How Long it Takes to Create a Novel Isn’t Important, Writing it is. Inspiration From Author Ritu Bhathal #IWSG

Do you ever feel it’s taking too long to write your novel? What if I told you there is no prescribed timescale. Avoid internal pressure by learning from Ritu.

Writers create books in many ways. If you’ve ever wondered how long it take to go from concept to first draft then consider the old adage, “How long is a piece of string?”

On my game I can write a chapter a week. If I take an average of 5000 words per chapter and look at around 80,000 words for a novel that gives sixteen chapters and therefore the same number of weeks to complete.

That is a very rough guideline and clearly variable as not all chapters are exactly 5000 words, not all books have sixteen chapters and the target zone can change considerably. It gives an idea of my own strategy though.

Throw in NaNoWriMo and pressure increases because the goal there is 50,000 words just in November.

Publishing contracts might also tie an author down into timescales for successive novels too.

But what if you are a debut writer?

Someone who has a book inside them waiting to escape. Maybe started a project years ago and got lost along the way. Does time really matter here? I believe it doesn’t and have an inspirational author to prove that point.

Allow me to introduce Ritu Bhathal from But I Smile Anyway.




This is her writing story.

One I find inspiring because of the determination to finish something started eighteen years ago.


Ritu Bhathal

“As a mid-twenties girl, about to embark on my own marital journey, I had an idea.

It was the bones of a story for a novel.

Everyone has a book inside them, so they say. Maybe this was mine!

I started writing this story in 2000, not realising the journey I would go on whilst this book was being written, both as a person, and a writer.

I managed to write around 6,000 words before the day I said “I do”.

The first year of marriage was busy. Not hard, but different to the life I was used to. It left no time for me to be faffing around with pen and paper, or a computer.

But I could hear that floppy disk calling me… yes it was that long ago that my work was on floppy disks, later saved onto CD-ROMs. Way before the pen drives and the cloud drives we are used to now!

I remember telling my Hubby Dearest about this book thing. He showed a little interest, and actually he even bought me my first laptop for me to continue my writing.

I printed what I had off and got a colleague to read it. She was encouraging and it spurred me on. I had an aim to get 1,000 words done a night. That way within a few months I could have completed my book!

But life isn’t always that easy, is it?

Being a daughter in law meant I had certain responsibilities, including helping arrange my brother in law’s wedding, coupled with the fact that we wanted to start a family.

I tucked my book up for what I hoped was a short while, at around 13,000 words.

And there it languished, this time on a CD-ROM, for many years.

Sister-in laws came and went, and my own two children took up a lot of my time, leaving that poor WIP gathering computer dust. My literary creativity was at an all-time low. Non-existent. But I still read feverishly and enjoyed sharing children’s classics with my own kids.

Around fourteen years after I started writing this story, blogging came into my life, changing it completely!

My creativity was ignited again. I was responding to writing prompts, enjoying the whole process of moulding words into little literary artworks.

I was in touch with people like me. Bloggers who were writers, writers who were authors, poets, both. It was another world, this Blogosphere, and I loved it!

Again, my WIP whispered to me… “Let them read me… maybe you’ll want to finish me too…”

So, I took that step.

I published the first seven chapters of my story, on a weekly basis, to get the feedback from all these amazing writers out there.

And the feedback was so positive. There was a thirst for the next chapter to be posted, and the story seemed to hit a note with those who read it.

I just had to finish it! So many people wanted to know what happened next, and I didn’t even know that, as I had not really planned my story in such detail.

But, for writing, you need time. I saw two NaNoWriMo annual sessions pass and was gutted that I couldn’t take part in it. November is a busy month for a teacher. It just wasn’t happening.

I managed to squeeze in publishing a poetry book though, which I found simple, as I had so much material to use, but the writing… there just wasn’t the time!

Then I got to know Gary. (Ed… This being me, which is pretty awesome!)

We have realised that between us, we are the world’s greatest procrastinators!

