You’ve got a great idea. You’ve got great characters. You know how the book is going to start or end, but there’s one thing that you still don’t know: how long does it take to write a book? Is there a writing process you need to follow?
You might have a deadline to get one written, or you need to know how much time it will take before you commit to such a huge undertaking. Many people think about writing a book, but they might not be aware of what it will do to their time or when they will find the time.
If you want to see your book through to its completion, it is a most practical question. What kind of commitment are you going to need to make to see this project through? What does it take in measured time to actually write a book?
The answer is as open as you might expect. There are a number of variables that will need to be considered when setting out to write a novel or a book. It primarily comes down to the same fundamentals as anything else: How prepared are you to follow the book writing process?
How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?
On average, writing a novel takes six months to a year. This time frame varies as there are different considerations, such as the novel’s genre, actual word count, author’s typing speed, target words per day, research processes involved, and revisions needed.
If you hate to plan, read carefully. You don’t build an opera house by throwing bricks into a pile. A plan must be made to ensure that the building is functional, beautiful, and doesn’t waste everyone’s time and investment. Your book is no different.
You don’t even have to do the intricate level of planning that goes into constructing an opera house, but you still need to know what you are going to do with the time you will spend writing. If you have limited writing time because of family or a full-time job, then you are going to need to plan if you are ever going to finish writing.
By planning, you will save yourself from all kinds of catastrophes – the worst being not finishing your book. You might not have every detail of exactly what you are going to write worked out yet, but that is expected.
Planning will give you the road map you need to best use the precious writing time you have and will keep you from the clutches of writer’s block.
If you think you don’t have time to plan – you don’t have time not to plan. Without a plan, you are almost guaranteed at some point to get lost and potentially give up. If you read this and think “not me,” then it’s entirely possible you are an exception, but you will find out whether or not that’s true along the way.
Things you should consider planning before writing a book:
Do you have all of the necessary preparations made to ensure your workflow is as smooth as possible? Once you get going in your writing process, you might not want to slow down.
If this is your first time to write book, you absolutely should do this. Even famous authors use these kinds of techniques as they often have other commitments and more writing to do.
Here is a list of things you might consider as you begin to start writing a book:
- What is your writing project? (is it a novel, a ‘how to’ book, or early reader books?)
- What are the writing conventions for the format? (such as word length for the genre, structure, etc.)
- Research (factor in some of this during your writing time, as well. Things will come up)
- Scheduling (what book writing time you will commit to per day or week, or month)
- Character bios or whatever else you might use in your work
- The beginning, middle, and end of your book (it is highly recommended to have an idea of where your book is headed. This will be a huge factor in saving you time and having to cut thousands of words later)
- Knowing your target audience
- Your sleep schedule (Seriously – perhaps bad pages were written due to sleep deprivation).
Having this information before you begin will shape your workflow and ensure your path to success is as smoothly paved as it can be from the outset. You are going to face plenty of challenges later, and it’s best to ensure you minimize those challenges in advance.
Take advantage of extra time. Reduce as many obstructions from the road as possible before you hit the pedal. Eventually, you will be able to write a lot faster.
2. Set Goals
You are going to need a road map to ensure you hit your markers along the way. If you’re serious about finishing a book, you need to ensure that you reach your goal at some eventual point.
Before you set out to write a book, here are some goals that professional writers use that you should consider making for yourself:
- How many hours will you have for writing sessions per day, per week, or per month?
- Set times to work. Commit to your writing time even if you’re not in the mood. Make it a habit.
- Protect your writing time. Make an agreement with your family that (for example) from 7 pm to 8:00 pm, you are off-limits. Turn your phone and your internet off.
- Have a target word count per day, but be realistic and fair to yourself to prevent burnout. 1000 words a day is impressive. 5000 is mind-blowing.
- Have a date for a completed first draft. Work to meet that deadline, even if you have to extend it.
- It’s fine to move goals when life gets in the way. But don’t lose your commitment to meeting them. If you don’t meet a deadline, just make a new one.
Page count vs. word count
A book seems long because it has four hundred pages. A book seems short if it has 60 pages. But page count is not really an accurate reflection of a book’s length.
The book might have illustrations, or the typeface might be larger in one book and smaller in another. Page numbers don’t accurately reflect a book’s true length as well as word count does.
Word count is what writers and industry professionals use to measure the size of a book (and how long it might take to write that book). It better reflects the format for which you are writing. So set your goals based on word count, not how many pages your book will be.
Fiction book genres all have their ideal word counts, so it’s best to know what those are before you undertake the task of writing a book.
How Many Words Per Day?
The number of words that a writer should write each day varies depending on planning, priorities, momentum, pace, level of expertise, and other writing-related barriers such as writer’s block and level of motivation.
However, it is important to commit to a specific word output for yourself each day and be disciplined enough to stick with it when you begin to write a book. The goal you set will depend on your level of productivity and how quickly you want to finish your book.
Even famous authors like Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway do not have the same average daily output with 1,400 and 500 words, respectively. Whereas, Stephen King determines to write no less than 1,000 words a day.
You can go below or above these numbers. It solely depends on you as a writer but the most important thing to understand is that you practice your skill of writing on a daily basis.
3. Stay motivated
Writing is a long haul but remember – if you’re not enjoying writing it, your audience is not going to enjoy reading it. Every day you write is not going to be your best. That is a reality you have to accept before you begin.
You’re going to need to stay fresh and motivated, and how well you do this will directly affect how much time it takes to write your book.
Try to find new perspectives and insights into what you are writing. These are lifelines that will pull you through. If you are writing a fiction novel – you might be surprised by the number of new things you learn about your character along the way.
If you are writing a history book, you might uncover some new bit of research that gives your work a new layer of meaning. All of these things can give you new bumps of inspiration along the way.
