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Five books a year

11 March 2013

'There are no rules about how long it takes to write one novel, or several novels. There are some writers who produce as many novels in six months as Tartt has in her whole career. Nora Roberts, American's most popular writer of romance novels, turns out five books a year, and has only one rule of writing: "Ass in the chair". Six to eight hours, every day, adds up to revenue of nearly $60 million a year. Fine, you say: one rule for the literati and another for the less highbrow - but not so fast, if you'll excuse the pun. Only a few weeks ago in these pages, we reviewed Joyce Carol Oates's spectacularly creepy novel, Daddy Love, and in the next weeks we shall review her next novel, The Accursed. Since her first book was released in 1964, she has published nearly 60 - 60! - novels, more than 30 collections of short stories and eight volumes of poetry. Let's not forget plays and essays and book reviews and books of nonfiction... an astonishing river of words.

I'm pretty sure though that Roberts's useful rule applies to every one of these authors. "Writing" can mean a wide range of activities: research, note-taking, drafting, redrafting again... did I mention redrafting? Perhaps I did. A writer makes her own rules, including how long it takes her to write a book.' 

Erica Wagner in The Times