I recently read an interview with Jesse Ball, whose book ‘Census‘ I also recently finished.
In the interview, Ball noted that he generally takes between four and fourteen days to write a novel.
Fourteen days. That’s it.
Ball’s approach highlights, once again, that there is no prescriptive process to writing, that each creator is different, and will take a different approach. That’s why the viability of writing courses and the like is hard to quantify – because you can’t follow a prescriptive approach and hope to become a published author.
If there was a linear, simplified procedure that every aspiring writer could follow, they would do so, but as with all art, you need to find your way into it yourself, then build upon it with your own inspirations.
In some ways, it’s intimidating, thinking that some people are able to bash out great works of literature in such a short amount of time, but in others, it’s somewhat liberating. You don’t have to spend years putting together your work, you shouldn’t feel like there’s any obligation for you to write in isolation, or in public, or to have read certain books or know certain styles.
In certain respects, it may even be better not to know all the details. I would definitely advocate for learning as much as you can through reading, but there’s also something to be said for finding your style, then sticking to it. That could mean you don’t have to have read all of Hemingway’s great works, that you don’t need to understand the intricacies of ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’. I suspect they would help, but in some instances, that lack of structured, traditional process could lend itself better to creating the work you want.
Essentially, writing is personal. Its a part of you that you’re getting out and putting onto a page. For that, you need to find the best way within yourself, the process which truly reflects the work you want to create.
There’s no step-by-step process for this, it will be different for everyone. Maybe it takes you four weeks, maybe forty years – but the important thing is that when you read it back, that it reflects exactly your vision, and that you can’t think of anything more than should be added or removed to clarify it. Then you’ll be able to pass it onto readers and take in their feedback in a more constructive manner.
Definitely readers, and reading, will help refine and improve your work, but the answers to unlocking it lie in your own approach.