Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How Long Does it Take You to Finish a Draft?


This one is inspired by writersink in the Forums, who asks: How long does it take for you to finish a draft/WIP?

And if you haven't yet finished: How long have you been working on your work in progress?

For me personally, it usually takes me between 6-8 months to write a novel. I've written four now (the first is unpublished and the fourth comes out next year), which kind of blows my mind when I stop and think about how much time that represents.

What about you?

Art: Woman Writing a Letter - Gerard ter Borch the Younger






84 comments:

JennyM said...

Well, if I had to do my hair like that chick in the picture and write with a fountain pen or quill, I'd never start!
4 months almost non-stop, hours and hours each day. Thank goodness for a back injury that literally had me sitting and unable to move for 4 weeks.

Joanne Huspek said...

My first one took two years exactly. My second one took 30 days (NaNoWriMo). Go figure. It's the rewriting that's a bear.

Leigh Ann said...

It takes me about 3 months to write the first draft, and another 6 weeks to two months to edit, since I'm 90% pantser. Sending it around to CPs and revising according to their suggestions can take another couple of months. So...6-8 before I query it. :)

Great question. :)

Retro Rocket said...

It took me three months to complete the first draft of one book (now a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest) and I just finished my recent WIP this month. So, I'm a glutton for punishment.

Amy said...

2-3 months for a first draft, but if you mean truly finishing the novel (bringing it to a final draft), 9-12 months.

Lauren B. said...

It took me 2.5 years to get to a complete draft at 75k. But that was writing mostly just on Saturdays, and often skipping weeks at a time. I am a slow writer, this is my first stab at a novel, and writing the first draft is the most painful part for me. I did do a few scene rewrites as I went along.

Hopefully revisions will go much faster!

Stephanie Olivieri said...

I have done NaNoWriMo 4 times and usually I can bang out a first draft there, and then spend a 6-8 months going over it. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

The first draft of my first manuscript took roughly a year, but it was four times longer than it needed to be, and was still very rough. I'm still revising it years later.

My most recent manuscript, which is much shorter, and in much better shape, even in first draft form, is one I'm almost done with, and will probably end up taking me about 4-6 months to complete, depending on how you think it should be counted (there are some weeks where I cannot write, because job and family get in the way).

Megan Coakley said...

It has taken me 2.5 years to get to the end of the first draft. However, I have decided that if I remove all the times I couldn't write (damn those five kids and their need to be fed and taxied) I can tell people it took ten months.

Robin Reul said...

My first novel took me a year to write and another to rewrite (I went through 9 drafts based on various feedback to get it to its current incarnation.) I have been working on my current WIP since mid-March and am close to 1/3 done with the first draft. I am guessing it will be about a solid month or two of initial rewrites and then as feedback filters in, as many more stabs at it as is warranted, which could be another 2-4 months on top of that.

Lydia Sharp said...

First draft only, right? Not counting revisions or edits? Okay.

Novel #1 = 4 months.
Novel #2 = 3 weeks.
Novel #3 = 6 weeks.
Novel #4 = 10 months (my official Problem Child).

Have been working on novel #5 for 8 weeks now and am just about to finish the first draft, I'd say, in another week or two.

So, not including the Problem Child, my average is... *calculating*... just under 3 months.

Lydia Sharp said...

And by 3 months, of course, I meant 9 weeks. *sigh* Math has never been my strong point.

Tim Susman said...

Two months is the shortest first draft I've done. Currently about five months into this one, but it's going to be two books so does that average out to two and a half?

Aimée Jodoin said...

My first novel took about a year and a half, quite a long time, but the second only took about four months because I was determined to finish it ASAP. I'm currently working on my third, which I've been writing for about one month, and I'm hoping to finish at the end of the summer, which would be five months total. These are not published, and actually those first two are tucked away in my dump drawer.

I write short stories in one sitting, though, usually about three or four hours.

Krista McLaughlin said...

My current WIP has taken four months, but I can finish a novel in 30 days or less (NaNoWriMo), but editing takes much longer! It depends on the novel. I did have one that I abandoned for several months because I had emotional put too much into the real story it was inspired by and the person died. But that one took 8 months to finish and that was my longest.

Isaiah Campbell said...

After three books, here's been my times:
Book 1 = 1 year
Book 2 = 5 months
Book 3 = 4.5 months

I currently have a life goal of two books per year, so if I keep it at 5-6 months per, I'll just barely make it. :)

Anonymous said...

Haha this is assuming we finish it in the first place, right? Great question! I'm going to have to go with "forever." lol

Rick Daley said...

