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How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

Maybe you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, which is an annual writing project that is held every November. It brings professional and amateur writers together with one goal: to write a book. The commitment to NaNoWriMo is to finish 50,000 words in the 30 days that November offers. In doing so, you will start and finish a book within that time period. But normally, how long does it take to write a book?

With NaNoWriMo, in practical terms, you would be writing 1,700 words every day. For some writers, that’s about an hour’s worth of work. For others, that could be a 3- to 4-hour commitment every day.

How long does it take to write a book? The answer to that question depends on three specific data points:

  • How long is the book in question going to be?
  • How fast are you able to write and/or type?
  • How many drafts are going to be considered?

You see, NaNoWriMo (or any other organized writing event) is based on the idea that you’re going to be able to complete a first draft of a book. Most writers go through four different drafts of a manuscript before it’s actually ready to be turned into a book. Here are those four drafts and what occurs during the writing process.

1. First Draft. This is the primary creative phase. You are writing out the plot points, connecting dialogue, and creating a story arc that has a natural beginning, middle, and end for the reader to enjoy.

2. Second Draft. This is the first editing draft. You are correcting major plot issues, catching major grammatical errors, and eliminating inconsistent scenes, descriptions, and dialogue.

3. Third Draft. This is the second editing draft. You are correcting minor grammatical mistakes and reviewing the manuscript for any lingering plot holes or similar issues.

4. Fourth Draft. This is the “polishing” draft. Most authors will read this draft out loud (or hire someone to do it for them) because this will catch typos and other minor issues that are always present in writing.

For all practical intents and purposes, each draft of the book takes about the same amount of time to complete. If we’re looking at an event like NaNoWriMo, then it would be 30 days for each draft. To actually write the book so that it is completed and ready for publication, you’d be looking at a minimum of 120 days.

What About Books that Are Longer Than 50,000 Words?

The average non-fiction book runs between 50-60,000 words in length. Fiction can run from 80-100,000.Some are much longer than this, but those long stories are not generally published by the industry unless the author has an established name and reputation. To determine how much time it would take to write a story of this length, you have to determine what your writing goals are going to be for the day.

Using the 1,700-word daily goal of NaNoWriMo, you would be looking at 60 days to write the average novel today. The length of time rule for each draft of the book would also apply, which means you’d need to multiply the 60 days by 4. That means you’d be looking at a total of 240 days for composition time in all facets of the story, although the initial draft would be completed in 6-8 weeks for most writers.

What If 8 Months Is Too Long to Write a Book?

Some writers are able to push the amount of work they can do once they get used to the writing process. It is not unusual for a professional writer to work for 6-8 hours per day. At 2,000 words per hour, that’s up to 16,000 words per day. That can shorten the amount of time it takes to write the first draft of a book to 4-5 days in some instances.

Although the first draft would be completed quicker in such a scenario, it would still take the same amount of time to proceed through Drafts 2-4. This is why many writers will hire professional editing services to review their work so they can keep creating stories.

So how long does it take to write a book? That depends a lot on you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many words do you think you can write per day?
  • Are you good at editing your own work, or would you be able to hire someone to speed up the process or take it from scratch?
  • Do you have great ideas but have trouble getting them on paper?

There are many variables that you should consider, which is why some authors can write a book in a month, but it may take 6-12 months for someone else to accomplish the same feat. For many of the authors that approach us, they say things like:

  • I really don’t know what I would write about but I know I have a book in me.
  • I want to use my book as a tool to grow my career (or business).
  • I have a concept but don’t know where to go from here.
  • I am a so-so writer. I need someone to help me get my book written.
  • I am a good writer but I still am not sure how to position my book so it doesn’t sound like what’s already out there.

But what I share with my authors is that the better question to ask is:

How do I write a GREAT book–one that will be around years from now–an evergreen book that will withstand the test of time? How do I create that book that could be part of a series that will make a BIG Impact in the world? 

Does it cost more to create a book like this? Not really. If you value your time and realize you can get help from experts who have gone through the process again and again, what is that worth? And, when you realize your book is your intellectual property (IP) that lasts for your entire life plus 70 years, you are looking at an investment that should offer a substantial return for the time and money you invest in it.

So before you decide to start writing which can cost you valuable time, why not seek out someone’s advice as to your options. As we always say here at Networlding:

We’re always generous with our time and there is no cost or obligation. We’re happy to give you our candid opinion on your work and share options for you. If we are not able to help you, we will try to point you in the direction of others who can be of support. Just reach out through our contact form or email me at melissa @ how-long


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Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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