My re-write of The Sacrifice was done in a sitting, a rather arduous one. The original 1999 (98?) version was written in a single session as well, and I remember it coming to me very easily.
The story I'm writing now, which is not part of NaNoWriMo since it's only a short, began around November 1st, maybe earlier, with a deadline of Thanksgiving (so it's earlier than NaNoWriMo), and that's turning out to be one of the most difficult things I've ever written. I'm quite literally not happy with any of it. I think the problem is that while I stand behind the idea itself, the story requires too much simile and metaphor to work at conveying its imagery, and that can get a little too flowery for me.
The closest thing to a novel I've written was a five-act play written around 1998. It took me 2 years to write, longer if you count the 50-plus scraps that were eventually consolidated into the work, making for its 75-plus main characters. I'm never posting it or showing it to anybody. I'd rather tell the story of how I got the idea to consolidate the stories, because it is kind of hilarious (and I can say that because it wasn't my idea):
These stories were all set in relatively the same universe, and I had envisioned a kind of crossover culminating in a singular ending (I'll just say one word about it: Dallas), but only thought of that ending, nothing about the interaction of the separate characters. One day, I was in the school library, writing a story of a soldier becoming a doctor. A friend (of sorts) walked by and asked what I was doing. I told him I was writing. He asked, "Fiction?"
"Yeah," I replied, "And it's going about as well as the other stuff I've written." He looked interested, and said as much, with the prospect of being able to offer me advice since he'd written much himself. I told him that the problem with how I write is that I always have an idea of a beginning, and I more or less know how I want the story to end, but it's making the connection between the start and stop that gets to me. Believing he knew where I was going, he nodded and finished my sentence:
"Because you always want to introduce new characters, new situations."
I shook my head, "No, it's not so much that...." I stopped that sentence dead in its tracks after realizing that his complaint made for really good advice. I asked, "What did you just say?" like one of those Mel Brooks moments where you first dismiss or even laugh at an idea, but the moment you speak your dissent is the same moment you realize it's complete genius:
"Maybe we should send the dummies into battle."
"Ha!" One one-thousand, "Hmm...."
The best advice I ever got about writing came from my Western Civilization professor during my freshman year at UNM. He said that the first sentence of your essay (or anything you're writing, for that matter) should sound like it has absolutely nothing to do with what the paper is about. It's kind of hard to elaborate on what exactly that means or entails, but here's the best example I can think of, the opening sentence to John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids:
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
The novel, for those of you who don't know, is about ambulatory, carnivorous plants with venomous tongues that have a ten-foot reach and target the eyes, yet those are not the worst thing going on in the world when the story starts.