Monday, March 1, 2010

Long time coming

I finished the revised draft of my manuscript a few weeks ago. Right after I clicked the 'Send' button to get it out to the agents waiting for it, I updated my Facebook status, which is how I've kept my friends and family up-to-date on my writing process. Out of curiousity, I looked back at my status updates from the past year and a timeline of writing my novel emerged. I'm a big nerd when it comes to stuff like this, so I thought I would break it down here, starting with when the idea hit. Note that the during the years-long gaps, I wasn't writing at all.

  • Spring 1992 – write ‘Night Words,’ a 20-page short story
  • Fall 2002 -- decide to turn 'Night Words' into a novel. Do an extensive outline with 17 chapters.
  • Fall 2006 – complete three chapters of ‘Night Words’ and submit it to a (very) small opening pages competition; selected as the winner of the suspense category, and also given Reader’s Favorite award.
  • February 19, 2009 -- Start working on 'Night Words' full time.
  • May 31, 2009 -- Complete beta draft (renamed The Shadow Scribe); 67,000 words; 24 chapters; submitt to 8 beta readers
  • August 3, 2009 -- All feedback received and digested; begin revision
  • October 1, 2009 -- The Shadow Scribe is commended in the Yeovil Literary Prize
  • October 19, 2009 -- Complete 'final' draft; 78,000 words, 24 chapters
  • October 20, 2009 -- Send out first queries
  • October - December 2009 -- Receive 6 full requests and 2 partials.
  • December 2009 -- one partial and four fulls rejected, but one with feedback and invitation to resubmit with changes
  • Decmber 15, 2009 -- begin revision (massive restructuring with rewrites)
  • January 4, 2010 -- contacted by remaining two agents with fulls; arrange to send revised manuscript when ready
  • January 24, 2010 -- complete revision; 80,000 words, 30 chapters; send to one reliable beta reader
  • February 14, 2010 -- receive feedback from beta
  • February 19, 2010 -- complete 'final final' draft; 82,000 words, 31 chapters; sent to agents
  • March 1, 2010 -- waiting, waiting, waiting....

So in theory, it took me 18 years to write The Shadow Scribe. In practice, it took exactly one year (February 19 -- how weird is that?!)  from the point where I seriously buckled down and started writing to the point where I had a manuscript I knew was 'finished' (noting of course that there could be agent-requested and editor-requested changes, if I should be so lucky to get to that point).

What about you? How long has it taken you with your projects?


  1. I now totally <3 you!! I also got the idea for my two current WIPs in 1992! How weird is that?
    I wrote up lots of notes and stuffed them in a drawer. In the following decade I wrote and published mostly poetry. I wrote nothing at all from 2000-05, then started kicking around the idea of working with these old, old characters again (I was a twitchy SAHM then). I wrote my first draft in about 14 months, over 2006-07, revised and started test marketing in '08-'09 and got a lot of rejections on the novel. In that period I also submitted some short pieces and they WERE published. In '09 I joined two writing groups that are helping me to substantially rewrite. I hope to get back into marketing again by midsummer.

    What amazed me is how fast I drafted the last half of the book--11 chapters in 4 months, working full days, just 3 days a week. I now have a PT job that cuts into my writing hours, and revising is far slower than drafting. But I agree that focus is crucial in finishing a writing project.

  2. You are so right, Laurel. It's the focus. What I find the strangest about finishing is that it feels like there is an empty room in my head. My characters and story lived there for so long, I almost don't know what to do now that they've moved out. I now have a 'For Rent' sign hung out for my next novel.