How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

The idea of writing a book is at once attractive and intimidating. Especially since many people have no idea how long it takes to write a book. They think it takes years. But once you start to quantify how long it takes, the task solidifies and becomes less daunting. Before long, it starts to look doable. 

So let's break down how long it takes to write a book so you can see that it's not the impossible task it seems. We'll also go over some tips to help you write your masterpiece faster than you ever thought possible!

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Factors That Affect Your Writing Time
  2. The Average Writing Time for a Book
  3. How to Write a Book Faster
  4. How Long Does it Take to Write a Book and Get it Published?
  5. Book Writing Time FAQs

Factors That Affect Your Writing Time

There are so many factors that can determine how long writing a book takes. Writing a children's book will take, on average, less time than writing a memoir. The same can be said for writing an epic fantasy novel versus a 40,000-word creative nonfiction book.

We also want to consider that you don't want to write just any book. You want to write the best book possible. Rushing through a book just to say that you did it in a month or two is great, but will anyone want to read it? 

To that end, we'll be talking about how long it takes to write the best book possible.

So we need to consider the following factors that can affect your writing time:

  • Genre
  • Writing Speed
  • Experience
  • Time Available
  • Number of Revisions

Genre

There are certain reader expectations to consider when writing a book. Many genres and subgenres have certain lengths that do well. And while you don't necessarily have to follow these word count guidelines, sticking close to them can ensure that you write a book that can meet or exceed reader expectations. And when you do this, you increase your chances of having a successful book.

So let's take a look at common genre word counts:

  • Children's Books
    • Picture Books – 300 to 800 words.
    • Early Reader Books – 250 to 3000 words.
    • Chapter Books – 4,000 to 12,000 words.
    • Middle Grade Books – 20,000 to 40,000 words.
  • Fiction Books
    • Thriller/Mystery – 70,000 to 100,000
    • Horror – 80,000 to 100,000
    • Crime – 90,000 to 100,000
    • Contemporary Romance – 75,000 to 100,000
    • Category Romance – 40,000 to 80,000
    • Historical Fiction – 80,000 to 120,000
    • Science Fiction & Fantasy – 90,000 to 130,000
    • Literary Fiction – 75,000 to 110,000
    • Young Adult – 50,000 to 80,000
  • Nonfiction Books
    • Self-Help – 40,000 to 70,000
    • Memoir – 80,000 to 100,000
    • Biography – 75,000 to 180,000
    • Standard Nonfiction – 75,000 to 100,000

There are always exceptions to these word counts, but they can give you a good idea of how long a book in your chosen genre should be.

Writing Speed

How fast you write will determine how quickly you can get a book written. Once you know your average writing speed, you can get an idea of how long the mechanics of writing will take.

Your typing speed is certainly a factor, but it’s not the most important one. Instead of focusing on how many words per minute you type on average, determine how many words you can get down in an average session, whether it’s half an hour, an hour, or three hours — however much time you can set aside to write on a regular basis. 

Here’s a good example of writing speed:

  • At 1,000 words down per session, which is a pretty good goal for new writers, it would take you 80 sessions to write an 80,000-word book. If you write five days a week, it will take you 16 weeks to write your first draft! That’s only four months!

Keep in mind we're not considering editing and revisions. But still, looking at it this way makes it seem a bit more manageable. Also, your writing speed will likely increase as you get more words under your belt!

Experience

Experience counts for a lot during the writing process. But it doesn't necessarily have to be novel-writing experience. It could be experience in short story writing, blog writing, or any other kind of creative work. 

Generally, your writing skill is directly related to your experience. And the more skilled you are, the better your writing will go. Your ability to stick to a writing schedule is also important, which is a byproduct of experience.

Time Available

The time you have available to devote to writing your manuscript is also a determining factor in how long it will take to come out with a published book. Obviously, the more time you can spend working in daily or weekly writing sessions, the faster you'll have the book done.

Number of Revisions

When you're writing your manuscript, it can be hard to tell how many revisions you'll need. You won't know until you finish.

