For me the answer is approximately 1.2.
As long as you’re willing to give some things up. Inessentials. You know. Like friendship and bathing and sleep.
I’m beyond fortunate. I wrote my first novel INTO THE BLUE with a contract. I had a self-set deadline and people waiting for me. Those kind of things work for me. I started January 2015 and had it ready for submission by September. About 240 days.
Because I have two young kids and a more-than full-time job, writing like that required some (chosen) sacrifices. I maintained friendships but was more protective of my time. I decreased my alcohol tolerance by about 300%. I gave up a lot of nights out. I’m lucky any friends kept me. I bathed but chose not to wash my hair at times when it would really have helped. Again, I’m lucky any friends kept me.
And I wrote early in the day. I’m talking 4:30 in the morning, a.m., pre-dawn, painfully early. By half way through I didn’t need to set an alarm. I’d open my eyes to a dark room, pull on my slippers and tiptoe to my computer. I’m a morning person but I was getting 5 and a half hours sleep a night. OUCH.
There were things I had to reel myself in on. The worst was when I was unfairly snippy with the kids. Or when I found day-to-day work a sleepy struggle. But I worked it out. I calmed myself down. I sent myself to bed earlier.
And then the book was done and I could rest…
Only trouble is, shortly after submitting that book to my editor, I pitched a second novel.
Everyone says second novels are hard. But I chose carefully and set it in a world I know (Sydney’s queer and indie rock scene). I had long service leave. So I thought: the last one took 9 months, but I have January off. I can do this in 3.
Spoiler alert: I am an idiot.
My month off was amazing. It was summer. A friend lent me his apartment and cats for some days. I discovered local libraries. I got the book a solid start. But it wasn’t enough. I had edits on my first book and it was school holidays. Add to that, it turns out extra time doesn’t always mean extra production. Because there’s only so many words and ideas that a human can put on the page before we feel a bit like an empty husk.
So I begged for an extended deadline and submitted the book two months later. I’m proud of it. We’ll fix it.
So that’s it. 18 months. 2 books.
That was two weeks ago. I think it’s time to write again.