Apparently large numbers of professional novelists turn out three to four books per year.
Here’s an example: Hugh Howey talking about a book he hasn’t started yet
In case any of you enterprising and impatient cats are searching Amazon occasionally, don’t flip out when you see the product page for DUST. It’s just a pre-order page. The book will release on August 17th, which gives me plenty of time to write it, have it edited, and get the physical edition proofed.
That means August 18th is the day I resume work on the next Molly book!
That’s 85 days.
In 85 days he’s going to write a novel, revise it, have a copy printed, read that, send it back, and have a print run produced and shipped to stores.
Let’s really compress the schedule of the proof-reading and production and call that JUST three weeks, or 21 days.
So now we know that Hugh is going to write a novel, start to finish, is 64 days, or 9 weeks.
Assuming he takes one day per week off, he’s going to work just 55 days to produce a novel.
I’ve got a rant that is, I suppose, a special sub-case of Sturgeon’s Law: 95% of novels are like magazines at the newsstand. They serve no particular purposes, they convey no particular information, they have no particular spark of life.
They exist to feed the endless conveyor belt, the belt that pours minimally-processed mediocre words into the mouths of the un-discerning reader who demands mediocre-grade entertainment.
Now, I’m not saying that Hugh Howey is mediocre. He’s got a rabid fan following, and that makes sense – he writes better than 95% of the people out there, his characterization is good, etc., etc., etc.
…but I strongly doubt that even Hugh Howey is going to turn out a necessary novel in 55 days.
There is nothing wrong with piece-work and doing a 10 hour shift in the factory. More mortgages have been paid and children fed by uninspired laboring in the mines or at the drill press or in the fields than by all the homes secured by artistic genius.
But we do need to realize that writing (all writing – novels, short stories, etc.) conforms to an 80/20 rule (except, perhaps, more like a 99/1 rule), where 99% of everything is crapped turned out under deadline to fill shelf space and 1% is truly a labor of love.
The next time an author tells you that he or she writes 3 or 4 novels a year, don’t cringe – all work, from spreading manure to changing tires to writing novels – is honorable work, and one should take pride in it. But realize that the output of the 4-novels-per-year author is more likely to resemble the output of the manure spreader or the tire changer than it is to resemble Dune or Player of Games or Fahrenheit 451 or Snow Crash.