How long does it take to write a book?

  • The book-writing timeline differs from author to author. It depends on everything from how much time you can set aside for writing, to how many words you’re able to write during each session.
  • A first draft typically takes anywhere from 2 months to 1 year to write. The length and complexity of your book will also impact how long it takes to write.
  • You can improve the efficiency and speed of your writing. Eliminate distractions, track your time, and get organised to make the most of your writing sessions.

Writing a book is one of the most creative forms of self-expression. It's also one of the best ways to tell a story and provides an experience that visual media simply can't replicate.

It’s probably one of those things that we all want to do at some point but rarely get to. Also, for better or worse, many people are spending time at home due to the pandemic and self-publishing has seen an increase in interest.

So, how long does it take to write a book? Here’s what you should keep in mind and hopefully motivate you to start writing, or keep working on your book.

How long does it take to write a book from start to finish?

The amount of time it takes to write a book could range anywhere from 2-3 months to over a year! But the real answer really is that it depends.

Since there are so many factors at play, it’s hard to give a definitive answer to this question.

The book-writing timeline is often dictated by:

  • How much time you can set aside for writing.
  • How many words you’re actually able to write during each session.
  • How much research is required for your story.
  • How many edits and revisions your draft needs at the end.

Also, here's another useful guide if you're wondering how many chapters your book should be.

What’s the average book length?

The average length of a book is 400 pages. That’s around 100,000 words. This is according to a study which looked at 2,500 books in the New York Times bestseller list.

Most novels have between 70,000 and 110,000 words. A single novel can be longer, but once the length is above110,000 words, publishers may look at cutting it back.

That’s unless it is a particular kind of book genre, such as fantasy, historical or sci-fi which tend to be longer as a lot of world-building is involved. Such books are usually considered 'epics'.

How much can you write per day?

It’s makes sense to have some idea of how much you can expect to write every day so you can plan around your other commitments.

Stephen King has claimed to write 2000 words a day but most new writers end up writing around the 500 – 1000 words a day mark.

Here’s how long it will take you to write a book if you aimed to write 500 words a day:

  • 40,000 – 60,000 words: 500 words/day = 80 to 120 days
  • 60,000 – 100,000 words: 500 words/day = 120 to 200 days
  • 100,000 – 120,000 words: 500 words/day = 200 to 240 days

This means if you are really committed, you can write your ‘epic’ novel in under a year!

Writing aside, nuances associated with finishing touches(working with a publisher, designing the cover, figuring out the cost of self-publishing, etc.)will also take some time. But if you’ve reached that stage, you’ll be on the final stretch to self-publishing!

So, someone who is able to write fairly quickly on a topic they already fully understand could finish the project with relative ease. This is especially true if they edit and polish each chapter as they go.

An author who is attempting to build a fantasy world and write an expansive story in it will likely need to spend far more time.

How to be more efficient and speed up your writing

If you’re looking for ways to optimise your writing so you can get more done in the least amount of time possible, follow those tips:

  1. Work somewhere comfortable and eliminate distractions.
  2. Use distraction free book-writing apps (or at least close every app but Word).
  3. Work from an outline so you know exactly what you’re going to be writing about.
  4. Be strict with recording your progress and tracking your time.
  5. Be ready and become comfortable with staying ‘no’ to other activities.
  6. Organise your research and notes with a system that works for you.
  7. Don’t take too many days off writing between sessions.

It really boils down to consistency and staying focused. If you can fit in a writing session every day with the odd day off, then you’ll be on your way to success.

How long did famous authors take to write their books?

It’s not uncommon for professional authors to spend a large amount of time on a single book.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald took nearly 3 years to write The Great Gatsby.
  • J.K. Rowling also famously took nearly 6 years to finish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
  • J.R.R Tolkien took 16 years the finish the epic Lord Of The Rings.
  • Ray Bradbury took 2.5 weeks to write Fahrenheit 451.
  • Stephenie Meyer took 3 months to write Twilight.
  • George R.R. Martin took 5 years to write A Game of Thrones (we’re still waiting for Winds of Winter).

If you need a bit of a motivation, Stephen King claims that you should spend no more than three months on the initial draft of your book.  

The key takeaway here is that the sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll hold your book in your hands. So, get started today and get in touch with us when it comes to the design of your book cover!

Advice from a published writer

Dan Leissner, "The Big Farewell"

Unless someone has set you a deadline, it takes as long as it takes. It’s up to you.

Set your own pace and your own method. Don’t be too influenced or intimidated by those who say that they write for so many hours or so many words per day every day. Find a regime that works for you and the way your creative juices flow. I’m not one of those who can write for a set time or a set number of words a day. I try and write a “scene” every day, be it short or long. And if I don’t have the next scene for the next day already in mind, I relax and wait for it to percolate and emerge, which might be the next morning, or after a few days have gone by. That’s how my mind works.

As for extent as a means of determining how long it should take to write a book, again don’t be too influenced or intimidated by the numbers. You may see it said that a novel tends to be between 70,000-100,000 words long. When writing my “noir” crime novel “The Big Farewell” (54,3007 words), I took encouragement from an interview with John le Carré in which he said that when he’d achieved 55,000 words with “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”, he was satisfied. Raymond Chandler's “The Big Sleep” and, Dashiell Hammett's “The Maltese Falcon” both come in at under 59,000 words – exalted company!

So, again, the book is as long or as short as you want it to be. Within reason of course. I decided that “The Big Farewell” was finished when the revisions I was making were so infinitesimal that they were hardly worth making, a word or two here and there.

It took me roundabout eight months to write “The Big Farewell”, although the special circumstances of the pandemic contributed to that. My need to escape from grim reality at every available opportunity, into my make-believe world.

This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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