The second “writing” of the title of this post, is the overall activity, the process and actions leading to the end product. The first “writing” is the actual manual physical process of writing.
To give you a small sample, I’ve taken some numbers from Brandon Sanderson. His book Elantris has 202,765 words. The first book of the Wheel of Time series, called The Eye of the World has 305,902 words. Why Wheel of Time? Brandon Sanderson now is finishing the series, with three more books after the death of Robert Jordan. The first of those, will be Towers of Midnight and is also supposed to be clocking in at about 300,000 words. Besides me loving these books (and waiting for this next one) consider the size in comparison to this post. At the moment, this post is only 134 words long.
So to get into the range of these large books, this post would have to be 3000 times longer. Just typing this took me not long, but searching those numbers did. And that was very simple research.
Let’s look from a different perspective for a moment. Let’s assume you don’t have the luxury to spend 8 hours a day or longer on writing. You can only write, physically, let’s say for two hours every single day, not more not less. Now the average computer user (really average, not those fast typing people) can hack about 19 words per minute. Let’s round up to 20 for this thought experiment. So if you consistently type for two hours, without pause or anything else, you can hack out 2400 words. So in 124 days, or something over 4 months, you would have typed out a novel the size of those mentioned above.
That’s pure mechanical typing. No deep thoughts, plotting, research, anything else. So say you did just that, then you got a gigantic collection of text on your hand. Now you can start editing it. While doing so, you realize half way through that the other half doesn’t make sense anymore. So you can throw away two months of typing right there. Again, pure mechanical writing alone.
Research can eat up our time amazingly fast. If you like what you write about, are into it, you can get sucked into the research badly. You want the melting point of normal iron. Then you read about alloys, steel, and so on and your time has flown away. And in the end you realize you didn’t even need the melting point of iron. The important part there is to not be afraid to throw away research. Even if you spent four hours on something, don’t try to force it into your story, just because you spent time on it.
The name game is one of the worst time sinks I’ve come across. The hours spent on finding names for things (stories and other wise) just blow my mind. Naming characters and places is just as bad. the best advice I can give anyone here is, grab any name, really, any at all and run with it. Thanks to the wonderful feature of search and replace, you can change it later on. Or of you adjust to it and start to like it, well you’re set.
Second worst in time suckers are dead ends. The hero rushes into the room. The door closes shut, no way out… and what now? I’ve seen writers digging a hole just to dig deeper after that. And the deeper they dig, the less likely they gonna find a way out. The easiest way is to back track. Find the point where you wrote yourself into that hole and then change the story there, dropping the part where you ended up in that dead end. Of course if you realize that late, you might have a lot to drop. If you keep writing deeper into the dead end, digging a deeper hole, there is even more to drop. You can write through it, as in write your way out of it by going forward sometimes, but usually, it’s a rather uninspired journey that makes your story as a whole suffer. Backtracking has so far improved the story every time I had to employ that strategy. Writing out of it, never did the trick really, if I was even capable of it.
Number one for time is always editing. With more experience, the writer usually creates more “good” raw material than bad. But even the best writers do not just print what they wrote down the very first time they had a thought, in it’s entirety. Before it is sent of to the printers, it will be read, changed, read again, and so forth. Scenes and entire chapters get moved, deleted, changed, rewritten and reinserted all over the book. This takes a lot of time. In most cases, editing takes longer than any other process.
In my rough estimation, the actual writing text process takes somewhere in the 5 to 10% of the time of the over all product. To come back to the two hours a day example of the 300,000 words book, it would take not 4 months, but closer to three and a half years.
Much more realistic though is a number of 1000 words a day (including all those time suckers above) and 200 days of working on it a year. This is including any time for promotion and all that other side stuff you need to take care of. So a 200k novel a year is a more realistic thing, even if you do write pretty much all the time.
Even if you type very fast and not very precise, such as me, and use all the other tools like spellcheckers to keep you in line, you still not getting anywhere fast enough. For many people I have met, that are writing in one way or another, it’s the physical part of writing that’s actually hindering them. If they had a BCI or Brain Computer Interface, they could just think the words and a computer would record them, then their actual writing process would be in sync with their though process.
Personally, I’d welcome that technology, though I must say that chances are high that you also get a lot of garbage flowing out of your brain if you did that. Then editing that all out will take a lot of time too.
To round this up, this post took not a full hour to write (physically) but almost two hours including the research editing it, and so on. It clocks in at 1118 words, so just another three hundred more posts like these and it would have the length of a novel.