Time to write. (How long does it take to write a novel Pt.3)

In my previous blogs I have tried to outline how long it is taking me to write my latest novel.

I’d got up to the second read through of the first draft and that had taken me 140 hours.

Synopsis and character profiles – 10 hours

Plot outline – 30 hours

Write first draft – 80 hours

First read through – 8 hours

Second read through – 12 hours

I’d labelled each chapter / segment of 1,000 words so I knew what my main priority was with each one.

Rewrite whole chapter – 3

More work needed – 24

Revise dialogue – 17

Good – 34

Add humour – 2

I went about tackling each label in turn so I was in the right mindset for each one.

As you can see I have included both the actual time spent working on it and the elapsed time. Whilst I am a ‘full time writer’ I don’t necessarily write all of the time and I have various projects on the go at one time.

Tackle chapters that need complete rewrite. 31st July (2 hours) – This was a lot easier than I had imagined. I’d made notes about why the chapters didn’t work and by chopping bits out, restructuring and rewriting I got them up to a decent standard.

Tackle more work needed chapters. 31st July – 4th August (5 hours)  – There were 24 chapters that were labelled as more work needed. Some were easier than others to resolve but sometimes just removing a couple of lines helped a lot. I occasionally relabelled them as ‘Add humour’ or ‘Revise dialogue’ when it became apparent that is where the issue was. Delaying the inevitable but it felt like I was getting somewhere.

Revise dialogue 7th August – 9th August (6 hours) – As it happens, the writing group I am a member of recently did a session on dialogue so I had plenty to work on. Quite often less is more so removing words at the beginning or end of sentences quite often saw a dramatic improvement. The idea was to make it more snappy and realistic. I also toyed with the speech tool in Scrivener which I think is the basic speech to text tool on a MacBook and it was interesting to hear my dialogue spoken. It’s far from perfect but it does give you a little insight into how it would be read by the end reader. Worth having a go if only for the novelty of having a robot read your work.

Add Humour 9th August (2 hours) – Telling myself to ‘add humour’ must be similar to when comedians are told to ‘be funny’ when meeting fans in the street. It’s easier said than done and you have to be in the right frame of mind. I’d recently read Carl Hiaasen’s new novel Razor Girl and he is a very funny writer, occasionally only using one line to get the humour across. I tried to do that where possible to boost the chapters but on a couple of occasions I chopped out 500 words or so and wrote a new scene. One of them influenced by an online chat about annoying work phrases. I have plenty that have annoyed me over the years and managed to work them in.

Merge and rewrite chapters 10th August – 14th August (3 hours) – In the process of doing the above amendments, I identified a few chapters that didn’t do anything or were a bit dull. I decided to merge them, cut parts out and rewrite other parts. Some of them have ended up longer (1,200 words) and some shorter (600 words).

As you can see, in two weeks I have only spent eighteen hours on editing the novel. Not a great deal in hindsight but I hope to spend longer in the next couple of weeks.

In total all of the above resulted in me cutting 3,500 words. I always cut and paste into another document in case I want to use them later. I never delete.

My word count has also grown by 1,000 so I’ve managed to come up with 4,500 words of totally new writing.

Whilst all my chapters are labelled as green for ‘Good’, I still have a long way to go. I still have notes against each chapter for things that need looking at and I have 30 notes in Evernote that need resolving as well as my editing checklist which is now up to 36 items.

Next up is to deal with one element of a particular character. She is meant to be a sympathetic character but I have her doing something that might alienate some readers. I’ve given it a lot of thought and going to change it slightly so the hint is still there that she could do something but not the actual act. I’m hoping it will be straightforward but time will tell.

After that I’m going to do another full read through and label my chapters again. Once those amendments are made, and the ones in Evernote, I hope to move onto the editing checklist.

I can never be certain as I’m always thinking, always questioning whether the story works but I hope to get a draft ready for my critique team within the next month.

Total time spent to date – 158 hours.


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