May 22, 2018, 11:04:54 AM

Author Topic: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?  (Read 1558 times)

Online NedMarcus

How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« on: January 21, 2018, 07:46:17 AM »
How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel? When writing a first draft, it's easy. Just use the word count, but what do you do when you are revising? I've been counting pages edited, although this varies because what needs to be edited varies a lot.

Just interested in how you set goals when editing/revising.

Offline Steve Harrison

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2018, 11:36:26 AM »
I edit as I go, revising my previous session before starting a new one, which slows me down, but really helps when it comes to my final edits.

When my draft is finished and I have performed a proofread, I break the major edits into themed revisions; one for story, another for structure, one each for the main characters, another for dialogue etc. I repeat them if I'm not happy and will add three or four more close reads before sending the manuscript to a couple of trusty readers. I then consider their notes, make any changes I agree with and, after a couple more final reads, it's ready for submission.

I don't formally measure anything. I just mentally tick off my requirements as I complete each editing stage.

Online NedMarcus

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2018, 12:24:39 PM »
I edit as I go, revising my previous session before starting a new one, which slows me down, but really helps when it comes to my final edits.

I do the same. It's like a warm-up to get me ready to continue.

Quote
I don't formally measure anything. I just mentally tick off my requirements as I complete each editing stage.

I used to do the same, but I'm quite slow when I write, so I think I need to push myself. And I'm trying so hard to cut down on the number of drafts I do before sending to my editor.

Offline Steve Harrison

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 08:04:49 PM »
I edit as I go, revising my previous session before starting a new one, which slows me down, but really helps when it comes to my final edits.

I do the same. It's like a warm-up to get me ready to continue.

Quote
I don't formally measure anything. I just mentally tick off my requirements as I complete each editing stage.

I used to do the same, but I'm quite slow when I write, so I think I need to push myself. And I'm trying so hard to cut down on the number of drafts I do before sending to my editor.

So many things to think about for writers!

I haven't been able to match being thorough with being quick as yet, but if I am ever fortunate to write full time I will revamp my processes. In the meantime, I just take my time and the work eventually gets done.

Offline cupiscent

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 09:24:27 PM »
I count pages (or scenes/chapters, because pages are meaningless in Scrivener) when I'm doing a final edit, but my revision usually involves so much big movement. I start my revision with a to-do list of steps I want to go through--for instance, tracking and checking pacing/logic on character or subplot arcs; or scene summarising to make sure each scene is doing enough but not too much--and then I further break those tasks down into tracking measures. When I find new issues in working through, I add those to the list as well, even if I've already fixed them. It helps me keep perspective about how much I've really done, and how much (or how long) I still have to go.

I don't go page-by-page fixing language until all of the big-picture stuff is done.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2018, 03:11:27 PM »
I go by how many pages I've been through in each revision pass. The earlier passes tend to focus more on the big picture. I look for any inconsistencies and fix them. I'll also cut out or add big chunks to the story as needed. Later editing passes focus more on the language, though I do some of that with each pass. My final proofread is pretty much focused on catching typos, though I also correct any I see as I'm doing my other editing passes.

Offline Skip

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2018, 06:08:40 PM »
Other folks have talked about method. I think mine's about the same, though I'm only on my second novel so it's too soon to say I have a process.

So I'll talk more about motivation and speed. First, why do you say you're too slow? What's your goal? I tend to set two, related. Initially it was, I want to finish this damn book. Then it was finish the book by end of year. I hit that one, so happy dance.

Then I got cocky. I plan to write and self-publish one book this year and get a second one at least editor-ready by end of year. So the one goal is to self-publish by April, leaving the balance of the year to get through the other book, with the minimum goal being editor-ready.

My eventual goal is to turn out two books a year. I know a self-publisher is supposed to go faster than that, and maybe some day I'll manage three a year, but that prospect feels delusional right now.

With those goals, slow becomes falling behind on the goal. Only then would I be able to look at how to speed up. That could be free up more writing hours, but it might also be spend less time on social media, be more diligent with outlining, or even take a couple of workshops aimed at improving speed. But without some specific measures of what I mean by slow, I'm not sure I'd be able to speed up in any meaningful way.

That said, I have gone faster with each completed story. I can't point to anything specific, but it's a bit like getting around in a foreign city. The first time through is slowest because I'm taking wrong turns, being careful, gawking. The twentieth time through, I know where the expressway is, I know my destination, and I know the traffic patterns. So I get to where I'm going more quickly. It's simply a matter of moving over familiar ground.

I don't know where you are in your writing career, but if it's early (as measured in number of completed *and published* stories) then you can probably look forward to a certain increase in production.

Offline tebakutis

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Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2018, 06:25:36 PM »
My eventual goal is to turn out two books a year. I know a self-publisher is supposed to go faster than that, and maybe some day I'll manage three a year, but that prospect feels delusional right now.

