Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Long to Draft?

I don't know about you guys, but I loved Word Processor Wars. It was so much fun to see the things that we do the same and the things that we do differently. Shall we do it again?

I've been wondering a lot lately about FIRST DRAFTS. It takes me forever to finish a first draft. I can't just get an idea and run with it. I methodically think through everything. I figure out how I'm going to convey each scene completely before I sit down to write it. I need ponder time in between sit-down-and-type time.

I hear of people all the time that finish a book in nine days. Or a week. Or two weeks. Every time I hear that I am blown away! (Seriously. All you who can do that? I bow down to you.)

But it got me wondering. Are those of us who take forever to draft just less vocal about how long it takes? Or am I in the minority? I really want to know.

I have two questions, actually.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft?

How long do you generally spend revising?

I'll update these handy dandy graphs throughout the next couple of days as comments come in. But first off, my answers. It takes about nine months for me to write a first draft, and about six months to revise.

Now don't be shy about answering how long it takes to draft AND how long it takes to revise! You're answer will either inspire us, or make us suddenly feel less in the minority.


Eileen Astels Watson said...

Hi Peggy!

As the years pass, I've found my first drafts still take a similar amount of time, but the editing/revising has come down considerably. SInce I'm not published, I don't know what that says.

For me, I write a first draft in a month, give or take a few days. The subsequent drafts are hard to measure as I generally write a first draft of one story, go back to an older one and edit it through, then write another story, etc. etc. Some stories take several rounds of edits to get them where I want them. In total, probably about six months to a year for all the edits I need to do.

Writing isn't for the faint, that's for sure.

M said...

It takes me 1 to 3 months to write a draft (this is prose, not screenwriting, which I can do faster) and around another month to edit. But this is because prior to drafting, I spend A LOT of time thinking, thinking, thinking, and plotting, plotting, plotting so that I feel really ready when I actually start the writing process.

The East Coaster said...

My first drafts take a couple of months to get on paper. Then it just sort of sits around for another month or three before I'm far enough away to edit it.

Then I read, curse the fates and start rewriting. After doing this a bit I either send it out to publishers or (if I'm self publishing) to an editor.

The first draft is easy...its the 3rd and 8th ones that make me hate life!

J+S said...

A book in 9 days? Wow, I'm not really sure how great it could be? Sometimes I feel like I should spend months revising just my emails!

Kelley Lynn said...

Hmmm, well my first draft of my first book took two years, but that's because I was just writing it for fun. I probably only spent about six months on it.

But now I've gotten through half of WIP 2 and 3 in a week. The same week. So maybe now that I'm serious about this a month is a good guess.

Revision, that was a good two months for me.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

The first draft of the first book I ever wrote took two months. It was maybe 60-70,000 words. I never revised it. I've had other books that take two-three months for a first draft. Lately, it's taking me much longer, 6-9 months for a first draft. My current WIP is two novels combined into one, so the first draft(s) took about two years. Being that this is the first novel that I've pushed to as near completion as posible--lots of revision--it has been maybe three years in the writing. I hope to finish it sometime in October. It'll be around 110,000 words.

Emily R. King said...

Peggy, you're not alone. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and because my stories continue to play in my head long after I've written them down, I go back and again, and again, and again, and again. Hmmm, there is a finish date, right? Lol! I think you work until you're done. If I weren't a wife and a mother, I'd get things written much faster.

Stacy Henrie said...

It really depends on what I'm working on. My first book took me over a year to write (but I was revising as I went). My third book took five months to write because I had a bit of a deadline. And my current - still writing it and it's been about nine months so far. :) But that's my goal - to finish it before the year's over.

David P. King said...

4 to 9 months is my usual time frame for both drafting and editing. My last one took a while longer (2 years) because of an accident. Had to re-learn how to write. I'm back now, and will hopefully have a new novel done before the new year. :)

Abby Fowers said...

