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 I’ve written four now (the first is unpublished and the fourth comes out next year), which kind of blows my mind when I stop and think about how much time that represents.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
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 says
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 says
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 says
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.
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. says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
And by 3 months, of course, I meant 9 weeks. *sigh* Math has never been my strong point.
Tim Susman says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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. 🙂
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 says
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 says
I've been bouncing back and forth between three WIP novels for eight months. It took six months to write my novella.
Marta Szemik says
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 says
It took me at least a year to finish my first draft. It's taken me almost two to edit it.
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) says
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 says
Two Months. The key is to have a schedule and write at least 500 a day.
It takes me about 3 weeks to do a 95K. I use the snowflake method so I can pump them out pretty quick.
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.
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 says
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 says
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 says
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.
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 says
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 says
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 says
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.
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?
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.)
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.
The fastest first draft I ever wrote was finished in ten days. Other than that? 3 months-ish.
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.
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 says
Mine took me 2 months writing every day during the first year of law school! Interesting balance, but totally worth it 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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 says
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 says
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 says
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.
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 says
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…:)