Gary read all the chapters and gave me great detailed feedback. He also kept on at me to get on with the writing, as I chivvied him along on his projects too.

By now I also had a small cavalry of authors who were also encouraging me to get back into writing.

I made a decision then.

If I couldn’t take part in the official NaNo, then I would do it myself.

I gave myself a target of 50,000 words, and chose the month of August to have my very own RiNoWriMo – Ritu’s Novel Writing Month.

(Read about this here)

School holidays, and children who were older and able to keep themselves entertained, meant August was the best time for me to write.

It wasn’t easy, but I prepared myself by rereading all that I had written, correcting silly mistakes as I went along. I invested in a huge whiteboard which I decorated and made into a storyboard, and really planned my story, did character profiles, checked out locations etc.

It was all rather real!

And I wrote.

Boy did I write!

During the month, I posted weekly on my blog about the progress of the novel, and whether I had hit my own targets.

My followers became my accountability partners, along with emails and messages from a few close blog pals, and they kept my momentum going.

My kids even heard snippets of it and were always asking what was going to happen to various characters, showing interest in this story of my making.

By the end of August, I had a manuscript that was nearly 70,000 words log, and still not finished, but not far off.

I was mentally exhausted, but so proud of myself.

I couldn’t bear to look at it for ages after. Partly because of the exhaustion, but also because my work life was really tough at the time, and I didn’t want to be half-hearted about the ending.

A few months passed, and Easter holidays came. I decided to have a reread of the last few chapters I had written, and (am I supposed to say this about my own manuscript?) I really enjoyed it!

It spurred me on to write more, and by the second week of the holidays, and eighteen years after starting, I finally had a fully completed first draft!

The first day I held a fully printed out version of my first ever first draft, was a truly blessed day! (Even though I saw a spelling error on the first page, as soon as I looked at it, d’oh!)

Now, I have the rest of the journey to publication to look forward to.

From rereading and rewriting, beta reading and editing, then the formatting and cover design if I decide to self-publish or choosing to write my synopsis and send letters out to agents, in the hope of getting discovered by a traditional publication house, to actually holding a physical copy of my book in my hand.

(Read about this here)

As long as it doesn’t take another eighteen years!”



Since this original interview Ritu has submitted her printed book to two alpha readers to see if the story hangs together. It’s something I do too. Send out the first draft more or less intact. Not asking for error checking or minutia, just to see if the novel works. It serves two things.

  1. To give breathing space to the writer before tacking the next phase of re-reading and editing.

  2. To give an indication of whether or not an independent eye thinks it works in the crude form.

Not everyone does that. Most probably run several internal edits and proofs before thinking time for a professional eye. In my opinion never consider publishing until a pro has picked it apart. After that use a proofer to polish the aftermath of editing. This is especially important to the self published author.

While traditional publishers do these things internally, a self published one must do it themselves. No author will be able to edit or proof their own writing properly. They are just too close to the work.


 The Insecure Writer’s Support Group


Insecure Writers Support Group Badge


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!




173 thoughts on “How Long it Takes to Create a Novel Isn’t Important, Writing it is. Inspiration From Author Ritu Bhathal #IWSG

Add yours

  1. Hi Gary and Ritu,
    When I wrote my book, it took me a year. That is why I am dissuaded from writing another.
    Yet, Ryan Biddulph writes ebook in a weekend.

    1. Hi Janice,

      That’s the bit readers don’t really get to see. How much time is invested into the process of concept to book launch. Sometimes it’s easy to see the path, more often it gets muddled. With families it’s tough too, trying to balance life with writing. That’s before the internal conversations start flipping between it’s good or bad!! I guess if writing is your actual job though, it becomes easier to churn things out because it’s your primary income source. Fitting it in around other things is much harder and requires greater commitment because time is shorter: relatively speaking !

      1. You are right. I was confused but now I see the difference. Ryan is a full-time blogger, and I’m not. I teach outside the home. Thanks for the insight.

