How long does it take to write a novel?

I remember the first time I heard someone talking about their BOOK, as in: I would go out drinking with you tonight, but I gotta work on the Book. Or, you guys go ahead and have fun without me, I have to work on the Book, as if their labour of love was an ex-jock with meaty fists who sipped ice cold Buds and insisted you stay home on weeknights.

Here’s a conversation I had with a published writer before I knew how things worked.

ME: How long till your next novel comes out?
W: You mean how long has it taken me to write the bloody Book?
ME Yeah, that’s what I mean, how much time?
W: (pausing for theatrical effect) roughly five years and some.
ME: Are you kidding me?
W: No smartass. I’m telling you. It has taken me 5 long miserable  years.
ME: But you’ve finished now, right?
W: Are you for real? Didn’t you hear me earlier? I’m still WORKING on the Book. It takes a long time if you want it to be good. Why are you looking at me like that? You doubt me newbie?
ME: No, I’m just surprised.
W: How long did you think it takes?
ME I dunno, 8 months?
W: (insane laughter) You gotta be kidding me. I’ve spent at least that long in the bathroom being constipated because of The Book. Listen, I don’t care what anyone tells you, NOBODY writes a book in less than a year.
ME: Nabakov did. Hemingway too. Also Stephen King.
W: (blank look) Kid, take it from me. I write everyday from sunrise to sundown and I’m telling you – the process takes forever. Five years is nothing when you’re working on a book. It’s like dog years. Five human years equals one year in the life of a writer. So maybe King says it takes him six months, but in reality it is like 2 or 3 years. Get it?
ME: Wow. I never knew.
W: Yeah, well better you know what you’re getting yourself into. In case your change your mind and decide you want to do something else like work in an office.
ME: No. I want to write.
W: Anyway, love to chat but I gotta go. The Book doesn’t like it when I’m late.

A few years later and I’m talking to a new writer after a seminar.

Newbie: So how long have you been working on your novel?
ME: What, you mean The Book? Almost two and a half years in human time.
Newbie: Two and a half?? What have you been doing all that time? I plan to finish my novel in six months.
MO: Ha! Good luck with that. Anyway, I gotta go home and tend to the Book, otherwise it gets whiney.

*In case you are wondering, my Book hates beers. It likes foot massages, imported chocolates and champagne cocktails.

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