Wednesday Writing Update: The Pep-Talk to Myself

The thing about writing a book is that it takes a lot of time—especially for me. I first really put my nose to the grindstone on this book in June or July of 2010. It’s now 15 months later, and I’m struggling through a major rewrite. I think part of what’s discouraging me is that I’m doing what may be the one thing you’re really not supposed to do: compare yourself to other writers.

So this is where I attempt to give myself a pep talk. Here goes:

A lot of the remarkably short time periods I saw were for first drafts. My first draft took about 11 months. Overall, that’s not too horrendous. I know that authors who are under contract can only have four to six months to write a complete first draft, and that scares me. My hope, however, is that by the time I’m in a position to have to do that, I’ll have learned enough about writing to be able to do that. I’m guessing part of that is skill, part is confidence, and part is just good-old-fashioned butt-in-chair and hands-at-keyboard.

Okay, it’s mostly butt-in-chair and hands-at-keyboard.

Anyway, right now I’m rewriting. There’s a lot of stuff I’m keeping from my first and second drafts, but I also threw out a lot and am adding a lot and a lot of stuff is getting moved around. This is not just line editing. That’s going to take some time, especially since I also need to do a bit of research on some things. I think, however, that all this repotting—most of that strikes me as being repotting—has actually taught me a lot about plot, which brings me to my next point….

I’ve learned a lot in the process of writing this book, and I’m probably going to learn even more as I work on the rewrite. I’m sure I’ll be learning things about writing as well as about what I’m writing about—and those things will eventually help me write faster and better the first time around.

Malcolm Gladwell has said that you have to put in 10,000 hours to become really good at something. I’m not sure if he came up with it or someone else did, and I don’t think anyone has objectively tested that number… but there’s a certain amount of sense to it.

I guess there’s nothing to do but keep going.

2 thoughts on “Wednesday Writing Update: The Pep-Talk to Myself

  1. The first draft I’m currently working on is about 18 months old and not yet finished. If I average that with the first draft of my first completed novel, it works out to about two and a quarter years. So don’t feel bad.

    Bear in mind, from what I’ve read, most writers complete three or four novels before they ever sell one – so that “second book” that they churn out in a few months is actually their fifth or sixth. That’s a lot of practice.


    1. Thanks, Chris.

      You’re right that there’s usually a few unpublished books that got stuffed in a drawer or the circular file. This book is actually my second. The first was finished when I was 19, so… 11 years ago? It has since gone in the circular file, though I suspect I’ll eventually come back to writing about one of those characters.

      And 10,000 hours at 1 hour per day is about 27.4 years.


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