Plus, many writing teachers and even famous authors recommend setting the manuscript aside for a few weeks or a month before you begin editing. This can give you some much-needed perspective before you tackle revisions. How long you decide to wait, of course, will also influence the length of time it takes to write the book.

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The Average Writing Time for a Book

The average time it takes to write a book, as you can probably guess by now, varies wildly. Still, for the sake of argument, let's look at some examples of average book-writing times for new authors.

  • 40,000 to 70,000 word novel – 3 to 4 months.
  • 70,000 to 100,000 word novel – 5 to 8 months.
  • 100,000 to 130,000 word novel – 8 to 12 months.

These estimates assume a consistent writing schedule. We all know that life gets in the way, so it can easily take longer without consistency.

How to Write a Book Faster

It's easy to get down on yourself when you hear things about how a famous author wrote a literary masterpiece in a month's time. Comparing yourself to another author does little good. Instead, you can take the following steps to write faster so you can pen your own masterpiece quicker than you ever thought possible.

1. Goal Setting

If you want to become a successful author, it's important to set and hit daily word count goals. This is the mark of a professional writer. And you don't have to be a published author to be a professional. All it takes is showing up and knocking out your word count goals.

It's important to keep in mind that your goals will change as you become a better writer. Do the following things to make the most out of your goal-setting: 

  • Make sure your daily goal stretches your ability just a little bit. It shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. 
  • Track your progress! Whether you do this on a spreadsheet, calendar, a writing app, or some other way, make sure to keep track of what you get done!

Planning/Outlining

Another great way to write your story faster is to develop a plan and an outline before you dive into the writing. 

Planning includes things like:

Outlining is all about fleshing your book idea into a coherent story so that you know where the plot is ultimately going. This doesn't have to be extremely detailed and shouldn't be set in stone, but having an outline can help you stay on track and avoid writing needless words that won't make the final cut in your fiction book.

For nonfiction books, an outline is doubly important, as it will help you with research, planning, and the writing process itself.

Sticking to a Schedule

Along with setting goals, sticking to a schedule is a huge help when you're trying to write faster. This can be difficult for many new authors who don’t yet have an established writing habit. Life gets in the way if you let it — and sometimes even if you don't. Here are some tips for sticking to a schedule:

  • Carve out an hour of writing time five to seven days per week. 
  • Get creative to make writing time. Wake up an hour earlier and write while everyone else is asleep, write on your lunch break, or try dictation on your commute to and from work. 
  • Try to avoid writing “whenever you can,” because there's always something else that needs your attention. 
  • Writing time should be sacred. Everyone should know not to disturb you for the hour you'll be writing. 
  • Close the door, silence the phone, put on noise-canceling headphones, and get to writing.

A schedule can turn a writing dream into a writing routine. And with a writing routine, you'll have your book done in no time.

That said, if it's impossible for you to stick to a schedule, writing whenever you can is better than not writing at all. The trick is actually sitting down and writing.

In short, find what writing schedule works for you and stick to it.

Creating Accountability

Accountability is key to getting a book written. Whether you're writing a chapter book, a picture book, or a nonfiction book, you'll need to create some form of accountability.

  • Find a writing partner and agree to keep each other accountable, sharing their goals and making sure they meet them. 
  • Try a writing group, where there are multiple people who help keep each other accountable.
  • Put your money where your mouth is, agreeing to give X amount of dollars to an organization that you dislike or to a friend or family member if you don't meet your writing goals.

If you've tried these other tactics and you still can't seem to meet your goals, consider hiring a book coach to keep you on track.

Using Apps, Tools, and Gamification

Using writing apps and tools can help you write your story faster. There are plenty of helpful tools available, like Grammarly and ProWritingAid for checking grammar and spelling, Evernote for note-taking, and Atticus for all-in-one book writing and formatting.

Gamification — turning your writing into a game with rewards for meeting your goals and demerits for failing — is another great way to stick to a writing routine. Even if you're not a gamer, these tools can be worth a shot:

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book and Get it Published?

