Here’s the  episode of the Writing Talk Podcast.

In this episode of the Writing Talk Podcast, we’re trying to work out how long it’s going to take you to write a novel.

Plus this week’s writers’ toolbox tip. There’s also a quick review of my news.

Hope you enjoy listening.

NB: You can support the show by subscribing from the links above. Please also consider sharing the show with your writer friends.

Show Notes


This week I appeared as a guest host at a Facebook launch party. I was invited by the time travel writer Nathan Van Coops who was launching the third book in his popular time travel adventure series.

I’ve also written a short story which is a companion story to my cyberpunk novel Cheatc0de. It’s a short story of about 6000 words and it will only be available to subscribers of my newsletter. If you’d like to find out more about my newsletter and grab yourself some free books, head on over to

Main topic

At first it can be disconcerting to think in terms of thousands of words, but as a rough guide, anything below 1000 words is very short fiction of the type that is often called flash fiction.

The typical length the most short stories is anywhere between 1000 and 10,000 words. Once we go beyond 10,000 words, a book is often described as a novella or novelette.

Because 50,000 words is used as the target for the NaNoWriMo, that figure is often used as the minimum length for a book to be considered a novel. In fact, although overall length varies widely by genre, 50,000 words is quite short as novels go. For an ordinary novel that’s a stand-alone book, around 75,000 words would be a good number to aim for. Although some genres tend to favour short works, such as erotica and some episodic romance books, fantasy stories and epic sci-fi tend to weigh in with at least 100,000 words.

It’s an often quoted idea that the writer should always let the story dictate the length that it wants to be, and that’s a good maxim to bear in mind. But that doesn’t mean you should pad out a story to hit an arbitrary target. Tell the story and nothing more.

Let’s work through an example using a nice round number to help illustrate how you might go about setting your goals and deadlines. Let’s say you’re going to write a novel with 80,000 words. That would give you 40 chapters with 2000 words each. These figures are just for illustrative purposes – there is no optimum chapter length. It’s worth bearing in mind that each chapter you write should have its own tight structure, i.e. it should have an opening hock, and middle build, and an ending payoff. It can be useful to think of each chapter as a short story in its own right. Apart from the storytelling benefits of having a chapter with a well thought out structure, it’s a lot easier to deal with lots of smaller targets than it is to face the enormous single target of writing the novel. By focusing on completing one chapter at a time, you’re giving yourself some achievable steps on which to build your success.

So how long will it take you to write those 2000 words for each chapter?

All things being equal, you shouldn’t have trouble with writing 500 words in a writing episode. Although, on some days it can be hard to write more than a few words, if producing 500 words in one go is always difficult for you, then something is probably wrong. If that’s the case, then perhaps you have a problem with the structure of your piece, or it could be that you’re just not convinced by your own story. Either way, you need to take a look at the problem and see what you can do about it. I have covered the topics of getting stuck with stories and how to keep writing on days even when it’s difficult, in previous episodes of the podcast and you might find it helpful to go back and listen to those episodes.

If you’re happy writing 500 words at a time, then it will take you four days to finish a chapter. Let’s say you can fit in four writing episodes a week. In this example, you would take 40 weeks to write your novel. If we allow some time for holidays and so on, then you’re looking at almost a year to complete your novel. However, with regular practice you will get faster. And once you get going and enjoy the process more, you’ll speed up without even realising it and it won’t even feel like you’re putting in more work. Remember, this is simply a basic illustration to demonstrate the kind of calculations that you can do very simply yourself. Have a go and see what figure you come up with. There is a good reason for doing this. If you have no end in sight, it can be very easy to become demotivated and give up. But working out a rough timetable and writing it down, will give you something concrete to aim at. It’s a good idea to revisit your planned timetable from time to time and check your progress. You can give yourself rewards and treats for the days when you hit your targets or exceed them. Many people like to mark of their progress on the calendar. But do stick to your writing times if you reasonably can. You may find that as you become engrossed in your novel you’re struggling to find enough time, in which case many people have to try and decide what they going to give up. There may be something like watching a mindless TV show that you won’t miss, but don’t give up on the things that make life worth living. The answer that most people come up with, is to get up early in the morning. It’s how I started my writing and it works.

How long it takes you to complete your novel will ultimately depend a great deal the amount of time that you can put in. But the take-home message is this: make a plan and define your own success. If X number of words a day is good for you, then that’s wonderful. The important thing is to stick at it.

Writer’s toolbox

I’ve been looking at two pieces of software this week. The first is a piece of software that is designed to guide writers through the planning stages of a novel. It’s called The Novel Factory and it’s available via the following link:

It’s an interesting piece of software that I’ve only just started looking at, and I will be reporting back in future episodes when I’ve had the chance to evaluate it properly. If you’re looking for some new planning software and you already have your main drafting software needs covered, then you may like to have a look at it yourself. There is a free seven day trial on the website.

I’ve also been using a chrome browser plug-in called Book Report. When you get to the point in your writing career where you’re actually selling some books every day, it can be quite tedious to try and follow your sales via the KDP dashboard. Book report is a plug-in that takes the data from the dashboard and presents it in easy to understand charts and tables of figures, and it can also convert your earnings from sales and page reads into the currency of your choice. It’s free to use so long as you are earning less than $1000 per month. It’s definitely worth looking at this plug-in and you can find it via the following link:

That’s it for this week. I hope you found this episode useful, if you have, please share the podcast with your writer friends, e.g. you could post a link in any writing groups you’re a member of. Also, please consider supporting the podcast by subscribing. The show is on itunes, stitcher, youtube, and or you can subscribe by other methods on the site at e.g. you can have new episodes emailed to you.

Thank you very much for listening and for all your support. Until next week, keep writing, keep tapping at the keys, keep scribbling, and above all, keep smiling.

NB Links to Scrivener and Amazon are affiliate links.

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