How long does it take to write a book? Well, this seems to be a matter of some debate. Some authors write with reckless abandon, completing the initial draft in about a month. Others agonize over each word, editing and rewriting as they go. I prefer the reckless abandon approach.
But, does this approach yield a complete manuscript? Absolutely not. I would venture to say that even after several edits, a manuscript still isn’t ready to roll. I’ve learned the hard way that any edits done too quickly after the initial writing are not helpful because at that point, you’re still too close to the story. I’ve read this before, but disregarded the advice. I drove myself crazy with self-edits and ended up with a book which was nowhere near ready to query… and a book I couldn’t look at without getting a migraine.
Here is the process I followed when writing my first novel, The Claiming Words:
- June- August 2010…First draft. This is the best book ever!
- September 2010…Initial edit (clean up a few grammatical issues) I’m so ready to publish!
- October- Nov 2010… Something about the book nags at me, though I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I embark upon a series of major rewrites of the first chapters. I reshuffle the order of chapters and scenes every week. By Thanksgiving, I am frustrated and discouraged. I hate the book.
- Nov- Dec 2010… I decide to give up and write the book from a different character’s POV. The First Protector is born. I love the new book so much, I decide to focus all my efforts on it instead.
- January 2011…Back to TCW because I can’t get the story out of my mind. I try to combine it with the sequel to give it more depth, but its too cluttered. My head is throbbing, so I’ve decided to give up on the book permanently. I take 2 Excedrin Migraine pills and decide never to look at it again.
- May 1-13 2011…Wake up one morning and feel like I can look at the book without losing my sanity. Re-read it. I’m surprised by how much I still love the story. You know, it really isn’t that bad.
- May 2-13, 2011… I decide to give TCW one more shot. I cut out each scene and either scrap it, or completely re-do it. Cut word count from 97,000 down to 75,000. I love the book once again.
- May 13 2011…Post a few chapters on authonomy to see how badly the authonomites beat up on it. Within weeks, The Claiming Words outranks The First Protector. Do a few small edits.
- June 2011…My mom, Sherry, and Tockica says the ending doesn’t give enough closure. I write a new ending, thus increasing the word count to 81,000.
The Claiming Words took about a year from start to finish. Much of that time, the book sat unattended and unloved. I have enough deleted scenes to add up to an entire book. Of course, it’s all back story and info-dump, so no one would want to read it because it’s horrible. But, because of all the rewrites, I have an understanding of my characters that sometimes scares me. I have entire biographies of characters whom are barely mentioned in TCW.
The moral of the story is this: rewrites and edits are essential. Your book isn’t finished until you’ve had time to take a step back and re-evaluate it. Writing a book is easy. Edits and re-writes are frustrating and can bring you to tears, but until you’ve torn your book apart and put it back together, it isn’t complete. How long does it take to write a book? You’ll feel it.