Question of the day: How long does it take you to write your first draft? How about the finished product?
I think every writer is going to have a different answer to this question, but I generally write my first draft in about six months. At least that's been the standard for my last two books. My first two books, I wrote more quickly, but now, this is about what my stamina and concentration afford me. I'm the type of writer who loses momentum (and enthusiasm) easily, so I truly have to write every day (barring weekends) when I'm working on a first draft. I often equate writing to going to the gym - it gets easier when you schedule it and make it part of your routine - so again, for me, I sit down and write and build and build until I hit 85k (or so) words. Generally, this means putting about 1k words down a day - sometimes more, rarely less, with some time to go back each 50 or so pages and smooth out some rough spots.
Sometimes, I surprise myself and get there before six months, but even if I do, that leaves me plenty of time to revise a bit before handing it over to my agent and editor. When I do hand it into them, that's what I consider to be the first draft.
From there, I spend about three months revising. The second round of revisions is probably the toughest for me: because I'm a pantser and write without a map, sometimes, certain plot points don't work and certain characters need heavy alterations. This is the draft in which I do that - go back and pull out anything that is really clunky and then figure out how to fix it. From there, I bounce it back to my editor, and we probably go through two or so more rounds of smaller fixes/tweaks/shading.
All in, it's about a 9-10 month process, and then, I give myself some downtime to decompress (and take care of things like copy edits, publicity for other books, etc), which I think is critical. It's usually in this downtime, even though I can't IMAGINE starting something new, that another idea springs up. And after a few months, I'm itching to start all over again, even though I know I'm a glutton for punishment.
So that's my writing cycle. As I said, everyone is different. Franzen takes 10 years between books. Many of my other friends take two or so. I don't know if I'll keep up this pace forever - it is somewhat draining, but I also sincerely feel that itch to start over, so for now, this is what works for me.
What works for you guys? Will you share your own writing cycles?