No doubt like many writers I find there are days when I can effortlessly write several thousand words, and others when I struggle to write anything of note. This has often led me to wonder how long it has taken famous authors to write their novels.
On The Road by Jack Kerouac – The defining text of The Beat Generation was written in only three weeks, on a 120-foot scroll of paper. In this largely autobiographical account of Kerouac’s adventures in America and Mexico, the speed of the journey is mirrored by the frenzied pace of the prose. Click here to read my review.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne – This contemporary Irish novelist claims to have written his best selling fictional account of a boy living through the Holocaust in only two and a half days, which left him very little time to eat or sleep.
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The iconic Russian author purportedly wrote this novella in only twenty-six days, which is all the more impressive when one considers that he was also working on Crime and Punishment at the same time.
The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins – This largely autobiographical account of the author’s romantic relationship with a man, who refused to leave his wife, was written in only three weeks. Jenkins has stated publicly that she has never looked at the book since.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Based on Heller’s own experiences as a bombardier in WWII, this best-selling, satirical, anti-war novel, took the American author eight years to write. Catch-22 is frequently cited as one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – The Russian-American author’s seminal work took five years to pen. This highly controversial novel is about a man’s (Humbert Humbert) infatuation with a twelve-year-old girl called Lolita. Click here to read my review.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Published in 1989, The Pillars of the Earth is a popular historical novel, about the building of a cathedral. The story, which is set primarily in the 12th century, took the former thriller author ten years to write.
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer – This story about a group of women, who start a study club, in a fictional town in Ohio, took its author fifty years to write. The eighty-eight year old Santmyer achieved critical acclaim when it became a best seller in 1984.