Oooh - good questions! I bet it takes me at LEAST 4-9 months for the first draft (I am still in the process but that would be my goal!) And I'm hoping I can do editing in 1-3 months, but you just never know! At least I don't know yet. We shall see. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Eileen-- My guess? It says that you are getting tons better at first drafting every time. And you're right. Writing isn't for the faint! I've got your numbers recorded.

Manda-- I spend a lot of time thinking before I start writing, too. It doesn't make me nearly as fast as you, though! Maybe I need to think, think, think more. :) I've got your numbers recorded.

East Coaster-- I think it's good to let a book sit for a few months to get distance. Plus, the 8th draft would drive us even more bonkers if we didn't! I put you down for 2 months on drafting, but I don't know what "a bit" translates into. I'm guessing 2 weeks to a month. If I'm wrong, correct me.

Jenifer-- I could spend months just revising emails, too! And the thing about a book in 9 days... Most of the time they AREN'T bad. Surprising as it is, they are usually amazingly good. Kiersten White is the one I referred to on the nine day thing, and she writes well enough that her books are huge. I like to think that people who write that fast a) spent months and months and months thinking through the story before they started writing, and b) end the sprint-writing with a REALLY messy house and whiny kids. The thought gets me through the nine months it takes me. ;)

Kelley-- Wow! That's fast! You must be on a roll! (Please tell me that your house was a total wreck through that week. :)) I've got your numbers recorded.

Richard-- I love to hear when someone has spent forever really pushing a book to be it's best. You have a lot of numbers that didn't give a clear "usual," so I marked you in a couple of categories.

E.R.-- So good to hear I'm not alone! I am a perfectionist, too. And I swore that I would always make sure my family's needs were met, so that totally slows things down. And it's totally okay. I don't know what your numbers are, though... Since you said I'm not alone, I'm going with my numbers. If yours are different, let me know and I'll change them.

Stacy-- Nothing like a deadline to speed things up. :) Okay, so I put you down for 5-9 months on writing, but I'm not sure on revising. Since you said it took a year to write AND revise, I'm assuming it takes 3-7 months to revise. If I'm wrong, let me know.

David-- You get extra props for relearning to write! That's seriously amazing. And good luck on finishing by the end of the year! I've got your numbers counted.

Abby-- I wish you all the best in meeting your goal! I've got your numbers counted.

Ryan Stuart Lowe said...

My current WIP took me a full year to write the first draft -- and another six months to reach a second draft. (beta readers pending)

When I begin a second project, I expect my time to go a little faster -- a lot of time spent on this first project included dead-end writing or overwriting or writer's block that could've been avoided by a little better planning. :)

Jessie Humphries said...

Huh??? Kierston White wrote Paranormalcy in 9 days? Seriously?!!

I take 6-9 months on first draft.
Revisions can be endless though. I have no idea on that one. But let's say theoretically 1-2 months.

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

Interesting...I take about 3-4 months for my first draft. I just write as it comes through. Then revision takes forever! About 8-10 months. I haven't been published yet(not looking to either in the near future) and am still revising. So, not sure if I am doing it right. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I with you, Peggy--I am amazed by people who kick out a first draft in days. I need about 6 months to outline and write the first draft. And then an additional 6 to 9 months to revise. And that's if all goes well.

Tara Tyler said...

i would have to join the majority on both, but i hate being in the majority! oh well...
lov the graphs!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Ryan-- It's amazing how much you learn from every single book. I have your numbers counted.

Jessie-- I wasn't talking about Paranormalcy (although I don't think it took her long to write it, either). I was talking about her latest book- the start of a new series. But seriously. Nine days. I have your numbers counted.

Shilpa-- 8-10 months is totally in the range of normal for revising! So I'd say yes. You're doing it right. I've got your numbers counted.

Cynthia-- I know, right? I've got your numbers counted.

Tara-- I put you down in the majority, like it or not. :)

Leigh Ann said...

