A few days ago, I finished the first draft of a new novel tentatively titled Hell to Play. I’ve posted about first drafts in the past, but since this one is fresh in my mind I thought I’d break down the numbers and talk about how long it took to write and how the writing went. Here come some stats. 😉
Hell to Play First Draft Stats
Words – 89,284
Chapters – 30
Manuscript Pages – 401
Date began: 4/13/20
Date completed: 7/14/20
Writing days: 93
Before I get into this, I should note now that I write full-time, so the pace above is reasonable for me. It is probably not reasonable for someone who has a day job and writes in their spare time. Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, what you see above is what I consider a solid length for a novel in the horror/urban fantasy genres (or a mash-up of the two, I guess). That number will change as I revise. It will almost certainly shrink, but there is the chance more material will be needed as well. I wrote the draft in almost exactly three months, which worked out to 14 weeks or 93 days. That’s a tad slower than I’ve written first drafts before, but I think it’s pretty good considering some big external factors, like a global pandemic.
Let’s take a deeper look into the writing on a week by week basis. I think it gives a pretty clear picture of the ebb and flow of how I write a first draft.
0 – Outline Revision
My average word count per week came out to 6,377. If you drop week five where I spent the entire week revising the outline and week fourteen, which was only one day, then I managed 7,300 words per week. My usual pace is about 10,000, and I only managed that once. I set my daily word count goal at 2,000, and I generally wrote four days a week, though that slipped to three or even two days numerous times. Though it felt like I was lagging behind at times, I think this a good pace, and three months to a 90,000-word first draft is plenty fast.
So, what happens next? I’ve got 401 pages of a novel-shaped thing, but it is in no shape to be read by other humans. Here’s are the steps I’ll take to turn the first draft into something I can show my agent (and, you know, hopefully sell).
First readthrough. After letting the manuscript sit for two weeks, I’ll read through it and make notes about what I need to fix RIGHT NOW.
First revision. Based on the notes compiled in my readthrough, I’ll make the first revision. This will be a sizable one.
Second readthrough. After the first revision, I’ll read the novel start to finish again and make sure the revisions make sense.
Clean up/second(ish) revision. Not a true revision, but I’ll go through and fix typos and clunky sentences and whatnot, so that when I hand the novel off to my critique partners, they won’t be pulled out of the story because I uses form instead of from.
Handoff to critique partners. I’ll send the revised novel to my critique partners so they can read it and find all the problems I missed (they will be legion).
Third revision. Once I have the novel back from my critique partners and can absorb their comments, I’ll make a third revision. The hope is that I will have caught the biggest problems in my own revision, but that’s kind of a vain hope, and this third revision will probably be a BIG one.
Clean-up/fourth revision. I’ll go through the manuscript one more time and do a deep polish on the prose. I have a list of things I always need to fix at this stage, from overused words and sentence structures to over reliance on things like filter words and adverbs.
Handoff to agent. At this point I should have a novel that’s in pretty good shape, and it’ll go to my agent. There’s every chance he’ll ask for another revision, but, hopefully, all the steps above will make it a light revision. (Hey, a guy can hope, can’t he?)
And there you have it, the nuts and bolts of a first draft. In the next post, I’ll go over the revision process and what kinds of things I aim to fix.