Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, April 30, 2012

How Long Does it Take You to Edit a Novel?


Last week people shared how long it takes you to write a draft. Today: How long does it take you to edit?

This is very much on my mind as I'm back in the editing weeds for Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, which I've now been editing for over three months. That is typical for me. After doing my own editing after finishing a draft I then usually go through two major rounds with my editor (the fabulous Kate Harrison), and then there's further tinkering and tweaks from there.

All that adds up to three or four months (with another week or two left to go on this one).

What about you?

Art: Anonymous






53 comments:

Courtney Walsh said...

Wow. I'm jealous!! I get about a month, but I work on edits in stages. With my editor, we focus on a few key elements of the story/characters at a time, and that actually works for me. So, the first time through, we focus on the main character, then the next time, the secondary characters, etc.

The edits have gotten easier each book I've written, but I sure wish I could enjoy them more!

Ed Varga said...

I just started the edits on my novel that recently got cut from the 2012 ABNA contest. So far the longest process was getting over the rejection from the contest. So far, time with healing wounds included, I have spent about a week and marked up by hand about 10% of the manuscript. I am guessing by Halloween I will have it ready to go back to the editor.

Anonymous said...

It's taking me a long time, to be honest, but maybe because this is my first novel. I have to shorten it considerably (since it's middle grade) and I'm going through it for the third time. I think you could edit yourself endlessly, so after this round and after my writing group edits, I'm considering it final. I think it will take me about five months (with a couple weeks off here and there).

abc said...

We shall see!

Andrea said...

It usually takes me about 3 months to edit on my own. With my editor, usually around a week or two, depending on what else she has on her plate. I tend to drop everything when she's ready for me, and we're very intensive. Eating, sleeping edits. It's great!

D.A.A. Price (aka Elgin) said...

Is infinity an acceptable answer?

Jess Riley said...

13 years for my latest, with breaks in between to write other books. Do I win? :)

Barbara Brooke said...

Does that include time spent procrastinating on Pinterest ;)

Isaiah Campbell said...

Probably 2-4 months. Shortest was one week. Longest over a year.

P A Wilson said...

When I edit I need space between the sessions. It can take a month to 6 weeks to edit.
I tend to do 2 or three passes before I'm ready for critique then I polish up a storm.

LilySea said...

I think I can only answer this question after I've successfully published a book. So far, of the three novels I've written, only this last one is looking to have any hope of making it to the book store shelf. I'm still editing it. If/when I get and agent/publisher, I'm sure I'll have to edit again. But for myself, I've usually taken a month or two to edit if you don't count time spent musing with the book on a back burner. That obviously hasn't been "enough."
Of course, as I practice, I learn to edit better which may end up meaning faster. And of course, if I ever get a Real Contract, I will undoubtedly have to adjust to someone else's deadline.
So who the heck knows?

Jenny Herrera said...

I agree with P A Wilson that I need time between edits. The first round of edits usually takes a few (painful) months, and then later edits usually take about a week.

But before I even edit my book, I rewrite the whole thing from memory. It is a great way to distill down the core of your book. The full rewrite usually takes 3-4 weeks.

Sarah Negovetich said...

I started editing my current piece around mid-February. I went through a few rounds on my own, and then sent snippets out to my CPs. After that I did another round and have just sent the whole thing out to Beta readers. Once I get all their feedback in, I'll do another round before the query stage. The whole process will take about 4 months, but some of that time (like now) is waiting for feedback.

Mr. D said...

My opinion is editing is in the eyes of the editor. Therefore, editing will last as long as the editor edits. (Not to be confused with revisions, which will be an author's ongoing process until the work is published.)

Kristi Lea said...

That's a hard question. If I had a hard-and-fast deadline, I meet it. If not, then when exactly do I declare the "editing" process done?

I know I've made a thorough editing pass through a 75k novel in a month (working ~1-4 hours a night). I've done copy edits on a 55k novel in a weekend (they weren't terribly involved).

But then, I've spent almost 3 years "editing" a manuscript that I have yet to find a home for. I keep tinkering with the plot & characters on that one as I come up with books for later in the planned series. I kinda wish I had a deadline for that one so I can just choose one path and be done with it.

sheilamcperry said...

Anywhere between 6 weeks and 4 years - but I am speeding up with practice.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Each round of edits takes me three days to two weeks.

