19 Months of Air Pirates

It took me 19 months from word 1 to word 99,675 on Air Pirates. I told you I'd talk about the process, so here it is.

I write these kinds of posts to analyze my own process, to see what works and what doesn't and hopefully to improve. I hope other people can glean something useful from this as well, but if not, no worries.

This post is also an excuse for me to make charts. I like charts.

I started writing Air Pirates officially in September 2007. I'd been thinking about it for a lot longer than that (I have documents dating back to 2003), and I'm still not finished with it (the editing phase is a lot harder than I remember), but the first draft took about a year and a half to write.

You can see I had a slow start, and a plateau in early 2008 that I'll explain in a second. This next chart shows that more clearly. It's a chart of how many words I wrote in each month.

Clearly there's an upward trend, but it's pretty unstable. I'd write well for 2-3 months, then stop for 2-3 months, and so on. Here's how it went down.

Aug-Oct 07 (Slow): It took me 3 or 4 drafts to get the beginning, and rewrites weren't counted towards the final word count. Once I figured out how the story started, it got easier.

Feb-Apr 08 (Slow): At this point, I'd written four chapters of Air Pirates and needed to outline the rest of the story if I was going to get anywhere. Travelers also came back from the betas and for the first time I started seriously editing and working on queries.

May-Jul 08 (Fast): I really think the reason for my increase here was that I started thinking like a pro. In working on my query, and trying to figure out what to do next, I'd begun reading blogs like Nathan Bransford and Query Shark, as well as author's blogs. I learned a lot about writing good query letters, but also the publishing business as a whole. More than anything, I learned that this was something I really wanted to do.

Aug-Sep 08 (Slow): I tried writing a short story in the Air Pirates' world. I'd never written a short story for the purpose of publication before, so it took a lot of time (and it still isn't published). Our trip to the US slowed things down a bit too.

Oct-Apr 09 (Fast, mostly): The increase in word count here is most likely due to my wife's commitment to me. She started helping me get away for 2 hours a day, most days, just to write. I still wrote in whatever stolen moments I could, but having 2 undistracted hours really helped me discipline myself. I want to blame the dip here on holiday visitors, but I think it was due more to my lack of self-discipline than anything. I'm trying to get better at that.

Final Analysis. On average, I wrote 5,000 words a month on Air Pirates. I know that, with discipline, I can do 10,000 a month pretty regularly. Hopefully that means I can draft a novel in 9-10 months, but we'll see. I won't be doing any drafting for a while yet until I can get through all this editing I'm supposed to be doing.


Natalie said...

It's fun to see your process! Nice charts:) It looks like you have learned a lot working on this book. Good luck editing...it's a beast.

Hilabeans said...


Do you find that the platform stuff eats away at productivity? I swear, just waiting for agent input kills my writing mojo. Have any advice?

Congrats on the 2nd book! Such an amazing accomplishment! I'm in awe.


Adam Heine said...

If by platform stuff you mean keeping an online presence, it does a little. I try to make sure I have a minimum amount of time writing each day before I let myself blog or wander, but it doesn't always work.

As for agent input, the only advice I have is try to ignore it. Work on another book. I had queries going out for Travelers for like a year, and nothing came of it.

Hm, that's less encouraging than I meant it to be.