Fiction editing

How long does it take to write a book?

How long does it take to write a book

One of the most common questions people ask me is ‘How long will it take me to write a book?’

Of course, it would be easy to say, ‘How long is a piece of string?’, but that’s not going to help them make a decision about whether to invest their time.

The truth is that how long it will take varies from person to person, but there are a few factors that will influence your writing speed. I want to highlight a few of them here so you can decide whether writing a book is a commitment you can take on.

Bear with me – these factors may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many new authors don’t take them into account.

1.The Length of the Book

It goes without saying that the longer your book, the longer it will take you to write.

So, as the length of your book will have the biggest impact on how long it will take you to write it, let’s first consider how long your book needs to be.

When I work with a new author – or any author for that matter – we take plenty of time right at the beginning to think about the reader.

How long does your reader want your book to be? How much time do they have? Writing for millennials who do not have children and enjoy plenty of leisure time is not the same as writing for high-pressured sales teams who are constantly on the road.

One method I use to discover more about what readers want is to research other books in the genre. You can do this too. Read online reviews; what are they saying? If reviewers criticise a 300-page book for being too long, there is a gap in the market for a shorter book that deals with that subject. Do your homework before you plan your book, as you may not need to write as much as you thought.

Another thing worth remembering is that most business books are only between 30,000 and 40,000 words. On my coaching programme, a lot of authors write this type of book in around 4 months. But what if you have a lot to say? How can you get everything into 30,000 words? That is where planning comes in. Structuring your book properly will show you what needs to stay in and what can be cut out. One thing you can be sure of: distilling your ideas into their shortest, most powerful form will not only make your book a shorter one – it will make it a better one.

2.Your Other Commitments

Before I start work with any author, I try to find out about their working life. What are their other commitments? How much spare time do they have to write?

If you want to discover whether you have time to write a book, ask yourself if you could write one page a day. That’s around 500 words, or an average blog post. Could you do that 5 days a week? If so, you’ll be writing 2,500 words a week. And after 16 weeks (4 months), this will turn into a 40,000-word book.

Of course, some days you will write 500 words in an hour and some days it will take you 3 – your frame of mind and the subject you are tackling all play a part. Try timing how long it takes you to write a blog piece – then you will get an idea of whether you can dedicate yourself to writing that number of words 5 days a week.

3.How Much Research you Need to Do

Research can kill books.

Many an author has spent so long conducting ‘research’ that they never get around to writing. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t research your book of course – but you need to know how long that is likely to take you.

Try splitting your content into three groups – topics you need to research, topics you know so well you can just write, and topics you can re-purpose from material you have already written. This ‘Research/Write/ Re-purpose’ method will show you how much new material you need to source. And that will give you an idea of how long your book will take you.

A word to the wise though – be strict about your research time. Limit it to a set number of hours each week, or it will be a barrier to writing your book, not a help. As a guide, I recommend setting aside 10 hours a week to write and 2 hours a week for research. Keeping the ratio 5:1 like this will ensure you stay focused on writing.

Have you written a book? How long did it take you? Feel free to share your tips and tricks!


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