Tonight I finished the first draft of my latest novel. It came in just short of 45,000 words (and after edits will probably land at closer to 46,000), which I think is about right for an upper-middle grade novel. In a macro sense, I think finishing it now really shows how much better I'm getting as a writer.
First novel: Took 24 months, had some good scenes but frankly, was terrible overall.
Second novel: Took 18 months, both I and my writing group, the Writers of Chantilly, judged it to be pretty good, I think, but no interest from agents.
Third novel (this one): 14 months, at least for the first draft. It may take another 4-6 weeks for revisions, but honestly, I don't think it needs that much more work. For one thing, I've already read the first two-thirds or so to the group, and I always do my best to get each chapter in good shape before I read it to them. So, I need to give the final one-third a hard revision, make a few adjustments to the early chapters to account for unforeseen developments later in the book, and give it all a final go-over with 400-grit sandpaper. Final time elapsed will probably be 16 months.
So, I'm getting faster, more confident, and hopefully better. I have a good feeling about this book's prospects for interest from agents, publishers, etc. I think the hook for this one is clear, the characters well-drawn, the pace is quick. I just hope the professional publishing world agrees!