Short answer: Not very. If you want me to be one of those book-a-month writers, you will be very disappointed.
I started writing my first book in July of 2013.
Yes, that was a long time ago, thank you. It was supposed to be a 6-chapter short story, but it grew. There’s no outlining in this process because I thought writing a sentence or two for each chapter was outlining. Anyway, it took me until March 2015 to finish the first draft of 104K words. It’s shorter now, yes. So 104K in 20 months is 5.2K per month. And then it took me almost five years AFTER THAT to rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit (seven major times and hundreds of minor!) until I was ready to publish in Jan 2019.
5.5 years total for book 1.
I started writing book two September 24th, 2015.
I got partway through it, decided the not-outlining thing wasn’t working, and stalled for a long time while I learned more about story structure and reorganized a large chunk of the plot. In August 2017, I got back into it, finishing in summer of 2018. So that one took three years for the first draft, or roughly 2.6K per month not counting when I was just staring at it, or 3-4K per month only counting the months I actually wrote. Yes, that is still slower than book one for the draft. That’s because by then I knew how much I didn’t know. The editing went faster, though. I published in Sept 2019.
4 years total for book 2.
I started outlining book three in February 2018.
I wrote it from July 2018 to 25 Feb 2019. Eight months for the drafting! Pretty fast, huh? That’s over 11K per month. Definitely getting faster, although I didn’t write down when I started outlining it. And I wrote this one while I was editing book 2 and outlining book 4. It was a grueling schedule. I published in May 2020.
2.25 years total for book 3.
I started outlining book 4 in Dec 2018.
I wrote it from March 2019 to Jan 2020, which is ten months or an average of 9K per month. Still not bad, especially considering that I plotted the last few chapters right before I wrote them. Ahem. That one was published in January 2021.
Just over 2 years total for book 4.
After book 4, I rewrote the prequel story between Jan & Mar 2020, making it much longer and much, much better. It’s still a novella, so two months is totally reasonable. Roughly 9K per month. Then I edited and re-edited ten million times (hey, it felt like it), for a total of 10 months. For a novella. Nope, not fast at all. Republished Nov 2020.
I started book 5 in March 2020.
Yes, during the pandemic. That wasn’t the hard part. My parents moved in with my family in Sept 2019, but we still hadn’t found a new (bigger) house yet. THAT was the hard part. I finished drafting in mid-April 2021. The outlining wasn’t separate for this one, because it was a collection of short stories, so I alternated outlining and writing. 100K in 13 months is an average of 7.7K per month. It was published in September 2021.
1.5 years for book 5.
Time to finish the series.
I outlined AND drafted book 6 from May to late December 2021, plus an extra novella for a reader magnet that goes with it. About 110K in 8 months is almost 14K per month. They were published in May 2022.
1 year for book 6.
Yes, by this point, I was feeling pretty fast as an author. I was also feeling pretty overworked.
I started a new series in January 2022.
In it, I wrote almost two (shorter) books by the end of September. 95K in 9 months, or 10.5K per month. That series isn’t complete yet, nor am I ready to publish.
In April 2022, I started brainstorming ANOTHER new series.
It was more complicated, so it took me until the end of September to be ready to start writing book 1, though I did finish the 20K prequel during that time. My estimate was that I would finish book 1 by New Year’s, but I actually finished December 5th. 75K (before edits) in just over 2 months, or about 35K per month. Yes, you read that right. Three times as fast as ANY of my other books, and ten times faster than the slowest. Wow! It’s still in the editing process as of this post, so I can’t give you the total time.
I still have several books left to write in that series. Will they all go that fast? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be nice?
But it’s not always so smooth.
In fact, I caught Covid in December, stopped writing for almost two months, and have been struggling to get back up to my old speed, much less the new one. Sigh.
But I’ve done it before, so I believe I can do it again, eventually.
So to what do I attribute the increase in my speed?
For the past year, I’ve been studying Clifton Strengths and trying to figure out my own brain. I also discovered Strengths for Writers and the Writer-Better-Faster Academy, which applies the topic directly to writers. And slowly, I’ve been learning. I’ve also spent the past 10 years improving my writing skills, which helps dramatically. And I got an office with a door. Don’t underestimate the the benefit of not being interrupted! With all the changes, I think things are finally starting to click into place. I hope so.
Wish me luck!
Marty C. Lee
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