I’m currently finishing the final draft of a novel I’ve been working on for the last four years. It’s going swell, but for anyone wondering, here’s how it takes four years to write a book.
January 2011 – July 2012: write a first, terrible, draft, with no real story but just flexing your writing muscles. Burn it. Burn it all.
August – December 2012: plan the second draft, reading loads of books about plot and story because the first draft so woefully lacked any semblance of one. Draw huge maps and story timelines and spreadsheets. Spend three months in Greece going ever so slightly mad writing the second draft from start to finish.
January – July 2013: Try to be less mad.
July 2013 – September 2014: Keep starting and restarting multiple new drafts of the story, unable to decide basic questions like, when should it begin? Wghen should it end? From whose perspective does it come? What sort of person are they? Do they speak in first person, or do I tell it as an omniscient narrator? Change your mind at least seven times, writing c.30,000 words each time. Bin each one.
September 2014: Get nice feedback from agents on the first few chapters!
October 2014 – January 2015: Bin the first three chapters. Focus on the less nice feedback, then on how the good feedback was probably actually bad, then an embarrassing thing that happened to you once about 15 years ago. Start a non-fiction proposal. Lose confidence. e so overwhelmed by what you want to say, that you can’t figure out how to say it in a way that’s entertaining and has a momentum of its own, ie as a STORY. Ask yourself questions, like: why has it taken you so long to work out something so simple? Why haven’t you finished yet? Why can’t you write faster? Wonder if you’re up to any of this at all.
February 2015: Have a brainwave that is so staggeringly simple it’s embarrassing it’s taken you four years to figure it out.
February – September 2015: Write complete new draft, thanks to brainwave, that is a) not terrible and b) a story that works on its own terms (finally) for once.
I keep the latest updates about my progress here. As you can see, I’ve never written one before, so it’s a bit hit and miss.