Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

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Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby E McD » 02 May 2010, 16:43

I've been working on this first draft for over 18 months. I have all kinds of excuses like a full-time job, a family, and new ideas that force major re-writes, but I feel like it's still taking way longer than it should. Am I alone? How long have you been working on the COMPLETE CREATION of your first draft? Surely somebody out there can make me feel a tiny bit better about myself. Pretty please?
Last edited by E McD on 02 May 2010, 16:50, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Quill » 02 May 2010, 16:46

Mine took me about 18 months of almost all my spare time. And it was only 50k words.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby daringnovelist » 02 May 2010, 16:49

I wrote a book that took me two months. (But had lots of rewriting to do later.)

But most of the time, I have to spend months cogitating and making false starts. Then a few months writing a first draft, and then months more rewriting. The current book, though, was years in thinking, and now the writing has taken me since October, and I hope to finish it by the end of May.

Of course, I do work in education, so I've been working on it during the worst time of year for my time.

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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Jaime » 02 May 2010, 17:02

My current novel took me 7 months to write, and I've been editing it for 8 months. I hope to be querying it in two months, tops.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby JustineDell » 02 May 2010, 18:19

My first novel took two months, and so did the second. The first novel has been going through a rewrite...almost at the three month mark on that - so two months of writing wasn't necessarily a good thing. The second one didn't need a rewrite, just editing, but it was only 46k. My current wip is only half-way done (estimated to be 90K) and it's taken me 5 months to get that far. My life has gotten busier, so writing has taken the back burner.

I've heard that most published authors write (on average) 1-2 books per year. When you work full time and have a life, I can see it taking a lot longer. You should be proud that you have stuck with it. I'm sure it will fabulous when it's done!

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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby aspiring_x » 02 May 2010, 18:24

first draft took me four and a half months (ending at about 116,000 words) but i've been editing for about six months now with no real end in sight (down to about 95,000 words). so i think it might have been a better idea to take things a little more slowly and not make so many mistakes the first time around.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Aimée » 02 May 2010, 19:11

Yeah you're not the only one. I was working on one for about two years before I tossed it. My new project has been in progress for about three months and it is not even a quarter of the way done. I have no idea how people even have the time or the brain to whip out a novel in a month.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Quill » 02 May 2010, 19:33

JustineDell wrote:I've heard that most published authors write (on average) 1-2 books per year.

Two books may be the average in certain genres (mystery, romance, middle grade chapter book). I think the norm outside of that is probably closer to one book per year.

I can see myself doing that once I past this first novel. I'd plan on a month for outline/brainstorm, a month for research and field trips, two months for the first draft, seven months for 2 rewrites and 3 polishes, two months for editorial revisions (per agent/editors) and a month vacation. I'd want to have a couple of projects going to account for the time lags between steps in the process.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Quill » 02 May 2010, 19:39

aspiring_x wrote:first draft took me four and a half months (ending at about 116,000 words) but i've been editing for about six months now with no real end in sight (down to about 95,000 words). so i think it might have been a better idea to take things a little more slowly and not make so many mistakes the first time around.

I'm planning to never have a project that big. lol. That's far too many words to wrangle (git along little doggie) through the number of drafts I require to make it all wonderful. I don't know how you and others do it!

Also, I don't think you should think of the first draft as mistake-full or mistake-prone. It's the creative process, and for each of us it's different. I, for one, will continue to play fast and loose with logic, the English language, and my characters while the first draft is flying from my fingertips. In revision the book is made.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Serzen » 02 May 2010, 20:16

The first draft of my current novel took about 9 months. I've spent 3 months revising it, but without wholesale rewrites to speak of. I hope that my next full read and edit will be the last one before I'm satisfied.

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Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby aspiring_x » 02 May 2010, 20:54

Quill wrote:
aspiring_x wrote:first draft took me four and a half months (ending at about 116,000 words) but i've been editing for about six months now with no real end in sight (down to about 95,000 words). so i think it might have been a better idea to take things a little more slowly and not make so many mistakes the first time around.

I'm planning to never have a project that big. lol. That's far too many words to wrangle (git along little doggie) through the number of drafts I require to make it all wonderful. I don't know how you and others do it!