        1. Time is always the enemy Janice. Juggling life, family and the day job around writing is never going to be easy in terms of churning out books. Trick is to accept that’s there and not get discouraged watching others write all the time. A book a year, in your case for example, would be very good progress and quite an impressive feat!

    2. Everyone is different!
      If I had spare time, after Being mum, wife and teacher, I’d write more, but this is the life I’ve got!

  2. Thank you! I’m preparing a short promotional collection of children’s poems for my readers as I work on other projects. This was great! Thanks!

    1. And thank you for the kind comment. I wish you all the very best of luck with the children’s poems too. If you need a shout out let me know. I do run author/writer spotlights now and then too!

      1. Cool! I’ll keep you in mind. I haven’t started doing interviews or anything like that on my blog, but if/when I do, I’ll reach out to you.

    1. You’re too kind indeed and, in truth, this ones worth a read for positive mojo!

      As for BUYB there are two spin off groups run by the excellent Em and also Esmé (TRH Cook). Both are worth joining! Many of us have already joined them too so the BUYB community is still connected!

    1. Thanks for the supportive comment! Ritu’s story of writing endurance (for want of a better word!) is an inspiration for all writers thinking it’s easy to juggle life, work, young children AND write a novel!

              1. sometimes I find I make myself write without the mojo, the discipline thing helps mojo decide to come visit. It’s so seductive to wait for mojo. But being a writer, rather than just a person who writes sometimes… means getting up, putting on my glasses, and putting those fingers to the keyboard. It’s one reason I periodically write stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily write… I write to requests from others… It gets me out of my head, and gets words on paper, and the more I flex the muscle the more I feel like writing my own stuff… It doesn’t always work, but it keeps me from simply not writing at all. I don’t think not writing at all is good for me. Even if what I’m writing isn’t ‘totally inspired’.

                Still, I too enjoy it when that mojo bird is perched on my shoulder and the words come out like a geyser… and they are amazing words.

                1. Very wise words. They do say writing needs to be a habit. Waiting for mojo can work against us, well me at least. The bigger the gap, the further away the habit gets. I’ve had a few weeks off most social media linked to my writing platform and it struck me losing the habit is relatively easy. Getting it back is perhaps not so easy as losing it. I have ideas by the bucket load and yet putting them down is more a mindset issue. That said I’ve got four waiting for something to happen re publishing.

                  So get that last part too. When the mojo coincides with writing habit then time slips and words form all by themselves. Thanks for this, I’m using it to berate my own habit breaking. Must do better!

  3. OK, I am inspired… that 10,000 words I need to write before the end of the month… it will get written… and if I behave sanely, it won’t be written in one insane 24 hour rush!

        1. Awesome Blue, very impressed. Hardest but is actually starting in the guest blasted place! When you publish give me a shout and I’ll spotlight you too!

    1. OMG, where on earth have you been? Talk about time slips! Really good to see you Blue. More so if this can indeed inspire that 10k to push forwards. I’m sure you can do it once that mind if yours engages!

    1. So generous Josy! Thank you so much and get on Ritu’s case as I’m itching for the blog tour posts now 😂😂

  4. It took me nearly two years to write my first draft of my first book and 21 days to write the second. I’ve always found that writing isn’t the problem, it’s learning the craft of fiction. That has taken seven years and I’m still learning!

    I depend on internal pressure to write every day. It’s the only way to get a lot done!

    1. Crafting fiction is the real deal in writing it. Bit like saying anyone can play a piano…the trick is getting the notes in the right order 🤔

      Internal pressure is a good thing to have too. Losing a writing habit is way easier than developing it for so many people. Good to hear you have continued to evolve though Susie. Never give up is the consensus here!

    1. Thanks Rainey! You never know, if time is generous I’d like to visit way more than once a month! That said I do read many of your posts!

