Quick Novels

‘Anyone can write a novel, given six weeks, pen, paper, and no telephone or wife.’

Evelyn Waugh

With the first week of NaNoWriMo behind us, I thought a quick round-up of some famous novels written in under six might help to encourage all those whose pens have stilled for various reason.

First up, Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, written in six weeks while convalescing for a war-injury in the spring of 1944. I really enjoyed Brideshead. I like the language and the imagery, I like the way it deals with Catholicism (Waugh was a Catholic), and I like the bittersweet ending.

A childhood favourite, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was written in just three weeks. I always liked Jo – I think there’s something about the name in fiction whereby she has to be feisty and a writer (Jo in The Chalet School, anyone?) – and Beth’s near-death was always emotional, no matter how many times I read it.

For people who think mysteries are all about obsessive plotting, A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, was also written in just three weeks, while Arthur Conan Doyle ran a medical practice.

And Robert Louis Stephenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in about two weeks. I found that one strange. I don’t remember it being particularly horrifying, perhaps because of already sort-of knowing the story.

To be fair, none of these are particularly long books, all quite reasonable lengths but not door-stoppers, but I do think that Evelyn Waugh has a point about the lack of distractions. Would be nice not to have to worry about the Real World and such pesky things as bills and so on. Would make it much easier to write a novel.

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