If I slow down to process the edits, then I end up over-thinking things and making them worse.

Mary said...

I don't have an agent or editor yet, but with the novel I just finished it took me about a year to go from first draft to complete. Once I get an agent, I'm sure edits will have to go faster, but I'm not worried. I *can* edit a novel faster, I just don't always sit down and do it.

Andrea Kayne Kaufman said...

It's possible to never truly feel like you're done editing, but after spending approximately six months editing my first novel, Oxford Messed Up, I was ready to send my characters out into the world!

Guilie said...

Newbie here, and the revision learning curve is steep! It's taken me about 7 months to edit my first novel, but I hope, with everything I've learned, that the next one can get done in around three. Maybe one day I'll be down to a month or two :)

Robin Connelly said...

Um. Well, I've been working on the same book for years and I'm still not done editing it. Granted for most of those years, and arguably now, I was working on getting my first million words. I've rewritten it dozens of times and I've tried three different points of views. I think I'm getting close to having it finished though. Or as close to finished as any book can get.

Mira said...

Loved the picture, made me smile. :)

For me, editing takes quite awhile. I've learned to check - I get a feeling inside - sometimes it's a click, and sometimes it's a green light feeling, that tells me when my work is ready to go out into the world. Or sometimes, it's more a red light feeling that says: not ready yet. When that goes, then it's time.

Although - I could continue editing forever and ever. I love to edit, actually. But I have a sense when I'm ready to let go of it. I've learned to trust that feeling, but I've also learned not to push for it. It's done when it's done, and that can take quite awhile. Sometimes my work needs to sit quietly and mature.

On the other hand, sometimes it's really fast and I'm done quickly. Hard to predict!

Interesting question. Good luck with your edits, Nathan!

Heidi said...

Maybe this is why my first drafts take so long:
I edit as I go.

I am very detail oriented and I will check and recheck a chapter before I move on. After I have a few chapters, I go back and do major block changes if needed. But I am not the kind of writer who can just purge a story out, and then go back and rewrite it later and clean up all the mess. I have to do it as I write.

I love reading all of the responses and seeing other writers' methods. Great convo.

Amanda Klimowicz said...

I usually give my students a summer for their senior projects (novels) to make it to stage next; that way they have closure, I'm ready for Fall's incoming novels.

Anonymous said...

I have been editing my first novel for about four months, I found I had to put it aside for a long time to become objective enough to edit. This topic brings me to a question that only a new writer would need to ask, when it comes to manuscripts, how long is too long these days? I read somewhere that the issue of length has to do with the cost of printing, is that true?

By the way of all of the blogs I've read, I like yours the most!

Zakgirl said...

I haven't finished my novel yet. I think I look something like that stone age guy above. :(

It will happen ;)

Nicki Elson said...

Three hundred years. Give or take. I can't even bring myself to read the book that's been out there for two years as I'm sure I'll only pick out all the things I'd like to change.

Nazarea said...

Between two and six months. (although, to be fair, the one that took six months was while a LOT was going on in my personal life)

cgblake said...

That's a difficult question. My self-edits can take 3-6 months. Where I get off-track is when I send it out to outside reviewers. Since I cannot afford to pay a book editor I am at the mercy of my reviewers. I need to find a good online critique service. Great question, Nathan.

Cheryl said...

We're supposed to finish editing it? Because I could fiddle with this thing until the end of time.

I am getting ready to start the query process. I think editing THAT letter will take as long as editing my 97K book.

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo said...

My novel took eight months to edit, but I only have three days a week, two hours a day, to edit. Now it's off to first readers, and we'll see how far I have to go.

Susan Tuttle said...

For me, it's a long process, because I put my work through two critique groups that meet every two weeks. One chapter a session, two a month. I do edits after the first group comments, then send the edited version through the second group, then tweak again. Slows the working process (because I'm also working on 3 other novels at the same time), but gives me enough rest time to absorb and digest comments and decide which make the most sense, editing-wise. So, depending on length of book (# of chapters) anywhere from 8 months on...

Jess Schira said...

I've spent over a year and a half editing my manuscript. Line editing alone seems to average an hour a page.

joanna said...

I've been editing my first novel for three years. The first page has been re-written at least 100 times - In the meantime I have published my second non-fiction book and I write an almost daily blog. Non-fiction is a lot easier. Some have asked why I don't stick to what I do best. I don't know what to say... I love my story, it begs to be told and I will keep plugging away till I get it right.