To be blunt (and this is not directed at you, Skip, just a general comment on indie pub) I'd be hesitant to purchase books from any self-publishing author who publishes three books a year.

For me, even finishing two books a year seems excessive, and I'm a fairly fast writer. I can crank out a first draft in maybe three months (slower now that I have a child, but not that slow). But then I need at least two months for my writer's group to take a look (sometimes longer, depending on schedule), and at least a month to implement their feedback in a meaningful way. That's 6-7 months right there, before it even goes to my editor.

Once I have a solid book, narratively, then it's a minimum of three months for my editor to get through it to do a final narrative and copyediting pass, and a month or two of adding their feedback (that's assuming they don't have anything else on their plate). And then, of course, there's at least another month of self-editing where I religiously stamp out all the typos I can find and polish the language where necessary.

So assuming *everything* went well, with no slowdowns or delays, I could get a manuscript print ready in 10 months. Layout for print and e-book generally takes me a couple of days (since I have templates already) and then I have to actually get it on KDP and Createspace, order a proof copy for the paperback (2 weeks) and check that one final time. So a year seems comfortable, or a perhaps a bit longer.

I know there are competent self-published authors out there who can push out two books a year, but I'd have to be *very* confident in their abilities (and have enjoyed their prior books) to feel comfortable buying their books. And three books a year? The writer is either lightning fast, with an editor on tap who is also lightning fast, or, quite honestly, they aren't doing their due diligence and just pushing their first draft out the door without any vetting from anyone, least of all a competent editor.

IMO, indie publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you put out three books, and one is great, and two are bad, there's a 66% chance that people who pick up their first book by you will never buy anything from you again. That seems like handicapping yourself, and though again, there are exceptions, I feel it is rare for authors to be able to objectively evaluate the quality of their own work (I certainly can't). Taking the time to get feedback from other writers you trust and a competent editor is key to not publishing low quality work, and that's just not doable on a three books a year timetable.

For an indie author, I feel like shooting for one typo free, fellow author and competent editor vetted book a year is a reasonable goal. I see no reason to try to go faster than that even if you are selling well (which 99% of indie authors are not).

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2018, 01:23:03 AM »
My eventual goal is to turn out two books a year. I know a self-publisher is supposed to go faster than that, and maybe some day I'll manage three a year, but that prospect feels delusional right now.

To be blunt (and this is not directed at you, Skip, just a general comment on indie pub) I'd be hesitant to purchase books from any self-publishing author who publishes three books a year.

For me, even finishing two books a year seems excessive, and I'm a fairly fast writer. I can crank out a first draft in maybe three months (slower now that I have a child, but not that slow). But then I need at least two months for my writer's group to take a look (sometimes longer, depending on schedule), and at least a month to implement their feedback in a meaningful way. That's 6-7 months right there, before it even goes to my editor.

Once I have a solid book, narratively, then it's a minimum of three months for my editor to get through it to do a final narrative and copyediting pass, and a month or two of adding their feedback (that's assuming they don't have anything else on their plate). And then, of course, there's at least another month of self-editing where I religiously stamp out all the typos I can find and polish the language where necessary.

So assuming *everything* went well, with no slowdowns or delays, I could get a manuscript print ready in 10 months. Layout for print and e-book generally takes me a couple of days (since I have templates already) and then I have to actually get it on KDP and Createspace, order a proof copy for the paperback (2 weeks) and check that one final time. So a year seems comfortable, or a perhaps a bit longer.

I know there are competent self-published authors out there who can push out two books a year, but I'd have to be *very* confident in their abilities (and have enjoyed their prior books) to feel comfortable buying their books. And three books a year? The writer is either lightning fast, with an editor on tap who is also lightning fast, or, quite honestly, they aren't doing their due diligence and just pushing their first draft out the door without any vetting from anyone, least of all a competent editor.

IMO, indie publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you put out three books, and one is great, and two are bad, there's a 66% chance that people who pick up their first book by you will never buy anything from you again. That seems like handicapping yourself, and though again, there are exceptions, I feel it is rare for authors to be able to objectively evaluate the quality of their own work (I certainly can't). Taking the time to get feedback from other writers you trust and a competent editor is key to not publishing low quality work, and that's just not doable on a three books a year timetable.

For an indie author, I feel like shooting for one typo free, fellow author and competent editor vetted book a year is a reasonable goal. I see no reason to try to go faster than that even if you are selling well (which 99% of indie authors are not).

I used to have a similar opinion, but then I encountered quite a few self-published authors with rapid release schedules whose books are great. To some extent, I think it depends on the author. Some people have no business publishing three or four books a year. Others can do it easily without sacrificing quality.

One of my favorite recent authors is Phil Tucker. He published his entire Chronicles of the Black Gate series (5 long books in the space of 16 months).

A lot of times, people do this by working on multiple projects at the same time. That is, it might take them three months to write a book, but during those three months, they're also editing the previous book they wrote and outlining their next book. That way, you aren't just sitting there doing nothing while your writing groups, beta readers, and editors have one book in their hands.

