I had the idea for my first (finished) novel in 2004. I started it as a screenplay, but got caught up in grad school and didn’t look back.
Until April 2010, in Nepal, when I had a month where I planned to more-or-less write the whole thing. Hah. Sick with giarda, I did manage to write a chapter or two, parts of which are actually still in the manuscript. Then it was called “The Dead Walk” but once I learned of the comics, I changed it to “Lifeless.” The latter served as a working title during the rough draft writing, but I knew it wasn’t punchy enough to serve as anything but a place holder.
And then I started it again in February 2011, in Portland, getting to about 20,000 words.
But it wasn’t until I returned to Seoul that I began to churn out the words. Helped in no small way by two months of no internet, I had the rough draft done in February 2012.
I sent it out to some of my writerly friends, waited for their excellent feedback, and went back to work. I cut maybe 10,000 words of fluff and added maybe 12,000 of more pointed prose.
I’m sure the manuscript needs more work, but it got to the point where I couldn’t stand to look at the writing anymore.
So now my query letter is out in the world, awaiting the right agent. I spend an hour or so on each submission email, researching the agent and reading their blog/website/twitter to make sure they seem like a good match. It’s rather fun, if perhaps a bit Sisyphean. And while it takes time, it turns out that I’ve got plenty of that.