You might also consider jumping into an online class so you can hear from other writers and learn from their experiences. They are also a great source of professional feedback, which can also help motivation.
You might also find an accountability partner (another writer who is also trying to meet goals).
Taking breaks to avoid burnout is fine – as long as you come back to it.
4. A completed draft
When you’ve decided to write a book, you’ve committed the time to planning, followed your schedule, set goals and reached them. Somehow, sometime later, you have a completed first draft. Maybe it’s not the entire novel, or it’s full of errors and perhaps a few plot holes, but it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you finished the first draft.
If you get to this stage, you might think your work is nearly done. The good news is that a lot of the heavy work is done.
The bad news is that the book is not done. Now that you’ve finally built the opera house, you have to connect the infrastructure and bring in the furnishings.
When you are planning the time it will take to write a book, ensure you understand that the editing stage also takes a significant amount of time and effort. It is a crucial part of the book writing process.
If your novel was well planned, you might not have to fix some pretty major plot holes or complete character changes in your first draft. If you knew the beginning, middle, and end of your book, how many words it should be, as well as your characters and your setting, these are all things that you were better able to layout in your first draft.
And if not, it’s not the end of the world. Now is the time to go back and fix things.
Every experienced writer knows how crucial editing is. It can take as long as it took to write the novel, but it can also take longer. It will largely depend on how effective the planning was.
This is where it becomes clear that how long it takes you to write a book is directly tied to how well planned it was and how much editing will be needed.
Even if you planned your novel to an immaculate level, some level of editing will certainly be needed. When planning to write a book, be sure to factor in this stage to your timeline.
A safe rule of thumb is whatever amount of time you took to write the novel is probably how much time you should spend editing it. (Suddenly, ‘throwing bricks onto a pile’ seems dangerous, doesn’t it?!)
Don’t just blow over the editing stage in a few hours. You spent so much time crafting your book; now, you must ensure that the book actually appears as great you meant it to be.
6. Consider hiring a professional editor
If editing is really not your strength, then you should consider hiring a professional editor. They bring professional perspectives, fresh eyes, and subjective feedback – all things that will significantly benefit and strengthen your work.
Even if you are a great editor yourself, a writer knows that having someone else’s eyes on your work can only benefit it. Choose (or hire) wisely. Find people who are going to give you constructive and motivational feedback.
Your mom or best friend might have great intentions. Perhaps they can look at your first draft. However, they might not be able to provide the level of feedback you need to bring your book to the next level.
7. Write a book in one month
November is known as NaNoWriMo – an acronym for “National Novel Writing Month.” In that month, writers face the challenge of completing a novel of 50,000 words.
So if you do some quick math – you have approximately 30 days to write an average of 1666 words per day. NaNoWriMo is a great way to get a project done quickly – and just a hint – it might go more smoothly if you have a writing plan.
Okay, so really: How long does it take to write a book?
If you want a hard and impossible answer, it can take anywhere from a month to many years to write a book. That’s as accurate an answer as there can be without factoring in things like planning, time constraints, how many words, and editing. (The time it takes for the publishing process is not included here – including for those who wish to self-publish.)
If you are writing a short “how-to” manual with ten thousand words, you can probably write that in a few days and produce it reasonably quickly. If you are writing a children’s book, it’s not just 1000 words or less (which seems like a day’s work). It’s much more than that.
Word choice, rhyme scheme, illustrations are all factors to consider in the amount of writing time that a project will take. However, writing a 1000 word children’s book is vastly different than writing an adult space opera.
If you want to write an epic fantasy novel, you can expect to work with a word count of 90,000-150,000 words (generally), which is considered the longest word count allowance of the genres. How long does it physically take to type that many words?
If you are setting word count goals (which you are), you will be able to calculate your answer. It will also show that if you are committing to 2000 words a day (an ambitious amount), it would take you at least 45-75 days of actual writing to complete the first draft.
However, many people are not writing epic science fiction or fantasy novels, so we will use today’s most popular selling format (and most average word counts) to measure how much time it takes to write a book.
A very general answer
70,000 words presently seems to be a hot spot for novel word length. It appeals to young adults and less-young adults and is a manageable word length that could be read in two or three sittings.
Depending on your word count goals, if you write 2000 words a day, it will take you roughly 35 days to write the complete draft. Don’t forget some days won’t work out, or you don’t have it in you to write that day, but for the most part, you would expect to finish a draft in just over a month.
If you spent the same amount of time editing, then seeking a professional editor, it’s plausible to say you could have that book finished in a few months if you were really pushing yourself. If this is your first novel, it’s a great goal to reach, but don’t beat yourself up if it takes longer. It probably will.
The secret is in the planning
It could take a year (or more) to complete a great book. If the thought of committing that amount of time scares you, then consider breaking it into smaller stages. The most straightforward answer is that it does take a lot of time to write a good book, though, with planning and discipline, it is a much more attainable goal that won’t take a lifetime of stops and restarts.
The most important thing to remember when asking how long does it take to write a book is that it will mostly depend on how ready you are to do it and how committed you will be to ensure its completion. If you want to write a book as efficiently as possible, then you will need to take every step to ensure that your time is well used.
How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book?
The duration of time needed to publish a book varies depending on many factors, such as whether you self-publish or choose to go the traditional way of publishing. The book genre and its length, and any required revisions as reviewed by the house experts or outsourced consultants will also affect how long it takes to publish.
Conventionally, traditional publishers take six months to two years to publish a book. This timeline includes the evaluation of your manuscript, getting an offer, revision stages, negotiations between you and the publisher, the final review phase of your manuscript, the actual printing of it, design components and the official release of your book.
However, when it comes to self-publishing this time frame may only be 5 to 8 weeks. Depending on revisions required, marketing plans and personal promotion.