by Karen Jones

I love it when readers ask, “How long did it take you to write this book?” It never fails to make me laugh. Should I include the years I thought about the story? How about the nights spent staring at the ceiling? And then there are the months I left the draft in the drawer, giving it time to “rest”. Can I tell them about the first, second and third drafts, and the years in between? Does the agony of submission count? If so, the rejections should be given three months each which includes ego recovery time. Perhaps I should count the time rewriting for my publisher. And then there are the weeks of copyediting, corrections, and draft revision.

The Summer of Grace began as a series of southern short stories I wrote back in the 1980s. I was living in Princeton, NJ and desperately homesick for the south. I volunteered at a local

emergency room and, during the overnight down time, shared the stories with a young doctor. He loved reading them and encouraged me to write a book. Life intervened and I spent twenty years in television news as a journalist and on-air anchor/reporter. Daily broadcast news taught me to write fast, write well, and tell the story. I loved it and had little time for anything else. But during those years Miss Emily sometimes would show up and nod her head approvingly as I interviewed a celebrity, Marcell often visited me on the long drive home after the 11 p.m. newscast, Uncle Ben would stand over my shoulder as I banged out a story for deadline, and Jane … Jane would occasionally stand to the side of the studio, arms folded across her chest, laughing as I was on-air. Should I count these years too?

Early retirement led me to teach writing camps, mentor young authors, participate in writing

conferences, and write four other books. But always, the characters from those southern short

stories kept me awake at night. Aunt Martha sometimes peeked over the footrail, Great Granny Jane sat beside me as I read the stories out loud to my classes, looking for affirmation and courage. And Sissy? Well Sissy would occasionally drift by her snarl knocking the wind right out of my sails. But perhaps it was simply the lullaby of Brown Hound’s imaginary baying as she hunted in the sultry night swamp, that provided the push.

So, when readers ask, “How long did it take you to write the book?” I tell them ten. Little do they know I’m not talking about years, but characters. Characters who would not leave me alone. The Summer of Grace took ten characters to write.

For more information about Karen Jones and her book The Summer of Grace visit the book page on our website or

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Susan Paxton
Susan Paxton
08. des. 2023


What a great way to answer the question of how long it takes to write a book. I love the idea of using number of characters. Mind if I do the same when asked that question?

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