Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

The Time It Takes to Write a Book

Margaret Lazarus Dean advises would-be novelists to slow down

May 5, 2010 A need to hurry up and finish seems to be encoded in the writerly DNA, particularly for novelists. Poets and short-story writers can have something finished to show after a few weeks’—or even a few days’—work, but novelists slog along in pained isolation for months and months and months and months. And all the while they suspect their friends of secretly thinking, “Yeah, sure, you’re writing a book.” To be taken seriously, to be recognized as a real writer, you have to finish the book, sell it, and get it out there.

Knoxville novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean, author of the gorgeous debut novel, The Time It Takes To Fall (Simon & Schuster, 2007), knows that feeling very well. She also knows why being not just a novelist but a good novelist requires resisting the urge to hurry up: “When we write, what we are aiming for is not just to be done, and not just to be published, but to be read and remembered long after we are dead,” she explains in a new essay. “It takes courage and perseverance to write, and it takes even more courage and perseverance not to be in a rush. … Write your book, make sure it’s the book you wanted to write when you first said, ‘I think I want to be a writer when I grow up,’ and then—and only then—go out into the world with it.”

Read the full essay in Fiction Writers’ Review here.