Not everybody can operate on this kind of schedule. I'm struggling with it myself. I can probably keep a fairly rapid release schedule for the rest of this year because I'd already written seven books before publishing any. So I've been doing more editing than writing since I began publishing.

Once I run out of material I've already written, I might have to slow things down.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of pressure for rapid release schedules. The Amazon algorithm magic seems to work best for people who publish at least one book every three months. Granted, a lot of these authors are writing shorter books. Putting out four books that are each 50,000 words is much easier than putting out four massive epic fantasy novels in a year. For many epic fantasy writers, their one book is probably longer than that other author's four books put together.

On my end, I'm able to keep a decent pace because my fantasy novels aren't terribly long. My World in Chains series is the longest with lengths of 160k, 140k, 120k, and 170k for each of the books. My Sunweaver series, on the other hand has all the books coming in around 105k. My most recent series that I'm still in the process of writing has gone at about 110k and then 95k.

This is probably rambling on at this point. In the end, it comes down more to how an author structures their time. In many cases, I think trade-pubbed writers are held to a slower schedule than many of them could manage. That's why you see writers like Sanderson who have multiple series going at once. Some publishers have more rapid release schedules, however. I've seen a few authors with Orbit who put out all their books in a series over the course of half a year or so. I imagine they had all the books written and reasonably polished before any of them were published.

Online NedMarcus

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2018, 04:27:10 AM »

So I'll talk more about motivation and speed. First, why do you say you're too slow? What's your goal? I tend to set two, related. Initially it was, I want to finish this damn book. Then it was finish the book by end of year. I hit that one, so happy dance.

I say I'm slow because my first novel (that I considered good enough to publish) took 6 years (okay, I moved country 4 times and needed to search for new jobs, but I still think it was slow—it was definitely a learning experience). My second novel (which I'll send to my editor soon) has taken 3 years (here my only excuse is a heavy work schedule).

Quote
My eventual goal is to turn out two books a year. I know a self-publisher is supposed to go faster than that, and maybe some day I'll manage three a year, but that prospect feels delusional right now.

Two books a year is my wish, but I think I can realistically finish my third novel within 1 year. I am getting faster.

Online NedMarcus

Not Long?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2018, 04:31:40 AM »

On my end, I'm able to keep a decent pace because my fantasy novels aren't terribly long. My World in Chains series is the longest with lengths of 160k, 140k, 120k, and 170k for each of the books. My Sunweaver series, on the other hand has all the books coming in around 105k. My most recent series that I'm still in the process of writing has gone at about 110k and then 95k.


170,000 words isn't long? I think 95,000 is quite long for a novel!

Offline Bradley Darewood

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Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2018, 11:26:43 AM »
Oh my god.  My 110k(ish) novel took a year to write and I've been revising for 6 more and it's definitely not finished...

In answer to the OP, I measure my progress in tears and hair pulled out.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 11:41:31 AM by Bradley Darewood »

Online NedMarcus

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2018, 12:16:27 PM »

In answer to the OP, I measure my progress in tears and hair pulled out.

LOL. We all do that!

Offline AnnaStephens

Re: How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2018, 02:26:33 PM »
How do you estimate your progress when revising a novel? When writing a first draft, it's easy. Just use the word count, but what do you do when you are revising? I've been counting pages edited, although this varies because what needs to be edited varies a lot.

Just interested in how you set goals when editing/revising.

By how close I am to (a) destroying laptop, desk, room and house in a fit of orgiastic fury (b) throwing myself off a bridge (c) throwing everyone else off a bridge.

If none of those take your fancy, I'd concentrate simply on getting the book revised. It's impossible to say "I'll edit 30 pages today" if those 30 pages need to be completely rewritten. Some of it will be fast, some slow, some agonising, some fun.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Not Long?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2018, 04:33:05 PM »

On my end, I'm able to keep a decent pace because my fantasy novels aren't terribly long. My World in Chains series is the longest with lengths of 160k, 140k, 120k, and 170k for each of the books. My Sunweaver series, on the other hand has all the books coming in around 105k. My most recent series that I'm still in the process of writing has gone at about 110k and then 95k.


170,000 words isn't long? I think 95,000 is quite long for a novel!

As far as epic fantasy goes, the books can get much, much longer than 170,000 words. A Game of Thrones is the shortest in the series, and it comes in at about 300k. Nearly every book in The Wheel of Time is over 300k, with some approaching 400k. The same goes for the Malazan series. Every book so far in Sanderson's Stormlight Archive is over 400k. Even his shorter books, like the Mistborn trilogy, are still well over 200k a piece.

I don't think I could ever manage a 300k or longer book. In fact, I feel more comfortable writing in the 100k range, which is actually on the short side for epic fantasy. Long for many other genres, but not so much for epic fantasy.