Almost exactly three years ago, in October of 2004, I once again started writing my first novel. The reason this iteration stands out is that I actually finished it. I called it finished in April of 2005, length, 74500 words. The day I decided to finish the project no matter what is the day I mark as taking this craft seriously. We can call that day October 1st because I don't remember the exact date.
For various reasons, I never submitted this novel anywhere. From April 2005 through December of 2006, I concentrated exclusively on short fiction, with a week interruption for Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp where I generated a short story that is really chapter one of a novel I plan to attack in a few years.
I joined Codex writers group shortly after that and became part of a community of great emerging writers, most of whom have far more skill with this language than I can ever hope to have. Still, I learned enough that I realized the dormant novel had a lot of problems, including some issues that Orson Scott Card and David Gerrold independently identified from the outline alone.
In January of 2007, I started redrafting the novel, that is, starting again from scratch. I cut one full story line and finished in June of 2007 with 115,000 words. Double the word count with less story. Why? I am a better writer than I was in 2004.
Here it is, October 2007, almost exactly three years since I started that novel, and started taking my craft seriously. I now have a SFWA eligible pro sale, a second sale at pro rates, 19 stories total in publication or forthcoming, and I finally submitted my novel, Neanderthal Swan Song, to Baen this week. I believe I am a much better writer of long fiction than of short fiction, so we'll see.
I have two short fiction projects remining that I hope to finish this month, a short story of about 2000 words for the ASU writers conference that's coming in February, and something new for the Writers of the Future contest. After that, it's onward to my next novel--the beginning of my series of loosly connected future history stand-alones that sees Earth drawn into a million-year-old interstellar war. It has a very important tie back to Neanderthal Swan Song, but no spoilers here.