I don't want this to be a depressing post but writing doesn't get any easier. I've just sent off the first "readable" draft of my seventeenth published novel (tentatively titled The Hunchback Assignments 4: The Island of Doom) and the whole process from beginning to end was no less painless than writing my first published novel (I should add that I had six unpublished novels before that, too). I don't write any faster than I did before. My prose doesn't need any fewer drafts in order to be legible (or, Muse forbid, actually creative). Dreaming up new characters and wrestling with plot lines doesn't become any more straightforward (part of that may be that I have never done an outline and my process is to write a very quick and dirty draft of the novel then rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it).
So my conclusion is: this whole process isn't any easier. And that's a good thing. Yes, every once in a while whole sections of a novel will pour out and settle perfectly in place. But most of the time I'm hammering away at the stone to find the statue inside. What has changed over those estimated 1,115,000 words is that my intuition is more fine tuned. I tend to intuitively choose the interesting characters and plots that are right for the novel (which I was not doing with my unpublished novels). And the one thing that hasn't changed is that I still am engaged by the magic challenge of creating these new worlds and telling the stories about the people inside. And isn't that what it's all about? *
*oh, and it's about the money, too. It's always about the money. : )