Have you ever thought about writing a book? Many writers start off their literary journey as bookworms, bloggers, critics, and fans, while others have a lifelong dream to write. Whatever the case, writing your first book can be intimidating for many reasons, time constraints being one of them. So, how long does it take to write a book?
Writing Your First Book: The Basics
Before you consider how long it will take to write your book, it might be a good idea to do some research on good practices and support systems that will help you complete the project and have the best possible writing experience.
When we get a great idea, it's tempting to jump into writing immediately while super excited about it.
Good ideas should, by all means, be written down but for a full book project, you might want to be a little more organized than that.
You don't need to have extensive background writing experience to get started, as writing is a craft that only gets better with practice, but if you can complete a few short stories first, you might walk into your bigger project more confident, knowing that you are able to finish a story.
Outlines are one of the first things people mention when it comes to writing books. They're also one of the things people tend to disagree about the most.
When it comes to planning a story, George R. R. Martin has remarked that "there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners."
The former are extensive planners who need to know all the specifics before diving into the story, while gardeners prefer to experiment, let the characters take the reins, and, occassionaly, surprise themselves.
The A Song of Ice and Fire author clearly belongs to the latter group, and, while both styles (often known as "plotter" VS "pantser") have merits, the long wait for The Winds of Winter indicates that even a minimal amount of planning can help avoid the dreaded writer's block.
This doesn't mean that you have to write an extensive synopsis, but knowing five or so basic plot details and having a good idea about your ending will help you write with purpose and give you a better chance of completing your first book.
On a more practical level, creating a quiet space and establishing a schedule those you live will respect, is also key in writing a book.
Ideally, you would also want to find writing buddies, early on in the process. Writing friends will help you stick to your goal and provide feedback, while reading and reviewing their work will make you more critical of your own.
If there is no writing group in your area; that's ok. It's easier than ever to join one online!
Of course, there are many more practices that will help you in your writing endeavors; you will find that not everything works for you, and that's ok!
But generally speaking, reading as many books as possible, in your genre and not only, some basic planning and a network of support will most likely help you save time, and, most importantly, complete the project.
How Long Does It Take To Write a Book?
Depending on the writer's pace and other engagements, the amount of research required, and the manuscript's length, writing a book takes anything from several weeks to several years. For a medium-length book of 70-90k words, a full-time writer might need around 6 months to a year, but this varies widely for different books and different authors.
Some established writers are extremely prolific and produce at a very fast pace, releasing as much as a book a year, and sometimes more, as is the case with Stephen King who has published 64 novels since he started his first publication in 1974.
In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King famously mentioned that he likes to write 10 pages a day, or about 2000 words. This allows him to finish a book in around 3 months.
Of course, many authors will find that this is an extreme case. Aside from the fact that enough time and energy to produce at such a rate is a luxury mostly full-time writers can afford, some creators prefer to work at a slower pace and that's ok.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, authors might take many years to finish a book. George R. R. Martin used to have a relatively consistent writing schedule in the past, publishing every year or every few years.
This is, strictly speaking, still the case, as books by Martin do come out, but the highly anticipated sixth novel in his A Song of Ice Series has taken more than ten years and there is still no definitive release date other than a vague confirmation that the author is still working on it.
This is not as uncommon as one might suspect; Name of the Wind author Patrick Rothfuss has also famously delayed the last part of his Kingkiller Chronicles, with the previous book having come out over a decade earlier.
Author Madeline Miller is also known for having taken ten years to write her book The Song of Achilles though, in her case fans had no reason to feel frustrated, as the book was a standalone and writing was not Miller's primary occupation at the time.
Of course, taking a decade to write a book is a very long time, and most writers are probably somewhere in-between, taking several months or a few years depending on their life outside of writing.
Six months seems like a more realistic goal for a first draft, especially for a first-time author. Subsequent drafts might, however, take much longer, and, if the book is picked up by a publisher, there will often be several months of edits.
Many authors, including Robin Hobb, who writes very long and well-made fantasy books that fans of Game of Thrones will enjoy, have published roughly a book a year for several years.
A book a year generally seems to be the case for established authors as the publishing industry is quite demanding, not to mention that it's very hard to make a living from selling books alone.
Typically, then, it takes around 6-12 months to write a book if you're dedicated - though it might take much longer to complete subsequent drafts, edit, and publish.
And, of course, if you want to give yourself a hardcore challenge, you can try Na.No.Wri.Mo, where writers from all over the world attempt to pen the first 50k words of a novel in a single month - a truly admirable feat.
Writing a Book Time: Takeaway
Writing a novel is hard work, and there is no right or wrong amount of time for it, as every author is different.
Between 6 and 12 months is an average timeline, but for some writers, it can take more or less time, and the time doesn't always account for additional drafts, edits, and the publishing process.
At the end of the day, quality is more important than finishing a book really quickly.
For first drafts, it's best not to overthink and to just let the characters guide you but, of course, this is not to say that you shouldn't take all the time you need!
For more articles like this, take a look at our Books page.