I noticed something earlier when I was sending out copies of my new story to beta readers: Microsoft Word (my word processor of choice) tracks the amount of time spent editing a document. When it calculates this time, it’s based on whether the document is open and at the front of the screen—so this includes time spent writing, reading, and making changes to the document. I never thought about this before, even though I’m sure the feature has been part of the program for a long time. So, I started wondering about some of the other stuff that I’ve written. Let me share some of what I found with you…
“Specimen 25,” a story that ended up being less than 5,000 words in its final draft, was edited for roughly sixty (60!) hours. I did change the files around a bit here and there, so that number could be off by a couple of hours either way. Obviously, these weren’t sixty consecutive hours—that would be crazy. Still, until I actually saw that number, I don’t think I realized how much time I put into that story. When I stop to think of all the revisions I made, and how I agonized over syntax, etc. then it makes a lot of sense. There were a couple of parts of that story that I spent time looking over, changing a word or two, and then having to start all over again. And then, again.
I’m willing to bet that the sheer amount of time I spent on that story is part of the reason that, A) it ended up winning a contest, and B) it is one of my favorite works that I’ve written to date. I lived with that story, for more than a full week’s worth of eight-hour workdays.
How does that compare with some of my other stories?
The first draft of my new short story already has over a hundred hours of editing put into it so far. As of right now, it’s only about 3,000 words longer than “Specimen 25.” I guess I spent more time with that one than I realized, too. I’m hoping that means it’s on its way to being another great story. Maybe I was in a trance-like state for some of that time?
Another one of my stories, which ended up being around 15,000 words, totaled just under forty hours of editing time. Yet another story, which landed around 6,000 words or so, had a total editing time of approximately ninety hours. This suggests that the length of the story, or word count, is not necessarily related to how long it takes to get it into the shape I want. I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind for the future. I’ve never made a point to time my writing (though lots of writers recommend it) or keep track of how long I work on my stories, but I think that might be something to consider for me going forward.
One more, just for fun: the sequel to “Specimen 25” is currently in a revised first draft stage, and so far, it’s got a little more than eighty-six hours of editing logged.