I wrote the first draft of
THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS in about 6 weeks, but the story had been rattling around in my head for years before, and I took another 8 months or so to revise it. It's a MG novel, around 35,000 words.

I also had the "advantage" of being out of work briefly, so I had a lot of time to write in those 6 weeks.

My current WIP has been in draft mode for years, but I put it on the back burner 16,000 words in. I started in again in January and now I'm 70,000 words in and closing in on the ending.

Kheryn Casey said...

I've been bouncing back and forth between three WIP novels for eight months. It took six months to write my novella.

Marta Szemik said...

First one took almost three years. Novella, two months. Second and third novels 7 months combined (before editing) as I jumped between the projects.

Dana Bailey said...

It took me at least a year to finish my first draft. It's taken me almost two to edit it.

emilyelizabeth1283 said...

I recently got a new job and it has been nearly a two month process to get through all the pre-hire stuff, (drug tests, background, etc...) so I spent 5 weeks getting up each morning and with 2 cups of coffee writing for 4 or 5 hours a day. I finished a 70k word thriller in this 5 week period, and I'm taking Stephen King's advice to set it aside for a little while before going back and editing!

Michael Lee Carter (m.bryonik) said...

I've never been published. My attention has always been divided and saturated by so many things that discipline has seemingly "took the last train for the coast." However, the music nevered died. I've kept an idea notebook for years (roughly 15 years) through various means: journals, hard-drives, emails, my mobile phones, anything I could get substantial frameworks, settings, plot-lines, characters, premises, you name it written down. Computer RPGs have been my main nemesis, but I've been weaned off. Now with a new sense of creative direction and an Achilles tendon tear that keeps me from work at the moment, I hope to put a lot of energy into "The War of 1812."

T.D. McFrost said...

Two Months. The key is to have a schedule and write at least 500 a day.

twentysomethingfictionwriter said...

It takes me about 3 weeks to do a 95K. I use the snowflake method so I can pump them out pretty quick.

sam said...

It would take less time if I didn't read so many blogs! Probably about 7 months for a first draft, an hour or two a day writing. I'm on my second, which is going much smoother than the first.

Fenris said...

My first took a month almost exactly. The bits and pieces of other assorted works probably add up to another novel or two, but I can't seem to finish any others. Hopefully I'll find my way out of the funk soon enough...

Bryan Russell said...

The time it takes me to write a draft can vary. A lot.

And current projects? I have a couple:
1) About two weeks. I like this.
2) The other... well, thinking about the amount of time I've put into it can make me gag a little. Though the journey has had its fun moments, certainly.

M.R. Merrick said...

My first book took me 6 months to complete a first draft. My second however, when I tried my hand at outlining, took me 6 weeks. For me, writing as a panster is fun, exciting, and intriguing at times, but plotting it out definitely did wonders for my timeline.

Lisa Yarde said...

The first one took me more years than I will ever admit publicly. The latest, which is my fifth novel took me nearly six months.

anya* said...

My first (40k) was finished in 6 months and I am now on schedule to finish my 2nd in the same time frame. I took about 6 months in between them to write a bunch of crap, though, before I figured out what I wanted to do.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Usually 7-10 months to finish a first draft, although I'm hoping to push closer to the lower end of that with more practice. I tend to finish the draft much more quickly if I've already spent a month or so outlining and researching. I also write SF/fantasy, and that tends to have a longer word count than many other genres, so each book takes a bit longer. I'm currently on my fifth book, and doing quite well for only being almost five months in. My main goal is to get the research/outlining, first draft, and second draft done in about a year. My major fear at this point is that I won't meet my target because the manuscript is ending up lengthier than anticipated. Such is my usual problem.

T.L. Bodine said...

I tend to work in spurts, so the actual butt-in-chair writing time is quite different from the time that actually passed from "chapter one" to "the end." It also doesn't help that I tend to write out of order and frequently stop, backtrack, revise, and then move forward again. I'm trying to force myself into having better work ethic about it.

Lisa Lane said...

My first and second novels each took several months to write, but I've completed all the others (I've written eleven now) between one and three months--but then I do take several months to redraft.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post. It took me about 4 months to write my first draft. I was wondering if you could tell us how to copyright your manuscript?

Rachel said...

Well, this doesn't count all the pre-planning, but NaNoWriMo is usually just the right amount of time for me to finish a first draft: 30 days. If it doesn't get done in that time, chances are it's because I lost interest in it to the point where it isn't worth finishing. (I've also learned that if I'm having the sort of month where I don't have *time* to do that much writing, then I'll lose my momentum, and it isn't the right time for a new project. Those months are better for revision.)

