Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Long Does It Take You?

One of the questions I'm certain every author is asked—in addition to "where do you get your ideas?—is "how long does it take you to write a book?"

The real answer is "an eternity," though I usually respond with the total elapsed time between starting and finishing, though I'll cut out any months of total inactivity that might (usually do, for me) occur in the middle.

So for the book I'm currently finishing (Red Flags, the fourth Kate Reilly Racing Mystery, due out in April 2016!), the answer will be an elapsed time of about eight or nine months. I started the book about a year ago, but didn't work on it at all for three months earlier this year (during the time of quitting-my-day-job).

Eight or nine months. Of course, everyone understands that doesn't mean continuous work.

But as I sit here, editing. (And editing and editing.) And as I'm reminded how long it takes to edit, then how long it takes to enter the edits into the computer file (I have to do some editing rounds by hand on paper), I start to think about counting up the actual hours.

It might be painful to see the result, and it'll involve plenty of guesswork, but let's try.

I'm calling it three categories of effort:

  1. Research and planning: covering everything from character studies, to hashing out the clues and plot points, to writing a synopsis. 
  2. Writing: banging out the first, ugly draft.
  3. Editing: reading and rereading, over and over, to fix holes and tighten prose. And catch typos.
Research and planning is the most difficult to quantify, but I know that working out the synopsis alone took probably 20 hours. So I'm going to call that category 75 hours total, which may still be low, because I'm not counting all of the race watching, motorsports article reading, and video viewing.
Research and planning total: 75 hours

Writing is a little easier, because I write words over time. A conservative estimate is probably 500 words/hour. I think I usually write faster than that, but I've also go to account for the days when I sat for a couple hours and only produced 200. The draft manuscript this time was a whopping 110,000 words, which, divided by 500/hour, equals ...
Writing total: 220 hours

Editing always surprises me by how long it takes. I can do the editing at a rate of 20 pages/hour, and I can enter the edits into the computer at a rate of 40 pages/hour. Calling every draft an average of 360 pages, that means that each draft takes me 27 hours to edit. I've already done two drafts, and I expect to do three more, and to spend 20 hours proofreading the ARC down the line, which means ...
Editing total: 155 hours

For a grand total of 450 hours to create one Kate Reilly Racing Mystery. More or less. Probably more. If I put in 40 hour work weeks on it, I could, in theory, finish a book every three months. (I hear my husband saying, "what are you waiting for?!")

But of course, what this doesn't take into account is the gestation time required for ideas. The creative recovery and regeneration required. Sometimes, the need to work paying jobs. 

And let's not forget the bing eating, discouraged napping, and random internet surfing. Those take a really, really long time....

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