Also, I don't think you should think of the first draft as mistake-full or mistake-prone. It's the creative process, and for each of us it's different. I, for one, will continue to play fast and loose with logic, the English language, and my characters while the first draft is flying from my fingertips. In revision the book is made.

true there, it's just that when i started i had no clue about perspective, passive voice, dialogue tags, etc. not even sure i knew what an adverb was at the time. i hadn't really taken the time to research into the craft of writing, or the task of seeking to be published. one day i thought writing a book would be a fun thing to try, afterall stories are always running around in my head. so i started a different one, lost all work on it in a fire, and then started this one. anyway, i just mean that it would probably have been more advisable to study writing a bit before starting, and to plan the story out a bit more ahead of time. aww... what do i know? :)
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby polymath » 02 May 2010, 21:26

According to a survey by Tom Woll of Cross River Publishing, 2003, it takes an average of 475 hours for a present-day accomplished author to write a published fiction novel. A standard U.S. work-year is 2000 hours.

Edit: Whoops, the source information was at the front of the article, the correct source infomation is: From a survey and Special Report. Early 1988. ©1998 Brenner Information Group.

Nicholas Sparks first wrote two novels that were never published, cowrote another that enjoyed 50,000 copy sales, before he broke out with a novel that earned him a million dollar advance. It took him ten years from when he started writing for publication in 1985 until he sold that novel in 1995. He's now working on his sixteenth novel.

Gustave Flaubert purportedly spent ten years writing Madame Bovary.

Jack Kerouac purportedly spent seven years composing On the Road and a few weeks actually typing it. Then it took six years to get it published, nine to get it published the way Kerouac wrote it.

Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 began in 1947 as an original short story that wasn't published until 1963. The novel version was first published in 1953.

Jane Austen began Pride and Prejudice in 1796. Though her first version was completed in 1797, it wasn't published until 1813, after extensive revisions.

I've got a short-short story, barely a Standard Manuscpript Format page long, that's been kicking around for five decades, inspired before I even knew I had the poet-author jones. I finally got it the way I want it recently. Dozens of previous versions have been submitted here and there to no avail. It's now in a fixed form that I won't change, and is out on foray in the marketplace again. It's got a submission backlog for dozens of potential digests. Oddly, it's too short for most short-short fiction specialty digests.

I've a novel concept I've been working on that's been on my mind for three decades. I've got an agent or two and a publisher interested who I've discussed it with. It's in rewrites for about the hundredth time. I'm in no big hurry to complete it and under no deadline pressures either. It's coming along better than ever before.

Meanwhile, I've got dozens of newer projects in various stages of pending completion.

Nonfiction for publication, I manage thousand-word essays, expository compositions, memoir, people, place, event, idea, or thing, whatever, in about eight hours. A decade ago, I wrote a twenty-six-thousand word history compilation chapbook in about 40 hours, 20 hours or prewriting research and development, with 80 hours of revisions and rewrites before publication. It's a perennial little title publication-wise. I'm a better writer now.

This post took me twenty minutes to compose, including fact checking, copyediting, and proofreading.
Last edited by polymath on 02 May 2010, 21:55, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby Quill » 02 May 2010, 21:42

polymath wrote:According to a survey by Tom Woll of Cross River Publishing, 2003, it takes an average of 475 hours for a present-day accomplished author to write a published fiction novel. A standard U.S. work-year is 2000 hours.

That's absolutely shocking. That's not much over an hour per page total for all drafts.
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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby daringnovelist » 02 May 2010, 21:52

Quill wrote:
polymath wrote:According to a survey by Tom Woll of Cross River Publishing, 2003, it takes an average of 475 hours for a present-day accomplished author to write a published fiction novel. A standard U.S. work-year is 2000 hours.

That's absolutely shocking. That's not much over an hour per page total for all drafts.


Of course, we don't know who - and what - was included in the sample. Was the thinking time in the shower included? Also did they define an "accomplished writer" as someone who turns out a certain volume (and therefore skew the sample)? Did they include all books, or only the most recent books by writers who have already published enough to be considered "accomplished."

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Re: Time to Fess Up - How Long Is It Taking You?

Postby polymath » 02 May 2010, 22:07

Statistics: according to Disraeli, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

In the case of how much time is spent writing a novel parsed down to all its discrete details, I'm not much interested. It's a statistic offered for consideration, the only one like it I've encountered, and worth all it means for whatever whomever will make of it. One other statistic I've encountered, there are roughly 8,000 full-time independent U.S. fiction authors making the bulk of their income from their writing activities. According to an informal survey I've conducted, the average U.S. net income from writing activities for fiction authors is $30,000, circa 2003. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics bears that latter statistic out.
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