How to Write a Book in 165 Days… More or Less

This week, I officially sent off book three (*cough* Chaos Reigning *cough*) to my editor, so I thought you might like a peek behind the curtain of how a rough draft comes about. Thanks to Scrivener, I have a detailed history of my word count for each day.

It is not very pretty, but I hope it helps some of you who write as slow as I do. You don’t have to write like the wind. You can write like molasses in winter and still write a book, you just have to hang in there and keep going.

Finishing the draft (not including a week of edits) took 165 days, but I only wrote on 124 of them. I started on February 18 and finished on August 1. For a good chunk of the book I was writing every day, including weekends. I prefer to take weekends off, but a deadline waits for no woman.

Let’s start with the overview before diving into the details. The monthly breakdown looks like this:

MonthWord Count
February2,607
March10,105
April26,490
May15,510
June16,123
July27,030
August5,297

You can see that I really struggled in May. I had edits for TQA and proofs for AB, plus I always struggle in the middle. You can also see why, at the beginning of June, I decided to see if I could push my deadline back from July 1. I hated to do it, but if I hadn’t, June might’ve killed me.

Luckily, there was some room in the schedule, so a later deadline gave me a bit of breathing room. I actually took some weekends in June off, but I was still stuck in the middle, so between the two, my word count was not good.

In July, I realized I had to get serious or I wasn’t going to make it, especially because the RWA conference would take up an entire week. Sadly, my brain did not get on board with this plan and I went into RWA in a mild panic. Where I met with my editor.

In person.

I tried to oh-so-subtly warn her that while I intended to hit the deadline come hell or high water, she might get a draft that had been finished a hot second before I hit send.

She must’ve seen the fear because she was super cool and told me not to worry about it.

Then I came back from RWA and wrote ~17% of the book in four days, and it was super easy (comparatively). That August word count is from one day. I wrote a third of the words I wrote in the entire month of May, in one day. I’m still slightly concerned that I actually fell into a coma and this is just a nice dream. You all are real, right? :)

Here is the daily word count breakdown for the rough draft of CR, along with a few comments about what was happening (click to enlarge):

An area chart showing my word count for each day. Most days are under 1,500 words, with the exception of the end, where I had four days of crazy productivity.

As you can see, I only occasionally write more than 1,500 words a day, and I do this as a full-time job. Some days I’m lucky to write 500. Edits on another project completely derail me.

When I started, I had a paragraph blurb that I’d written a million years ago when pitching PR, so I had the basic idea of where I was going, but no details.

Writing like this means my subconscious does a lot of work behind the scenes. I think about the book in the shower, while doing dishes, and while falling asleep. This book, in particular, took a turn I didn’t expect, even though I perfectly set it up in book two.

But if anyone asks, I’m going to swear I had it planned all along. 😉

11 Replies to “How to Write a Book in 165 Days… More or Less”

  1. Haha that’s the good thing about having it perfectly set up in book 2… it will totally look like you planned it all along!
    Thanks for the insight into your writing!

  2. Ha ha, thanks for the behind-the-scenes look at the writing process! It’s good that you have the perspective to know it’s all about moving forward, however glacial the pace might be at times.

    1. I always have to remind myself that you can’t edit a blank page, so creeping forward is better than nothing. Some days it’s easier than others!

  3. Bravo!
    I’m looking forward to the finished book. (I understand you still have a lot of work to do on it, but – BOOK!)
    Thanks for the insight. This is why I have no hankering to take up a new career (at 7o) as a novelist – especially as I do not type well.

  4. I always enjoy hearing about how authors write books. It’s like watching the behind-the-scenes commentary on a DVD. It’s fascinating how everyone works differently and how something they did for book x doesn’t work for book y so they develop a whole bunch of “tools” and mix-and-match them differently for each book.

    However you do it, I’m looking forward to reading the final results.

  5. Some quick questions: if it takes approx 6 mos to write the book, how many books do you write a year? How do you fit in breaks and vacations? And how many hours a day do you generally spend writing?

    1. Currently, I write one book and one novella a year, which gives me time for edits, thinking, etc, because the rough draft is only the first step. The novella is usually 1/3 to 1/2 of a novel.

      This year was a bit of a mess. I was really bad about scheduling breaks during the first six months of this year because I felt so behind, but I generally try to take weekends off and work around vacations. If I’m not under deadline pressure, it’s pretty easy to do, but it’s also super easy to work all the time because all I need is a laptop, so it’s a delicate balance.

  6. Is the plan to *just* work on edits for Chaos Reigning for the rest of the year (which is a whole job in and of itself)? Or will you start thinking about other projects?

    1. In addition to edits, I’ll be working on a proposal which will hopefully get another book contract, then starting that book, then starting Rogue Queen 3. So depending on how the proposal goes, it’ll be another busy fall/winter. :)

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