Maya said...

Embarrassingly long. ;)

In all seriousness, it is almost 2 years since I started my WIP but I hope to do a sprint in May and get it done before the two year mark.

Imogen said...

The fastest first draft I ever wrote was finished in ten days. Other than that? 3 months-ish.

Wendy said...

I'm up to the planning stage of my seventh manuscript. All the previous ones took from one to three months to write the draft, another month for revision.

Jess said...

Weeeellll, back when I was a mere child in college. I wrote one in 24 hours. I had signed up for an Independent Studies class and my project was to write a novel. Of course, I procrastinated so I had to stay up all night writing and then go have it bound for the professor. It was about 50,000 words and I made a B+. My eyes were almost swollen shut when I delivered it to him so I'm sure he knew exactly what I'd done. Those were the days of Fear of Flying by Erica Jong so it was a confessional type novel--a cinch for me. I had lots of angst.

Katie OShea said...

Mine took me 2 months writing every day during the first year of law school! Interesting balance, but totally worth it :)

A.J. said...

First draft can be completed in a month if I've outlined Save-the-Cat style and I've gone all NaNoWriMo.

Then I let the WIP rest for a month.

Then I spend a month revising.

Then I let critique partners at it. :)

Mary said...

It usually takes me about a month or two to finish a draft. I've only completed one novel (I've finished 2nd and 3rd drafts before, but this is the first time I've completed something to the point of submitting it to agents). I worked on the completed novel for almost 2 years, but I had the idea in my head/developing for about 3 years before that.

kate said...

the idea for my novel came to me when i first got my second and third cats. it had been percolating quietly in the back of my brain until last summer i realized books locked in brains are rarely published. i started writing and got 25o pages in when i realized the tone was completely wrong. so after a big sigh and much personal lambasting, i started fresh this january and am very pleased with where the book is heading. i hope to finish it at the end of the summer which makes one year of work.

wendy said...

I seem to have tremendous problems with syntax snd concentration as it takes forever to finish fine-tuning. As I've mentioned here before, I've been working on my first adult novel for 13 years now. But the first draft took about two years to complete. (It's now enormous in size and scope, though - over 110 thousand words and seems to dip its literary toe into quite a few genres which might work against it.) However I've also left it to moulder for a year here and there when I've become discouraged or become caught up with other things like caring for my mother.

If I knew when I started what I'd face--including another author beating me to the finish-line with similiar ideas making the work derivitive--maybe I wouldn't have bothered. But perhaps better days are ahead. Encouraged by a website notification that Penguin Books Aust. are now accepting non-solicited Ms for one week per month, I've been gettting into a flurry of revisions and produced the best work todate.

Adam Heine said...

For a first draft, my new record is 4 months, which is a heck of an improvement from 4.5 years (being my first novel).

Rachael W said...

The first draft of my current WIP took me ten months to write, but within those ten months, there was both a four-month break with no writing at all and a five-week haul-ass-a-thon in which I wrote 45,000 words. Almost two years later, I'm still revising (although with one six-month and one three-month break in that two-year span).

Jay C. Spencer said...

I am still working on the first draft of my first novel. It has taken me 10 months thus far, mostly in the very early mornings before work. I hope to have it done by July.

Magdalena said...

In the past 3 years I've written 3 novels now (all unpublished and still in need of revisions). One of them took about 8 days, another about 10. Another maybe 2 months. I have dozens of other projects I've never finished though. It seems when I'm really motivated and know what's going to happen I just sit down and plow through it. You really need to know exactly what's going to go on and just force yourself.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Wow. A great question.
Novel 1: unpublished, I might look at it again some day, written when I was 17/18 at the encouragement of my first agent, who sent it around with no success but had it considered by Thomas Crowell and Knopf, a YA, about 6 months, I think.

Novel 2: probably about 4 months. Similar story to the first one, but about four years later. I picked it up and toyed with it on-and-off for not quite 30 years. "From Where The Rivers Come," now available, thanks to Amazon and CreateSpace.

Novel 3: Similar story to the first two, except it was never seen by my first agent who died not long after "Rivers" was first seen by him. It was written at the suggestion of his wife, who succeeded him at his agency and as my agent. Made it to Bantam and I can't recall, ultimately unpublished. I'm playing with it now, on and off. About 25 years later. A mystery set in Texas.