  5. Well I think you two know that you are my fav writers, and have certainly inspired me since I started blogging. I already have Ritu’s poetry book – and look forward to getting my hands on both of your novels!! C x

    1. That is incredibly kind of you Claire and might even set you up the beta read drafts 😂😂

      I’m hoping to make inroads soon…just get school exams out if the way for my teenagers and then I can get cracking!

      1. I know where you are coming from…..part of the reason I am so slow replying this week…..GCSEs!! Feel as if I have sat chemistry this week!!! Nearly finished though and then I can reclaim my dining table. I would LOVE to be a beta reader for you xxx

        1. Same here. I’ve hardly blogged or engaged at all this past two weeks. One of mine finishes tomorrow and the other has two left next week. Then, like you, it’s reclaim the house back and stop treading on egg shells lol.

          I’ll connect up with you after if you really want to read something more than snippets on a blog xx

    1. Many thanks for reading it. Ritu is an inspirational writer. Although I’m hoping for s shorter journey myself 😊

  6. You DO give amazing detailed feedback! I enjoyed reading this post! Ritu is one of my favorite people and I do
    So enjoy your fiction! I have to hunt around through you Blog now it’s summer, I am free again! (School is done for the summer!) wonderful, inspiring post!

    1. It’s always easy when the author is open and friendly. Oh, and asking the right questions helps too! Ritu is fabulous to interview as her enthusiasm is catching.

      My own fiction took a big swerve during the A to Z. I used that to explore all my work and create a whole new world! An impending retheme should update everything and make exploring much simpler too.

      1. I will keep this in mind! A friend just offered to read my things first, before I hit publish! This is invaluable, and I appreciate her. Thank you too for the advice, I will try to be honest and open as well!

        1. Outside eyes are always invaluable in most forms of writing. The author gets too close and skips rather than read line to line. I also feel open and honest is the best policy too. More so if it’s genres you like. Those are the ones Readers are actually qualified to give proper feedback on!

  7. I remember your (Ritu) “write-in” and the updates. The pages/words mounting. I so agree blogging as made me more focused and able to write and let go. Gary you are always an inspiration with your writing and support/encouragement to others. Well done team!

    1. Thanks Kelsey. Dreams can set up easily and time can erode them. This is a proper don’t give up on them message. I’ve said it before in comments, but when I put together Ritu’s journey as part of a previous post I knew this had to come out as a message to anyone who writes or aspires. Absolute fit for IWSG.

    1. Ooh, hope suggest you also have a long term book project Orla. If so you’ve come to a bad place to avoid it because Ritu and I will come haunt you until it’s done 😂

        1. We are both the Procrasti-King and Queen, but we can be pretty encouraging/hounding if you need us to be! 😉

    1. Thank you Em. I really enjoyed linking up with Ritu for this. Right on with finished article too…. I can have her back then lol

        1. I’m not sure … The rewrite is tough too… Changing words and settings that you first write can be really hard!!!

          1. #conversationdrop. Hard part…. did I see hard part as first draft?? But…but drediting is my bane. Fourth run through and the euphoric writing of “The End” has long since atrophied!!!

  8. Some say life gets in the way … but I say, the time isn’t right and our stories will be ready when it is. Xx five years mine has been morphing into what I am positive will be a wonderful well rounded read. As I know yours will too. X Thank you Gary for laying this here for us all to read

    1. Ooh, deja vu…I’m sure I just read this… although not the addendum! It was my pleasure Ellen. I found this, and some of the comments in relation to time, very inspiring. Definitely an area of blog posts I might pursue.

  9. Some say life gets in the way … but I say, the time isn’t right and our stories will be ready when it is. Xx five years mine has been morphing into what I am positive will be a wonderful well rounded read. As I know yours will roo. X

    1. Very true Ellen. Then again for ultimate procrastinators life getting in the way is a genius excuse too! Seriously though, it can at times. I found that out this last two weeks with school exams #taxi. Now come on Ellen, I want you over here in a spotlight soon 😂😂

    1. I think it’s struck an accord with a few people Micki. It’s so easy to lose writing to time. More so if its something you keep to yourself. Knowing about others (for me) really keeps perspective on things. This interview formed a month or so ago while doing a different post on Ritu. The story screamed for it to feature as my IWSG one. If it helps others keep going and not giving up then it’s a real positive outcome.

