This is the question I’ve been asked most often since I got my deal with Headline, so I thought it might be worth answering here. And the answer is: dunno, really.
Ok, sorry. Try that again. It depends on the book, and the writer, and how tightly the string is wound. I’ve said about five months, about three years, a year and about 35 years in reply and all of those answers are true to an extent, and not true at all. The best answer is a slightly longer one.
I spent a lot of time reading, and reading about writing. I spent a lot of time writing poetry and going to poetry workshops. I got an education and I spent ten years in TV learning about pacing and story telling, and earning a living. I wrote a lot of bad prose. That’s the 35 years.
I write historical fiction, and that involves a lot of research. I’ve been reading about the 18th century as part of my ‘ooh that looks interesting’, reading for 10 years, but when the idea for IoD started to itch at the back of mind I started reading the history of that period more seriously, alongside working in TV. That’s the 3 years.
Between TV contracts I did a lot of plotting and wrote 30K words. They were bad. That’s the year.
I started again and wrote a thousand words for the Telegraph competition, then, when I was one of the winners, stopped looking for TV work and wrote flat-out until I had a completed manuscript I liked. That’s the five months.
So it was all true. Naturally the second book was a lot quicker. I was writing full-time then, so from first idea to first draft I was happy to submit took about a year. Four to five months of research and plotting, four to five months serious writing and a month or two off to do all the other things one has to in life.
Hope that’s a good enough answer…