Well...It took me 7 months to write the first draft of TT, but I wasn't taking it seriously at all.

I started the first draft of ONE 24 days ago, and I'm about halfway through it. But I'm working on it hard core now. It'll probably take me 2 months, all told, to write this draft.

Revising is another 2 months, but that's concurrent with crit partners, so it depends on their speed. My first CP is lightening-fast, and she's also the one who helps the most with revisions.

Great idea! :)

Golden Eagle said...

It took me 17 months to finish the first draft of the first novel I finished. (Does that make sense? :P) Revision . . . well, I haven't finished revising that one, and I'm currently working on another novel, which I hope to get down by November, three months after I started.

Carrie Butler said...

It took me three months for the first draft and I'll probably finish revising in about six. By the way, those smiley faces are adorable. I feel like I'm getting a sticker on a chart in some classroom! :D I love these posts!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

From four to nine months.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Leigh Ann-- YOU'RE lightning fast! I've got your numbers counted.

Eagle-- Thanks! I've got your numbers counted.

Carrie-- I didn't even realize that's what they looked like until you said it! It was probably subconsciously why I did it. :) I've got your numbers counted.

Michael-- Thanks! I've got your numbers counted.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

I took me 1.5 years for my first rough draft.

I'm still in revision, so I can't tell you that one.

The Write Soil

mamtc said...

I havent thought about writing a book yet, the timeframe sounds pretty scary

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Peggy, I'm slow too. I have periods where I write fast and prolifically -- then I hit a wall and go into a long mode of unconscious working... don't know how else I can explain it. Then the way over the wall comes to me, and I start writing again. Thanks for the follow.

Hannah Hounshell said...

Well, the manuscript I'm working on now took at least a year to draft out. I've been in edits so long, I'm not quite sure on the exact timeline, but I know that it was at least a year, maybe a year and a half.

Jeff King said...

My 120K manuscript took my 3 month to complete… I am working on 2 years revising.

But I had a lot to learn: so my new revising process should take twice as long as the first draft does.

E.D. said...

The first draft of my 80,000-word novel took me almost 10 months to write (at about 1-2 hours a day) and I have been revising it for 12 months. Finally, I think it is "done."

Lan said...

It probably takes me about 9 months to write the first draft (with life generally getting in the way) and another 3 months to revise till my fingers are sore. Although this doesn't include the months of pre planning where the characters take over my brain! So I guess I'm pretty slow :)

Kelley said...

GREAT post on a question I wonder about all of the time. I love this blog too, btw. And the graph. I like to fast draft (2wks to a month), but it takes me longer to revise (though still quick on this scale). I'd say 3-4 months of revision. Again, great question!

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I am definitely a follower now! :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Dawn-- I got your numbers counted. And I'm coming over to check out your blog after I get kids off to school.

meandmythinkingcap-- You're not wrong. :) But that doesn't mean it's not worth it (usually).

Doralynn-- I totally understand that! And thank YOU for the follow. :)

Hannah-- I've got your numbers counted.

Jeff-- I think the revising process should take exactly as long as it needs. And finding a better way and learning so much to make the next one easier are such great things! I've got your numbers counted.

E.D.-- Congrats on being done! It can feel like you are almost there so many times, the feeling of actually being done is priceless! I've got your numbers counted.

Lan-- You sound almost exactly like me! We can be slow together. :) I've got your numbers counted.

Kelley-- Thanks for coming and following my blog, too! And you're impressively fast! I've got your numbers counted.

linda said...

Ooh, I wish I can participate in this one! But I'm still in the planning stages for my first project (I never finished any of the others I started). So envious of fast drafters! I wonder if there's a correlation between time spent drafting and time spent revising, and how much pre-planning affects those numbers? Thanks for the interesting survey!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I have wondered about the correlation between revising and pre-planning too, Linda! I'd love some good hard facts. :)