    1. Many thanks Micki. I try and do something like this for each IWSG post. Hopefully you might find future ones interesting too!

  10. This was terrific, Ritu! I so enjoyed the details over eighteen years. You really told a story of a writer’s life, and I felt much of it was me- a sign that you are an excellent writer. Thank you for this interview!

    1. Thanks Jennie! I talked to Ritu after doing a spotlight on her poetry a few months back. I also read her early excerpts too, but when she started talking about the journey her novel was taking in time I just had to use it for IWSG. I felt many people must have similar issues. Writing verses life, family, work and so on. Ritu never gave up and that’s a very positive story that had to be told!

      I’m always looking for spotlights and author interviews for IWSG. Keep that in mind if you feel, at any point, like taking part!

      1. Thank you, Gary. Ritu is one of the best, and I dearly love her down to earth, engaging writing. You picked a winner to interview. And yes, her story is like many of us. When my book is published (do you like that positive outlook?) I will definitely let you know and be happy to tell my story. Best to you. -Jennie-

    2. Thank you so much Jennie!!! Here’s hoping it won’t be long before I actually get something proper done!

      1. You are welcome, Ritu! I know how long this writing journey has been for you. From experience can I say, “Don’t rush it”? I submitted mine when I thought it was good to go. Well, it still needed some work. I learned there is nothing better than a tough editor, and mine is just that. In hindsight, I think of the agents to whom I submitted early, and now that is water over the dam. Eighteen years feels like a lifetime in writing one book. I’m there! Still, nothing beats ‘knowing’ when the book is finished, and good. I so look forward to your new book; just don’t feel rushed, my friend. 🙂❤️

        1. And I look forward to seeing yours in print soon too 💜💜💜 thanks Jennie. See its this encouragement from my blogily that keeps me on track 😁

    1. Loving that last sentence! Good things worth waiting for is spot on and a very positive thing to keep in mind in the “dark”times. Whoever thinks writing is easy is quite mad!

      Except I actually do… it’s after drafts I fall down 🤔

      Many thanks for dropping in!

        1. That’s because it’s all you! Not many jobs can compare to something like this. The rewards in terms of self achievement are immense.

  11. Lovely to read about your writing journey. Like you and Gary I’m pretty good at procrastinating too. I recognise a lot of similarities in our paths to writing. Kids, life, definitely got in my way too! You hung in their Ritu and that shows great strength of character, and determination which are needed in bucket loads in this business. Wishing you all the best Ritu. xxx

    1. That’s the advantage of supportive groups like yours Marje. Writing in isolation is a recipe for procrastinating! My world has shut down this month due to GCSE and A-level school runs. I find the trouble with gaps is they often get longer and the writing habit slips. Gaps get larger and off goes the procrastination! Can I put this on your FB Page?

    1. Very true Tonja, possibly more so with first novels as it’s all new territory and often close to the heart. Many people underestimate the challenge writing actually is. Time, commitment, perseverance stacked against life’s challenges, work and kids. Networking with supportive writers is a huge help when things look bleak.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment and I wish you good fortune with yours too.

  12. I took thirty years to come back to a story! Ritu, glad you picked it up again and hope you have great success with it. (That story I picked up became my first published book.)
    And everyone seems to write such short chapters, it’s nice to hear someone else can write a book with sixteen chapters of approximately five thousand words as well.

    1. Good point about chapter lengths Alex. I find that too. My own average around 5000 too. It seems a natural read length to me.

      Kudos on your own journey too. Thirty years to first published book is another inspiring tale. Too many folk these days are instant or nothing.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment too.

