It takes how long?
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
Question number two was: How long does it take to write a book?
I'm afraid I'm going to start sounding like a broken record (there's an idiom from another era).
It depends - or rather - it takes as long as it takes.
The first draft of Unpacking Harper Holt took nearly four months to write - but that was just the first draft, to become a book, it took a lot longer. Let me explain.
For the first month or so, I was writing most days. I wrote new chapters early in the morning and reworked things in the evening (my next post will be about editing). But life is tricky sometimes, and it was not always possible to sit at my computer for unlimited hours and write - it still isn't. Other things, important things and everyday things, need to be done.
I got about a third of the way through and thought - this is crazy! I can't write a novel!
So I stopped. Stopped by self doubt.
Apart from my son, no one else knew what I was doing, there was no harm done in abandoning the idea. For a week I completely ignored it.
However I was really, really enjoying the writing process, and I was still waking up at 5 am. I'd also become invested in Harper's story. I decided to print out what I'd done, take a deep breath, and find someone to read it.
By that stage, I knew who I was writing for - who was my target audience. I asked someone, who I had taught a couple of years before, to read it, and let me know her thoughts.
It was a long wait... three weeks! For most of that time, I imagined her, with her parents, trying to work out a way to tell me, gently, that it was really bad.
Finally, I got to ask the question that I really wanted the answer to - do you want to find out what happens? The answer was yes.
I kept writing. I wanted to find out too.
There was some other feedback, from that first reader, that changed the course of the story. As soon as I moved a scene nearer to the beginning, everything changed and the story came a lot faster. I will be forever grateful for that feedback (there's another topic to talk about).
The first draft of Harper took four months to write - I really had no idea what I was doing.
Since then I've refined my writing process, how I work, and now it takes me less time to write the first draft of a manuscript of about 65000 words. Everything We Keep (Scholastic Aust 2021) was done in 8 weeks.
But don't get too excited! Remember, that's the first draft - there's a lot of work that comes after that (more will be explained in future posts).
The junior series is different. It's a continuing series of stories each of about 8500 words - same characters, same location, fun storylines - they take about a week. If it's a cold, wintery weekend or a summer heatwave, then maybe a couple of days.
Before I send you off thinking that it's quick and easy - let me remind you of a few things.
First - I don't plan the stories; my characters show up, and that presents its own challenge. If there's no character to get the story started then no story starts.
Second - my first draft is a blurt - it's fast to write however it's far, far from perfect.
Finally - the real work, for me, starts after I've finished the first draft. The editing, refining, improving, research... and for that I have a small team of fabulous friends and professionals who get involved.
I've learnt to slow down in this part of the process - with Harper it was like a race - I just wanted it done. Now I can sit with that draft, think about it and really get to understand it - and that takes time.
You know that saying about 'it takes a village...', well, in my experience, while the first draft is just me and the character racing through the story - it becomes a completed manuscript when I share it, get feedback and do a lot of rereads and rewrites - and that takes as long as it takes.