Earlier this week, John Scalzi wrote about finishing his latest project, The Human Division. The part that interested me the most in this post was this bit on the process of writing it:
For process fans, the first words of The Human Division (which eventually found themselves incorporated into Episode Three) were written on January 11, 2012, at 2:37pm. The final words were written on October 23, 2012, at 12:02am. Most of the words were written in September and October; there were a fair number of words written before then but a lot of that got chucked.
This makes me feel better, personally.
Part of it is the fact that it took him ten months to write it. It makes me feel like my timetables aren’t so terrible. But the more comforting aspect is how back-end heavy the writing is, because I’ve found my experience is the same way.
OK, for the way I write, a typical Novel Rough Draft clocks in around 80,000 words*, and that takes about eight-to-ten months to write. I would like it to go faster, but, you know, LIFE.
But this is how it goes:
First 10,000 words (or so): Sprint of awesome excitement. Cranks out like gangbusters. Yeah, I totally can DO THIS. Writing sessions of 1000-1500 words.
10,000-20,000: Whoa. OK. This is actually a bit of work now. Losing that pace. Need to figure out some stuff that I thought was perfectly clear. Writing sessions of 500-1000 words.
20,000-50,000: The Long Uphill Marathon of Pure Pain. Nothing is working. I can’t do this. WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? My outline for this part is woefully inadequate. I HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO GET FROM POINTS A TO B TO C HERE. I’m a moron. I hate this book and my characters are stupid. A 500-word writing session would be a PARTY. This part takes MONTHS to get through.
50,000-60,000: The uphill evens out. Pieces click together. The path is becoming clear. 500-1000 word writing sessions.
60,000-end: Downhill sprint. The end is in sight, it’s just a matter of getting it all out through my fingers. 2,000-3,000 word sessions.
Right now, Way of the Shield? Still in the uphill. I’m getting through it by reminding myself that when I was writing Thorn, Holver Alley and Maradaine Constabulary it went exactly the same way.
*- For me, the Rough Draft tends to be underwritten, and the final draft comes in somewhere between 90-100K. I find it suits me better to step back and figure out what needs more depth, rather than overwrite and figure out what fat needs to be cut.