Novel 4: Also written at the suggeston of the first agent's wife, my second agent, who was successfully selling mysteries. Don't recall who she sent it to, or if she sent it to anyone. Wrote it in probably a year, then revised it over the course of another two years. About 5 years later, after she decided not to keep me on and had to pare down her writers to those who were "selling," it got me my third agent. Who loved it. But I don't think sent it anywhere. Oh, it was rejected after some consideration by McPhee/Gribble/Penguin, and kindly passed on to Jonathan Cape, where it also was rejected. "Down The Low Road," currently available, thanks to Amazon and CreateSpace.

Novel 5: About two years. As yet, sitting on a shelf. Haven't looked at it much since "finishing" it in Spain, after starting it in South Carolina. Another mystery, set in South Carolina. First written before my second agent pared her list.

Novel 6: Finished in about six months. Finished in Lima, Peru, in fact. My rough/first drafts are almost always hand written, and by fountain pen. After having some friends look at it, and myself, I shelved it. Because...

Novel 7: Took me probably six months. Essentially the same story as Novel 6, except done a completely different, (more honest?), way. Currently sitting at a publisher.

Novel 8: still formulating the idea. That takes me quite a while. Then, when I have the idea pretty firmly in place, I sit down and start to write. The way it looks to me in my head, it could take me maybe a summer to finish, depending on time spent actually writing.

There in lies the key. With a full-time job, that has become a 30+ year career, and 20 of those years with the same company, and all because I got into journalism to try and learn to be a better writer, and supporting my wife and 10-year-old son, I don't have much time to sit and write. I try and do it on the commute to work, which is about 40 minutes to Manhattan and another 15 to my office (walking, so obviously I can only write on the first leg).

I hope to be more productive when I retire. If I can retire...:)

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Oh. And as for NaNoWriMo: if you can write 5 pages a day, 5 days a week, you can write 25 pages a week. At 25 pages a week, you can have a 200-300 page (50,000-70,000 words) first draft in about two months. If you can write more, great. If you can't, those are the stats.

:)

Best of luck, as always, Nathan! And to all your fans, like me.

Naja Tau said...

I've been writing my first novel like a freak (that is, daily) with no outline & no plan for two years now. I'm still editing it. Hopefully the 7th time will be the charm. (But I can tell already that there will be an 8th time... :)

-Naja

India Drummond said...

First draft takes about 6-8 weeks.

When I'm in "composition mode," I try to write 1800 words a day, 6 days a week.

It works much better for me to spend 2 weeks before that nailing down my detailed outline (1-3 paragraphs describing the action in each scene), so I never sit and stare at the screen, wondering what happens next. Then two months actually making it happen. My first novel took years, but I had zero momentum. This new system works MUCH better for me.

I should note that writing is what I do full time. I don't think I keep that schedule up if I had to work a second job.

Marilyn Peake said...

It depends. I've written novels in six months, but have also taken five years to write a more complicated science fiction novel. Six to eight months is a very short time to write a good novel.

dirtywhitecandy said...

Depends what I'm writing. I once ghosted 4 teen thrillers in one year, though they were for a series and I'd planned the first one the previous year.
My own work - literary fiction - takes a lot longer. 2 years for the last one, and it's probably going to need another tweak.

Nicole said...

My first couple were between 8 months and a year. For my latest, I'm on track to be between 6-8 months.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Hmmm, good question. I'm on the third draft of my work-in-progress. Each draft took about a year. I will probably have one more to go after I finish this one. My plot is quite complex and it had take a lot of working and re-working to get it right. I'm almost there. Thank goodness,it's time to move on.

LaviniaLewis said...

It very much depends on the length of the work. I write between 2-3000 words per day so a 30,000 word novella I can complete in around 10-20 days. A 60,000 word book takes me around 6-8 weeks with editing. Obviously anything longer than that takes longer to complete. When I began writing I spent a few months on my first book. But with time and experience I've become faster. I know a lot of authors that are even faster than me, writing between 5-10,000 words per day. I think the more you do, the faster you become.

Guilie said...

About 3 months (10-15 weeks). I'm a pantster, so I just sit and write. First draft is really a "zero" draft for me. Revisions, though... whoa. Been at it for six months now, almost there.

D.G. Hudson said...

I think the time it takes to complete a draft depends on what type/genre of book you're writing.

The more complex the storyline, the more threads to be pulled together. I'd expect a literary book to take longer that a genre book. (that's not always the case) Length of book is also a factor.

1st novel, 2 years to draft, with months of revisions/revamp (during a major move)

2nd - 4th, WIP varying times on the drafts, but I don't rush it.

Word verif - 3 times or more gets aggravating.

Darley said...

It always takes much longer than I'd like because writing is my second job. I applaud anyone who has achieved that point where they are making a living at it.

Cheryl said...