John Wiswell said...

It took me about two months of editing, but getting and weighing feedback from beta readers had taken much longer. Nathan, how long do the rounds with your editor go for?

Terin Tashi Miller said...

It usually takes me a couple months, maybe three, of carefully re-reading the entire manuscript, thinking about how the sentences sound, what they mean, and whether or not they sound and say what I want them to the best possible way for me or my character/narrator.

I am awe-struck by writers like Pat Conroy, who can make the sentences undulate like waves in Prince of Tides, or Bibi Gaston, who can make sentences depict landscape even when the discussion is of time or memories and not land or plants or landscaping at all.

Anonymous said...

I think I spent a year-and-a-half in edit on my second novel, but it was a necessary learning experience.

With my third, I'm editing/rewriting/developing the story as I go along. So this time, I feel more like I have A Book, even just five chapters in; but editing as I go is slower and interrupts flow and voice and rhythm, which I then have to go back and fix anyway.

I'm gonna say it depends on the book itself and my other responsibilities, but I hope to come in between a year and a year-and-a-half on the rough plus first edit this time.

I just read On Writing (Stephen King) for the first time. He's reinforced the thought that I need more door-closed time, yet my best stuff is what I get from the people around me, with the door open.

Six of one...

Whirlochre said...

Forever. Editing is like applying skin grafts to a new born baby in the hope of producing a perfect human being.

Anonymous said...

It all takes much longer without an editor. You edit so fast, your draft must be in very good shape to begin with!

Iola said...

It's good to hear a published author speaking (blogging?) about going through two rounds with an editor (which no doubt comes after your own revisions, and before the final version is proofread).

If only more self-published authors realised just how much work it takes to get a book looking that good!

Naja Tau said...

I wanted to cry when I read "three months." I can't remember when I started editing my first (and only) novel and I still don't see an end in sight. Ah. Pulling up my file, I see that I finished the first draft exactly a year ago today. Happy anniversary, unpublished first novel!

Bryan Russell said...

4,000 years. Give or take.

judyblackcloud said...

I would say usually a month. It depends on the story. Sometimes the issues are bigger and harder to fix (like if a character needs to be removed or rewritten, or a major plot point needs tweaking) but usually I try to keep it to a month. I like to give myself a short deadline because it keeps me on track and working!

Anonymous said...

Four million years.

D.G. Hudson said...

I've been over a year at edits because I decided to rearrange the chapters.

Then, some writing advice I received at a conference made me do a few other revisions. I consider it time well spent if I'm polishing the novel and learning.

Ransom said...

I think editing gets easier as you go, but I have so many littered drafts sometimes I get confused. I wouldn't mind getting down to three months or so, but I'm afraid it will be a while until that happens.

deepamwadds said...

So far, on this novel, two years. The problem is, I keep seeing and learning more and with each pass over the manuscript I become a better writer. I'm hoping the process becomes more streamlined with each novel. I'm so impressed with those here who say editing takes a few weeks! Brilliant.

CjEggett said...

1 month to do a first pass, 3 to really dig into again.

I tend to write short stories and flash during editing periods. It's like setting seeds for the next writing session while you get on with the bulk of the "real" work.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

Your time frame sounds right to me. When I finish it goes to my proofreader and then to the editor.

Have a good day and success with Jacob.

Kate Traylor said...

FIVE MILLION YEARS.

A complete rewrite of every project is my current MO, so if you count the second and third drafts as editing then that's about six or eight months, I think. If you just count the actual editing of the second draft to make the third, then... half that? Three or four months? I feel like I spend most of my life replacing small, insignificant words with others that are nearly identical.

Eric said...

I do about 14 read-thrus, chopping here and there, rewriting this and that... One round with my wife and friends. And then maybe 3 more read-thrus to tweak this and that.

Darnell Reid said...

It takes me about two revise before I finally get to the final draft. Then I has to do a little more here and there. Then I give it to my editor which she send back for a rewrite then I'm finish.

Anonymous said...

It's been over a year so far for me even though it took less than a year to write the first draft. When I think I'm done narrowing it down and detailing it enough, I find more that needs to be tweaked. Also the when-will-you-be-done-with-that-thing voice in my head (or silently from those around me) doesn't help at all.

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