I’m going back and filling in some brackets1 on the first draft of the New Book. Once I’m done, the first draft goes out to my First Reader for initial feedback. For all intents and purposes, though, the actual work of writing the draft is complete.
I mark 8/2 as the completion date, after which I took a break for a week to recharge the batteries before diving back in for the aforementioned fill-in pass. I started this draft on 2/12, which means it took almost exactly six months from start to finish.
I’ve noted before the convoluted nature of Ashes‘ drafting process. Where the New Book stands is roughly where Ashes stood at the end of its second draft; the first draft really served as a sandbox, worldbuilding tool, and outline for the book that eventually emerged. Given that, how do the two books stack up to one another?
I keep a lot of records of my writing process. I wrote the first draft of Ashes in about 30 days3. My worldbuilding and outlining process for the New Book spanned the months of December (worldbuilding) and January (outlining, though I would end up retooling the outline midway through writing the draft). So on that front, I arguably took longer with this book, though a great deal of worldbuilding and re-outlining happened between Ashes‘ first and second drafts, too, which that 30 day span doesn’t cover.
Ashes‘ second draft ends up being a lot harder to pin down. Going by raw time and word count, Draft Two of Ashes took almost two years — end of November 2009 to late September 2011. Final word count for that draft was 94,120 words, representing an average rate of 142 words per day. The New Book weighs in at 90,161 words (prior to bracket-filling), representing an average rate of 495 words per day. That’s an improvement by a factor of almost 3.5.
Verdict: The New Book demonstrates a clear improvement in writing speed.
Why? For one thing, discipline and regularity. I had a regular train schedule to stick to while writing this book, which meant I had guaranteed writing windows. Because of a fun hardware quirk4, my work laptop’s wireless only works at work, meaning I could do little but write while on the train. That provided me a guaranteed 90-minutes of writing time for every day I commuted into the city.
At the beginning of June, I buckled down to hold myself to using the same morning writing window every day (except weekends), which had a marked effect on my progress.
My daily wordcount from 2/1 to 6/1 averages out to ~278 words per day, but my daily word count from 6/1 to finish averages out to ~914 words per day. That’s huge. It still falls far short of my goal of ~2000 words per day, but it’s closer to 50% than 15%, which I count as a big win.
Upshot: I got faster. A lot faster. Hopefully, these speed improvements will continue to happen and I can eventually hit a point where I’m completing three to five drafts per year.
- See this post by Justine Larbalestier regarding brackets. [↩]
- Arguably, I started it on 12/5 of 2012, but that was just a dialog spine for the last scene, so it doesn’t really count. [↩]
- It was, after all, a NaNoWriMo project. [↩]
- If you’re curious, here’s the Launchpad bug detailing the problem [↩]