How Long It Takes to Write a Book: 5 Ways to Save Time

Are you wondering how long it takes to write a book? Here is our guide on how long it will take to publish your first book.

There are a lot of people who love writing. It is an opportunity to create a different world, express your creative side, and entertain readers of all backgrounds. At the same time, writing is a major commitment. It can take significant time to write your first draft, let alone your final one. While you might be anxious to finish your first book as quickly as possible, you should not rush through the process.

Take ample time to complete your drafts, fine-tune your point of view, and ensure that your book comes together. The writing process can take a few months to a year, depending on the length of your book. Typically, most books take one year from the start of the writing process to publication.

So, how long should the book writing process take? 

How Long It Takes to Write a Book?

Many Authors Take Six Months To Write a Book

How long it takes to write a book?
You should not feel like you need to stick to a specific timeline, but you do need to keep yourself focused as you go through the writing process

It is not unusual for an author to take six months to write a book. Your timeline will vary depending on the amount of research to do, how long you spend re-writing your work during subsequent drafts, and the total word count is different. For example, JD Salinger was famous for taking a very long time to write his books. According to some sources, The Catcher in the Rye took ten years to finish! Of course, he was relatively busy fighting in World War Two, but it took him a very long time to finish this iconic novel.

Then, other authors can finish their work very quickly. For example, Charles Dickens completed A Christmas Carol in only six weeks. Therefore, even though it takes a lot of contemporary authors approximately six months to finish a novel, the total amount of time it takes can vary widely. You should not feel like you need to stick to a specific timeline, but you do need to keep yourself focused as you go through the writing process. If you are writing a typical novel, approximately 50,000 words, and you spend a few hours writing every week, you will probably finish your book somewhere between six and 12 months. 

Writing a Children’s Book

The genre can have a significant impact on how long it takes for you to finish your book. In general, a children’s book will take significantly less time than writing a full-length novel. However, this does not mean writing a children’s book is easy.

On the contrary, children’s books can be more challenging as you need to get your idea across in short and simple language because children’s books are significantly shorter compared to adult novels. Therefore, on average, they should not take as long to finish. For example, many picture books for toddlers can be written in less than a month. This is because many of them only contain 1,000 words, and more effort could go into drawing the pictures instead of adding text to the book. Therefore, you may not spend much time writing if you only write the words for a children’s book. 

Of course, as you progress forward in the genre of children’s writing, the books will take longer to write. For example, if you are writing a book meant for middle schoolers, it could contain 25,000 words or more. In this case, it would not be unusual for the book to take approximately six months to finish. Therefore, you do need to think carefully about how you structure the story. It must be appropriate for your audience, and you must do everything to keep children interested in the book as it moves along.

Remember that if children’s books are shorter, each word will have more value. So you need to think carefully about what you include in the book. Just because it is short doesn’t mean it is easy.

Do You Need To Write Every Day?

As you go through your writing process, you can’t force yourself to write when the creative juices are not flowing, or the quality of your work will suffer significantly. Every author is different, but you should have a goal in mind. As a beginning author, you should aim for a few weekly writing sessions. You are on the right track if you can write approximately 500 words every session.

As you become a more experienced writer, you might be able to write 500 words every day. The point is that you do not want to overwhelm yourself. Once you find a schedule that works for you, you might be able to write more words in a single session. Then, based on this information, you can figure out how long it will take to write a book. If you can write 500 words every day, it will take you a few months to finish a novel that is 50,000 words or more.

Just remember that when you are writing, quality matters more than quantity. You should always focus on trying to get the most out of every word instead of simply trying to fill up the pages. 

Is NaNoWriMo Good Practice?

If you want to write your first book as quickly as possible, you might be interested in participating in something called NaNoWriMo. This is an event that takes place every year. During this event, writers try to complete a 50,000-word novel every month. It can be a great source of inspiration if you want to write quickly, as there is tremendous community support. However, if you feel you are up to the intensity, you may want to try it.

You need to think carefully before you decide to participate in this event. Remember that it is an event that encourages you to write quickly, not necessarily to write better. If you push yourself through your first draft, you may have to spend much more time editing. Overall, it may take you longer to finish your novel because you may cut a significant amount of content from your first draft, which might be a mess.

If you need a source of encouragement to start writing, you might want to participate in this event. On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to reduce the time you spend editing, this might not be a suitable event for you. Every writer is different, and you must consider what works best for your style.

Ways To Save Time While Writing

As you get more experienced, you might look for ways to expedite the writing process. Ultimately, perfect practice will make you a better writer, and as you become a better writer, you should reduce the time it takes to write a novel. There are a few tips you may want to follow that can prove helpful. They include:

1. Hold Yourself Accountable

To become a better writer, you need to hold yourself accountable. This means that you need to take responsibility for your writing process. You can hold yourself accountable with goals, regular feedback, and reminders on your phone. You might even want to find an accountability partner who can help you. This means that you may want to find a partner who is also going through the writing process. Just as you may have someone who goes to the gym with you, you should also have someone who writes with you. That way, you can encourage each other along the way and keep writing even when you don’t feel like it.

2. Set Deadlines 

You need to set deadlines and track your progress along the way. You must have a concrete plan for finishing your novel, which is where progress trackers can be helpful. For example, you might have a goal to finish one chapter of your book weekly. That way, you should be able to finish your novel in a few months. At the same time, you cannot force a book out of your creative process. You need to be forgiving from time to time. After all, some chapters are longer than others, so some chapters will take you longer to finish. Have deadlines that encourage you to keep writing, but don’t force it if it isn’t there. 

3. Quality Over Quantity

Remember that quality is always better than quantity. Just about anybody can write 50,000 words quickly, but it takes a truly talented writer to take those words and turn them into a cohesive novel. As long as you are making progress, you are on the right track. Do not hesitate to go back and edit your work if you feel like you can make something better. 

4. Take Breaks

Everyone needs to take a break from time to time. You might need a break to drink water, walk outside, or catch up with a family member or friend. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, and you certainly don’t have to write every day; however, you don’t want to take a break for more than a few days. If you get out of rhythm, your flow will be off, and you will have difficulty getting yourself back in the right frame of mind to create a cohesive story. 

5. Follow an Outline

If you want to write more quickly, always work from an outline. For some people, writing from an outline is like second nature; however, it is the only way to move your work forward. Your outline doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. You certainly don’t want to include irrelevant content that you will end up cutting later. On the other hand, you need all of the individual parts of your book to fit together. An outline will show how the individual chapters relate to each other. Always use an outline if you want your writing process to go faster.

How Long Should You Spend on the Editing Process?

After a few writing sessions, you may have a draft you can start editing. Whether you are writing a nonfiction book, a collection of short stories, or a science fiction book, the next step in the publishing process is proofreading and editing. The time it takes to edit your first novel will probably be significant. You haven’t gone through the process before and might want to work with a professional editor who can help you.

It may take several months to finish editing a new book, but your writing habits will improve as you write more. You will be able to anticipate parts of your book that might get cut during the editing process, and you can be proactive about removing them as you write your next book. The editing process will depend on the type of book you write.

To learn more, read our guide explaining what is a plot? We cover the basics for novelists and storytellers.

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.