Many of you have asked me recently how long it takes me to write my books, from start to finish, from the first word of the first draft to the last word of the last draft, before it goes to my editor. I have never actually sat down and calculated the entire process point by point. I've blogged about writing a first draft in 6 weeks (that was like 2 years ago, but it's still true) and haven't touched the topic since. But it seems like a curious math to calculate and write out the stages I'm going through and compare. Well then, shall we do a little math?
1st drafts take me 6 weeks to write (about 120K words total).
Okay, so I went through all my drafts and timelines, and it does seem that typically every 1st draft takes me about 6 weeks (max 7 weeks) to write, and when I write them, I write them fast, and I write a lot, about 3,500 words every day (in about 4 hours), 5 days a week. I take a break for the weekend, for family stuff, and, you know, to wash socks and feed my pet trolls. Some days I can write up to 5,000 words. My goal is to dump shit out of my brain, so I know how the story ends. I don't plan anything, don't plot, I only have a starting picture in mind, a scene, an image, and I go from there.
I take a mandatory 1 week break between 1st and 2nd drafts.
This I picked up from Stephen King's lovely book ON WRITING, as I had to learn from somewhere, and since I love King's writing, I read what he did, and I decided to do the same. He suggests to take a break long enough to distance yourself from your story, but short enough to keep it alive. He doesn't suggest to take longer than 3-4 months to write the whole book, but I don't think I'm there yet. I think it takes me about 6 months to write 1 book, but let's see at the end of this post if I have calculated it right in my head.
2nd drafts take me 12 weeks to edit/rewrite (about 100K words total).
Second drafts are the worst. They are these nasty vindictive things, they make me pay for all that shit I wrote in the first draft, because for the first time I'm actually seeing what the story is about, and I have to cut out a lot of water in this fake debonair fashion, pretending like I'm having fun, when I'm not having fun at all and am crying over every edit. Well, not true, not over every edit, but over every other one. One more problem, this is the draft when I clean up the story the most, and it's very painful to clean up things like plots and subplots and continuity and stuff. Also, the way I edit is this. It's about 50% of editing and 50% of completely new writing. I essentially start from the very beginning and scrub all the way through until I'm done, going through the edits twice, with a pace of about 2,000 words a day (although sometimes I do less, about 1.5K words). I'll explain. I start from Chapter 1 on the first day, rewrite the first 2K words, then the next morning I edit those 2K words, rewrite the next 2K words, and so on. Like stitching. So by the end of it, the 2nd draft has really been through 2 passes.
I take a mandatory 1 weeks break again here.
3rd drafts take me 6 weeks to edit/write (about 80K words total).
Wow, I just calculated this. I thought it takes me longer! But no, at this point I'm removed from the story emotionally so much, that I can actually focus on editing and I cut out a lot. In IRKADURA I cut about 1/3 of the book already. It's at 68K words now, and I have 1 more week to go, so I'll probably cut another 5K words for sure. I love 3rd drafts, they give me the chance to focus on the actual writing. I don't need to think about what happens when and to whom and what they will say, I already know all that, so now I can trim words down to say less with more, with this pensive face like I'm a fucking professional (although I'm really rather a rabble-rouser and an incorrigible windbag). And, I can focus on describing things beautifully, creating beautiful sentences, and shit like that (I HOPE they end up beautiful). I love it, love it, LOVE IT. I do this draft at the same pace as the 2nd draft, 2,000 words a day, and I stick to this number more often than during writing the 2nd draft, although I do have bad days sometimes, when I manage only 800 words (that was my lowest count so far, I think.) And, another difference, it takes me sometimes up to 9 hours to do 2,000 words, both in 2nd and 3rd drafts. Compare that to 3K words in 4 hours for 1st draft.
I take a mandatory 1 week break here again.
4th drafts take me 1 to 2 weeks (about 70K words total).
So, with SIREN SUICIDES I did 5 drafts, which was crazy, because I overwrote it. But then again, I didn't know what I was doing back then, I was full of fear and blather and ungainly vocabulary (still am, but it's not so bad now). And those drafts took me about 4 weeks each, per book, the 4th and the 5th drafts each. Totally different case with ROSEHEAD, my 2nd novel. I didn't do the 4th draft at all! I will do the 4th draft on IRKADURA, though, for sure, and it will be a quick polish, so it will take me 1 week, 2 at most.
Well then, the final moment!
It takes me (on average)...
28 WEEKS (OR 6 MONTHS) TO WRITE 1 BOOK.
I WRITE AT THE SPEED OF 2 BOOKS A YEAR.
This is fucking slow. I need to speed up to 4 books a year, to make a living. Although I feel I'm getting faster, and I have started writing full time 2 years ago, so there is hope for me. Right? RIGHT?
How long does it take you? Just curious.
Also, to sum this up. It takes my editor a couple months or so (or even more) to send me the final book. Because I wait in line after she is done with other projects, but I think it takes her about 1 month to edit it fully. Then I think it takes about 1 month for my formatter to format it, until we test it all and get it done, and about the same time for my daughter to make the cover. Again, it doesn't take this long to do the cover, but it takes this long to communicate back and forth over email and phone and whatnot.
So from start to finish, from starting to write the book to publishing it, it takes me...
Here it is, the math for you.
I also noticed other curious things, like my chapters are about 10 pages long, and I have about 26 to 30 chapters in each book, and each chapter is roughly about 2K words. Funny, isn't it? I'm not doing it on purpose, it just happens. I don't know if this is some weird beginning writer's math, or what, but for now it stays steady at this pace.
And, a lot of other writers told me that they can't usually produce more than 3K meaningful words a day, and they are usually most productive by writing for 4 hours. Anything over that gets usually edited out the next day.
All right then, this is it, for the math of writing books.