Writers: How Long Does It Take You From First Draft To Finished?

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At my writing group last week, an interesting question arose…

How long does it take you from first draft to finished?

I’ve written before about the value of taking a break (more like the necessity of taking a break) between drafts of your manuscript in order to gain perspective and objectivity from your own work, so I won’t reiterate all that here.

I learned this when writing my first manuscript (the YA Chateau mystery story). In the spirit of “no defeat baby, no surrender,” I worked on it nonstop for five years. Never give up!

Except, I lost all objectivity and to this day have trouble editing it. It’s still not done. Mistake made, lesson learned. 

So for my second manuscript (the Jersey Shore YA contemporary), I decided to do things differently. I first drafted fast, finishing it in six months. (A record for me, a long time for others.) Then I took a three-month break and worked on something else. Then I returned to that draft and rewrote.

Rinse and repeat.

At the moment, that manuscript is on its fourth draft, and is currently being workshopped in my real-life writer group as well as with critique partners online. In the meantime, I’m first-drafting my third novel (the Play YA Contemporary). Once I’m done with this draft, I’ll return to the Jersey Shore YA contemporary, possibly do another story overhaul–or possibly just polish–depending on feedback. And then, dare I say it, it will be ready for querying. Which will make it about 2 1/2 years between first drafting and final drafting.

This works for me. I learned a long time ago that I’m playing the long game when it comes to becoming a published writer, and I’m fine with that.

And it’s not like I spent the entire 2.5 year period working on one book; by the time this fall rolls around, I’ll have drafted-to-done one book, edited another, have completed a first draft of another, as well as jotted down several ideas for future stories. (I also wrote about 30K words of a fantasy last fall, a daunting project I will return to.)

For other people, I realize that 2.5 years from drafting to done seems interminable. I’ve heard of writers who draft to done in just 3 months’ time. All I can ask is: how?????

So I’m curious: how long does it take you from your first draft to your final draft? I’d love to hear…

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Currently writing: As mentioned, I’m finishing up the first draft of the YA Play story. I’m finally, finally, mid-climax–the night of the play–but I predict it will be a few more weeks until I’m totally done with this draft. At the same time, I entered #PitchWars for the first time ever with the YA Jersey Shore Contemporary, and am playing the waiting game along with every other hopeful mentee right now. Wish me luck!

Image representing the long and winding road of being a writer found here

5 thoughts on “Writers: How Long Does It Take You From First Draft To Finished?

  1. Personally, I feel that a “final draft” is as real as unicorns. The drafts that we declare “finish” are really drafts that we tolerate because there’s always a new or better way to write something.

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  2. I’ve yet to finish a manuscript. None of my novels have made it past the first draft stages because I tend to get distracted by another project. Another story. I’m working on that though. It’s come to the point where I had to realize that I was not going to finish a novel. What I am decent enough at working on is short stories. So I’m going to work on a compilation of short stories set in the same worlds and then release those instead of trying to force a complete novel.

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