“Lily, how long does it take you to write a book?”
It’s a question I get asked all the time. Possibly, the only question I get asked more often at market stalls or fairs where I promote my books is: ‘are you the author?’ ‘Did you write these?’ and ‘Does the bride really die in this?’ *holding up a copy of Who Killed The Bride?*
Yes, I’m the author. Yes, I wrote these. (Through blood, sweat, tears, and an ocean of self-doubt I wrote these.) No, the bride doesn’t die.
So how long does it take me to write a book? Well, I’ve just finished my new release for February 2018, Book 1 in the Chalk Hill Series, called Water Under The Bridge, so it’s a great time to break it down for you (and for me) while it’s all fresh in my mind.
I got the idea for Water Under The Bridge during the Rio Olympics in 2016. (Blame the very gorgeous dripping puffing panting swimmers!)
Pre-planning, plotting, dreaming & opening chapters
September/October 2016: 40 hours
I started writing Water Under The Bridge for real during National November Writing Month NaNoWriMo in 2016. The idea of NANO is to race through a first draft without editing, the sole purpose being to get a bazillion words on the page.
I wrote about 30,000 words in November 2016, possibly just over… but then I hit the run-up to Christmas and my writing stopped until the new year. When I started writing again in February (when school went back in 2017), I discovered I absolutely hated just about every word I wrote, and I deleted two-thirds of the story and started again. For this reason I decided NANO is not for me and I won’t try that strategy again.
So, in 2017 I changed my work/life balance to enable more time for writing. For most of 2017, outside of school holidays, I’ve spent 3 days a week writing. From the first week in February 2017 (when school went back), to the school holidays at the end of First Term, I estimate I spent 15 hours a week on Water Under The Bridge.
NaNoWriMo November 2016 = 30 hours
11 weeks @ 15 hours a week = 165 hours
April 2017: The End! Hooray, break out the champagne… but wait, it’s only The End of the first draft.
I’m naturally an ‘edit as I go’ type of writer so I like to think I end up with reasonably clean drafts, but even so – they always need another read-thru.
2 weeks @ 15 hours a week = 30 hours
Now I send the story to my Beta reading team and after they come back to me, it’s when the official second draft starts.
May/June 2017: Incorporating Beta Reader feedback.
2 weeks @ 15 hours a week = 30 hours
Wahoo, now it’s like, REALLY The End! I submitted the book to Harlequin MIRA editors and my agent Haylee Nash, and about two months later, July 2017, I discovered they liked it a whole heaping lot. Harlequin (now Harper Collins) offer me a 3-book Contract to write the Chalk Hill series.
But now we wait… the publication date is a long way away (September 2018), and I start writing Chalk Hill Book 2, The Cafe By The Bridge. I have heaps of time for checking covers and writing blurbs and doing edits on Book 1… heaps of time. Not.
Big news! I learn there will be an earlier publication slot for Water Under The Bridge. The publisher is pulling it forward, months and months forward, to March 2018! That means in October 2017, Water Under The Bridge comes back to me after the wise eyes of Harlequin editors Julie Wicks and Laurie Ormond have read it, dissected it, and found all my very dodgy commas and a whole lot of other things they questioned, queried, and asked me to expand upon… phew, this part of things was really tough!
October/November 2017: Structural & Copy Edits
1st round: 2 weeks = 30 hours
My edits go back to Harlequin, all of us using Track Changes in a Word document with arrows going everywhere and lots of queries about the use of toward or towards and which is more English/less American 🙂 Toward won.
It’s got to be finished now, I hear you ask? But no! I don’t know that there is ever a good time to ask your author friend: ‘Have you finished your book yet?’ About this stage of the process, she is very likely to make you a character in the book and knife you.
Edits of the Edits
2nd round = 5 hours
Then the edited edits come back to me again, with everyone’s comments on the comments and stuff we all agreed and stuff we didn’t. But it really is pretty much done and dusted now. The hard bit is done.
Woohoo! This time when I send the book back, it’s off to the typesetters to be beautifully laid out. Now it is the time for the fun stuff. I get to update my author bio, and write acknowledgements and dedications… Water Under The Bridge is the first book I’ve dedicated to my hubby, Brian.
It’s baaaa-ccck. Every time I send it off, I think it’s the last time I see Water Under The Bridge until it’s on a shelf in February… but still it comes back one last time. It’s getting very exciting now. Now I get to see it laid out as a PDF. It looks like a proper book with beautiful formatting, and yet another set of eyes at Harlequin have proof-read my baby. Annabel Blay is the sharp-eyed reader finding any further dodgy commas, and a few roman quotes, and many times when a word breaks over a line and just looks bad. Line breaks. Scene breaks. More use of toward/towards. How many times do I write the word just?? Little stuff. Truly, we are nearly there. All I have to do is check the things Annabel has queried or amended, make sure I’m happy, and fix up any other little weird thing.
PDF proof read
And finally, this is THE END! I send the file back to Laurie Ormond and hold my hand out for the wine…
If I tally those hours above, I figure it took me 334 hours from beginning to end to produce this book.
Water Under The Bridge is about 90,000 words.
I’m a lousy mathematician, but I’m thinking that means that from beginning to end, through dreaming, writing, editing, revising, editing, proof reading, editing some more… it takes me an hour to produce 269.46 finished, perfect words.
And in author-land, there is no such thing as perfect. We always feel like there’s always one more comma we could change, one more paragraph we could polish… at this point, please, take the damn book away from us and hand us more wine… 🙂
(who is very excited about Water Under The Bridge, coming soon. Pre-orders are live everywhere right now!)
Amazon Australia http://amzn.to/2yhS99f
Amazon.com Kindle: http://amzn.to/2xzS7Gs
Dymocks: http://bit.ly/2g1qM9M (coming soon)
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2hD2B1B