When I write my first draft for a novel, it takes about 3-4 months. I start with a basic outline and after about 10k words, I will usually spend some time making a more detailed outline and then using that for the rest of the novel.
After the first draft is complete, I will set it aside for about 3 weeks. During which I try to work on other projects. Usually editing my other WIPs, doing small fun stuff, or (if I am really lucky) working on edits for publishers.
Once it is done resting (ding!) I take the first draft back out and do my first round of edits. These edits usually include taking away 10k words and adding in 20k words (at least). Lots of restructuring, lots of big edits. This takes between 3 and 6 weeks depending how big a hole I dug for myself during the first draft.
Then I set it aside again (rinse and repeat) for at least a week, usually longer. Again, I work on other projects. This could be a time when I start outlining a new novel, maybe even getting out a few thousand words on it.
Then I begin my last rounds of edits. This can be multiple rounds depending how pleased I am with the overall novel, but mostly it is polishing and grammar patrol.
Now this entire time (usually from the first edits, sometimes the first draft) I think about where I want this novel to go when it’s done. It’s basically two directions; to one of the small publishers I have worked with before, or to query for an agent.
The first path is shorter. I format the manuscript to the specifications of that particular publisher. I draft a short (2-3 paragraph synopsis) and a short query letter. I tend to make it casual since I’ve worked with the head editors before. Since they’ve published me, I also send a full manuscript attached. That takes, at most, a week, if I’m having a hard time figuring out a good synopsis. I hear back from them in usually 3-6 weeks. Then I move on from there.
The agent path is much longer.
First thing I do is go to the library and gather a hoard of publishing and agent books. Anything recent and updated. Writer’s Digest is usually a great start. From there I take notes on every agent that represents my genre and generally seems cool. I look up their website and see if they are currently accepting queries, and then I take notes on what they are looking for and what they want in the query. I also read recent articles about best ways to format a query, my manuscript, and my complete synopses. It’s a lot of notes and a lot of organizing data.
Then I format my manuscript, which can be a trial in itself. Then I draft out a short synopsis (2-3 paragraphs) and a complete synopsis (2-5 pages). I draft out different query letters, usually with small specific details for each agent, and I spend some time editing these. I also create different documents that have sections of my novel. This can be the first 25 pages, the first three chapters, and the first 50 pages. It all depends what each agent would like in their query.
This all can take a month and usually interspersed with my other projects (so I won’t lose my mind).
Then I begin sending out queries. I do it in small batches, because I am the type of person to get stressed by emailing strangers. Over the course of a couple weeks I will email 30-50 agents. I also keep track of when (if) I should expect to hear back from them. Usually at least 5 weeks, some closer to 10 weeks. If I am really lucky they might send a confirmation that they received my query. Sometimes they might even email me if they rejected my query. Most of the time it is total silent rejection.
I have queried two novels. One was a YA fantasy, and the other a New Adult coming of age. Both were ultimately rejected. It is very disheartening when the whole process can drag on for months and months.
Probably next year, I will try the query process again, and I can only hope for better results.
So I guess from beginning to end it can take me about six months to write a novel for publishing. Of course, it doesn't usually work out that way and often my WIPs get pushed aside for publishing deadlines, anthology calls, NaNoWriMo, and just needing a break. Often my completed novels don’t get accepted, and I scrambled around trying to find a new home for them, or rewrite them to please a different publisher or editor or agent… things get pushed off.
All in all it is not a perfect process, but it got me two two novels published last year and nothing (so far?) published this year. What I do like is having many projects in various states of completion, giving me the flexibility to work on something new (if I need that), do some edits (if I need that), or more busy work of research and querying (if I need... that).
Maybe, just maybe, I might even write a blog post.