I'm actually relieved to see a novel doesn't take years and years to write. I am currently through first revisions and am awaiting feedback before I delve in again. So far, I'm almost seven months in and hope to query by the summer.

Matt Heppe said...

My first one took 23 years. My second one is on pace to be done in 100 days.

Anonymous said...

It took me July to January to finish my rough draft, however, I didn't write a word from mid-October through November, thanks to marital crisis. Good times.

Additionally, my current WIP is 100K+. So, you know, pretty good word-per-hour rate.

I've been revising like a beast ever since, but I'll continue to be revising for God only knows how long. I'd reaaalllly like to get down to 90k or so.

Susan Lower said...

It takes me about a year to write an adult fiction novel, and about 6-8 months when working on a middle grade novel. Of course I have a fantastic critique group and family that also is very supportive of me having "writing time"

darnellreid3 said...

Hi, it takes me like about 10 - 12 months. I has my grandchildren to help me out with asking questions, like, what is you're writing about? My book is available at www.outskirtspress.com/lisaandhermanymen. It about a young women who life is everything she wants until she gets the news of her life that she got HIV. Read it, it is page turning.

Cortez Law III said...

About 6-8 months with about three of them for the first draft with few days missed. I tend to take Sunday off on purpose to re-charge for the week ahead.

But sometimes I still find myself reading it and editing it as I'm working on other projects, though.

Mira said...

Interesting question.

And four novels is pretty impressive, Nathan, since it's pretty much been a finshed, published novel a year!

For me, fiction can take me a very long time, because it's not my genre. It once took me 10 years to write a short story, but I did really like the story once it was done.

For non-fiction, I write quickly, but I'll take awhile before I tackle a project. I have to feel I'm ready with non-fiction, and that can take awhile. So, my timing with non-fiction is that I write quickly, but wait until the timing feels just right before I start.

Bonnee Crawford said...

My first draft of my first manuscript took me somewhere between 7 and 9 months, but I'm still redrafting (I was 14-15 then, 17 now, and my English skills are much better now).

Amy Parker said...

I am right with you at about seven months. I handwrite then type it in, so that's part of it.

K. C. Blake said...

It depends on if things are flowing well or not. My quickest novel was written in two weeks. My longest took me four years. As for how many I've written, I lost track years ago. Harlequin published a few. I published five of them. Most went into the trash.

J. R. McLemore said...

My first, unpublished novel took 3 months. The editing is taking years.

Typically, it takes me between 4-6 months to complete a first draft. It really depends on the story I'm writing and how much I need to research. Editing is always longer, however, and I don't much care for it.

Anne R. Allen said...

I've just finished a nonfic book that took about 3 months to come together, but I had a co-author. And the outline and intro already done. Fiction takes a lot longer for me. About 8 or 9 months, I'd say. I'm getting faster, though. My first opus took me almost a decade. That's because I couldn't figure out how to end it. Like the protagonist of the great book/film Wonder Boys.

Gypmar said...

You people are machines! Wow.

Maria said...

First Draft is now at 83,000 words and 1 year. Hope to be typing "The End" within the next month and then more revising time.

Stephen Dedman said...

Writing full time, if I have a plan, it takes three months. Part time, no plan, it can take years.

Jason Runnels said...

I think this can vary widely between a Zero Draft (NaNoWriMo) in 30 days vs. a First Draft. Something you feel comfortable having somebody else read.

Heidi said...

way

too

long.

My main WIP: 4 years, off & on. This whole life thing gets in the way, along with my other projects. I'm currently working on some type of time management schedule so I can keep it up and finish the ms. I have to admit, it's tough.

Sara said...

For my current WIP? God -- about three years so far. In the beginning I wasn't consistent about writing and editing every day. And I took off a month in between major revisions, as well the past two Novembers to do Nanowrimo. My goal is to query in the late summer/fall.

Zakgirl said...

My novel: Three years, six chapters and still not done :(

Lots of other smaller writings in between though ;)

E.B. Black said...

My first draft takes a week to write, but editing it into a final draft can take up to two years. I'm trying to get faster though. My current WIP, I expect to be finished with by the end of this year.

Eric said...

First draft percolates in my mind for months or years, then when I feel ready, it takes about a month to put it all down on paper. Then almost a year to edit.

Ann Elise said...

Mine varies widely. My longest is three years and my shortest is one month (that one was NaNoWriMo's doing). And the second appears to be in better shape than the first was, but that could just due to gaining experience.

Cathi Stoler said...

Right now, it feel like forever. Am trying to finish the last 30,000 words by end of June. Only 6 weeks away!

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