Craig Davidson: Four months, twenty days
The author of Rust and Bone on the value of taking your writing one step at a time.
Some people think writing a novel is a mammoth task—and it can be, especially the first time through—but I find it useful to think about it in terms of daily application and smaller, more achievable goals. A first novel is often pretty short; my first one was, anyway. Think about 70-80,000 words. Seems mammoth, yeah? While writing my first novel I said: Write 500 words a day, and try to end at a spot where the narrative thread will be easy to pick up—give yourself a scene or description to look forward to writing the following day. Some days I got more than 500 but I kept writing until I got at least 500. My math ain't great, but 500 a day x 140 days = 70k. Four months, twenty days. A novel in rough. Your confidence and commitment to it should grow as the days progress; it goes from something that could perhaps be abandoned at 10,000 words to something that you're really "feeling" but the time you hit 30,000 words a few months in. Take a bite-sized approach to it. Break it down to single-day goals. 500 words a day."
Craig Davidson is the author of Rust and Bone, The Fighter, Sarah Court, and the upcoming Cataract City. His first story collection was recently made into a film starring Marion Cotillard.