Because I’m a nut about these things.

  • Number of unpublished novels written before The Affair of the Porcelain Dog: 2
  • Of these, number actually finished: 1
  • How long, from first ink to contract offer: a little over four years
  • Number of drafts: 8
  • Of these, number that were major rewrites (ie; more than 50% of the MS tossed and replaced with something completely different): 4
  • SFD (shitty first draft) word count: around 35K.
  • Word count at highest point: around 100K
  • Accepted draft word count: around 77,300K

Have to qualify “a little over four years” by saying that during the first two years, I had exactly three hours per week to write. The first draft was written in seven months, that is to say, a little less than 200 hours, which sort of boggles my mind to think about it now. The third year, I had six hours per week, and this last year, it’s been closer to twelve. I suppose I should add up the hours for a more accurate count, but I really can’t be bothered with it right now.

I did a survey recently of writers that I know, and was surprised to find a wide variation in their answers to these same questions. Some took as little as six months to get from first ink to a sale, others took several years. Everyone did more than one draft, but few did more than four. Almost everyone had at least one in the “trunk.”

I think it took me eight drafts to get APD right, because I was still trying to figure out what I was doing. That takes a lot of time–a lot of time that could have been saved, by the way, by using an outline. It’s a lot faster and easier to work the plot kinks out of 20 pages of outline than out of 400 pages of text.

The next three novels are already outlined, and between that and having even more writing time this coming year than ever before, the potential for productivity is sort of frightening. The takeaway lesson, I suppose, is that a writer needs to figure out her process and work it, believing in it, as long as forward progress is being made, without worrying about how other writers are doing it.

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