Before we move on to some writing time FAQs, I wanted to take a minute to address the publishing process. I've found that when many new writers ask how long it takes to write a book, they're not just talking about the writing process. They want to know how long it takes from the first word down on the page to pressing that “Publish” button.

It's hard to say how much time it will take you to go from a finished (and edited) manuscript to a book on Amazon. It really depends on things like formatting, cover design, your specific book launch plan, and your familiarity with the book setup process. 

Here’s a rough example of the time it takes for each step of the process:

  • Outlining and Planning – 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Writing the First Draft – About 6 months for a 75,000-word book.
  • Revisions – 1 to 2 months.
  • Editing, Proofing, Cover Design – 2 months.

There's a lot that goes into successfully launching a book, and it will probably take you longer than you think. It's important to set a goal with a publishing date, but give yourself a little cushion on this one. 

Pro Tip: For help on becoming a self-published author, check out our free resources here. They include everything you need to know about the self-publishing process, from formatting to beta readers to book reports. It's all there.

Other writers, those who aren't necessarily interested in becoming self-published authors, want to know how long it takes to write a book and get a book deal. Unfortunately, traditional publishing is not like self-publishing; there's no guarantee that you'll get a traditional book deal. This means you could shop around your book proposal for years and still not land a deal. 

But if you want to know more about the traditional side of publishing, check out this guide to getting your book (traditionally) published.

Writing Time FAQs

Still have questions about how long it takes to write a book? Check these FAQs out.

How Long Does it Take to Write a 200-Page Book?

A 200-page book has around 50,000 to 60,000 words. So using our example from earlier of 40 words per minute, you could have the first draft done in about 24 hours of sustained writing.

Let's look at this another way. Say you write 500 words per session. It would take you a total of 110 sessions to write a 55,000-word novel. If you write five days a week, you could have the first draft done in 22 weeks, which is five and a half months.

How Long Does it Take to Write a 300-Page Book?

A 300-page book has around 90,000 words. So if you were able to write 500 words per session, it would take 180 sessions. At five sessions a week, you're looking at 36 weeks or nine months.

How Many Words a Day Is Good?

A “good” words-per-day count is dependent wholly on the author. Some authors find that their upper limit per day is 1,000 words. Others don't get up from the computer until they write 5,000. Some consider a good day's writing to be 500 words.

A good per-day word count for you is one that you can get done consistently. If you're struggling just a little, that's good. Once you get faster, you can increase the word count goal. Pay no attention to what a so-called “real writer” says about his or her daily word count. Just pay attention to your goals. 

A good day is a day that you meet or exceed your writing goals. Remember: a professional writer is one that sits down and writes. How many words are there at the end of the session should only matter to the writer in terms of their goals.

How Long Did It Take These Famous Authors to Write Their Books?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling – It took Rowling six years to write this first Harry Potter book while working full time as a single mother.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – It took Shelly about a year to finish this masterpiece.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – This slang-filled novel only took Burgess three weeks to write — amazing considering he essentially made up a language for it.

The Stand by Stephen King – King struggled with this epic apocalyptic novel. It took him two years to write. But when you consider that his original draft was nearly 1200 pages, two years doesn't seem so long after all.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien – It took 16 years (nearly two decades!) for Tolkien to finish these three books.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – It took Meyer only three months to finish this first book in the Twilight series.

Conclusion

Whether you're a fiction writer or you want to write a self-help book, there's no set amount of time it should take you. The important thing is that you set goals, stick to a schedule, and hold yourself accountable. If you really want to write a book, it shouldn't matter too much how long it will take. If you've got a story to tell, tell it.

That's not to say that you shouldn't aim for a reasonable goal. You should. But your first time writing a book will be difficult. You'll experience internal and external resistance. You'll run into roadblocks and speed bumps. You'll probably need to revise your goals a couple of times.

Stick to it! Most people never finish their book because life gets in the way. But those that do finish — whether in six months or six years — have a reason to celebrate. And believe me, the next one is easier!



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