    1. Thanks Robbie! At least you’ve published several other items since though… Created a brand name!!!

    2. Oooh, Robbie…I’m always searching for new stories on WIP’s… I might have to pay you a visit too now 😊

      I thought this was a perfect one to do. Life can impact writing, but not giving up is a real inspiration in my humble opinion.

  13. Writing is all well and good but what about the passion to see the words come alive……That’s what I’m talking about

    1. I think not giving up on it shows a great deal of passion. Sometimes time drags dreams off into the undergrowth. Lots of reasons can impact that. But to keep at it through whatever life throws at us is a real commitment.

      1. To me everything I write is not always a winner….it sometimes takes days before I can hear the words I write……writing is my daily exercise w/0 that workout I am senseless

        1. I think you’ll find a lot of writers create dead ends at times. My advice is not to dwell on a first draft and just get the bones of a story down. Fixing it into a novel is what editing is about. I am a bit like you though Sheldon. Sometimes I just know the mood is wrong for the right words to emerge. If I write then, then I know it will be cut.

          A daily writing routine is essential though. Good or bad it improves the skills and broadens vocabulary. I try various writing blog challenges now and then to have a go at fast fiction or prompts that I can twist into something connected to projects I’m working on. Fabulous to hear your thoughts and many thanks for the comment!

  14. Great things need their time. As you said, It is not a matter of time but that we start and hang in when we feel the time is right.

    1. Very true Erika. Once I saw what Ritu started and then learnt about her journey it seemed an obvious IWSG post. Never give up on a dream. Many thanks for reading it and commenting.

      1. I absolutely agree. I had to turn 39 in order to reach the point where I realized what I forbid myself all my life. And at the same time I lost my fear to share this (and therefore my own opinion) with the world. It is not important when we start and how long it takes but that we do it!

        1. Sometimes we are victims of ourselves. You struck an accord with realising what I forbid myself. I fought a long battle with myself before blogging. Airing my writing views, throwing out samples and joining in challenges. For a long time I thought very negatively about it. Now… I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner!

          1. Because you were not ready. Because you had to break a chain first which held you back. It doesn’t matter when we start something but that we do it. It is never too late to begin but always too early to give up. You are right, we can be our own worst enemy. What a breakthrogh when we realize it!

            1. Absolutely. Bit like any addiction in principle. Spotting the problem is the beginning to fixing it. That realisation, as you rightly say, is an immense breakthrough.

                1. Mindful momentum! Might make a good post title 😂 But yes, each one reinforces the next. Is that a form of positive addiction do you think 🤔

                  1. Ha, that’s a good point. Yes, I think that is one of the rare healthy and constructive addictions. And it is one from which everyone benefits 😃If you ever write a post with that title let me know!

                    1. Maybe the next IWSG! I often think comment conversations that go through a few cycles must have posts waiting to be created!!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it Michael and Ritu is a true inspiration to persisting and not giving up!

        1. Too right Michael. Some of the other comments have also mentioned significant time to write that first book too. It’s all rather inspiring. Must go back to unfinished business myself now!

  15. What an inspirational story, one I really identify with. The first ideas for my novel Mystical Circles came to me 20 years before it was published. The story journeyed through a major location change, lots of different feedback from beta readers, several different writing groups, the encouragement of fellow authors, significant character shifts… it was a very challenging learning curve! I look forward to reading your novel, Ritu.

    1. Well said and another inspirational tale. Twenty years and never giving up is a real achievement in my humble opinion. Might have to chase you down for your story now 😊

    1. Thank you lovely Lucy. You have been a staunch supporter of mine since the start of this (second wind) writing process! <3 <3

    1. My pleasure Ritu. This is brilliant for IWSG and showing how time is not important to achieve a dream. Kudos to you x

        1. Very true…some of these comments have a similar tale too. Never give up. I knew this was a good post to do Ritu x

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