write a book

How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

Ann O'Brien

September 8, 2022

How long does it take to write a book? So many things affect that number that it seems impossible to answer. After all, different writers have different speeds, and there is no set schedule for anyone.

However, we’re not going to cop out of an answer by just saying, “It depends.” We’ve analyzed several factors based on the experiences of experienced writers, first-time authors, and self-published writers, and we’ve determined that it takes six months to a year to write a book.

Here’s a look at the numbers in detail.

Average Speed Based on Word Count

Can you calculate how long to write a book by word count?

Let’s assume you write 500 words a day. That’s a reasonable goal for any writer, including someone who has to write after taking care of a job, family, and other responsibilities. If you write 500 words a day, here’s how long it takes to write a book at the following word counts.

  • 30,000 – 50,000 words: 500 words/day = 60 – 100 days
  • 50,000 – 80,000 words: 500 words/day = 100 – 160 days
  • 80,000 – 100,000 words: 500 words/day = 160 – 200 days

That means you’re looking at a super-fast speed of two months for a writer who produces high-quality work at a consistent pace to 8 months or more for someone who may not write every day and whose work requires a few revisions.

It depends on:

  • How often you write
  • How much of your daily 500-word output requires editing
  • How experienced you are at writing
  • Whether you need to do a lot of research while you’re writing

Factors That Affect How Long Writing a Book Takes

If you’re planning to write a book, it’s safe to set aside about a year from start to finish. If you finish sooner, that’s great. If you think there’s no way you can finish a book in a year, don’t put pressure on yourself.

You should also consider these factors that affect how fast you write:

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

We’ll look at each of these in detail.

Genre

The genre of book you write determines how many words you should plan to write. While there are some variations among publishers, the following word counts are considered the industry standard for most books in each genre.

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 and 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

Writing speed

Some writers are fast, and others are slow. While speed improves with experience, writing is not like a construction project or learning a software program. It requires time for reflection, contemplation, and testing out new words and phrases. You can’t rush creativity.

Some writers seem to get a stream of great ideas that flow from their minds to the page. Others need time to gather and shape their ideas. They take tons of notes, spend time observing the world, and only begin writing when they have a clear idea of what they want to put down on paper.

Which type of writer are you? You have to work with the skills you have. You didn’t decide to write a book because you wanted to sound like someone else. You have your own creative voice and vision.

You should also consider:

Are you writing all your drafts on a word processor, or are you writing the first draft by hand? Some authors prefer to write longhand, even though it takes longer. They say they get better material this way. Others, however, have fast-flying fingers that can type as quickly as they think.

If you’re a slow typist, work on developing that skill. It can make a huge difference in how quickly your book starts to come together. There are many online exercises and games designed to increase your speed on the keyboard. Getting faster will pay off by cutting the time you need to get down those words and finish that book.

Experience

Experience matters in writing just as it does in every professional or creative pursuit. Once you have written one book, it is much easier to write the second and third ones. You’ve figured out how to set up a writing routine, you know what times of day work best for your writing, and you have become accustomed to a regular writing schedule.

If you’re a first-time author, how long should it take? Here’s what we’ve heard from first-time, self-published authors we’ve worked with. These are the average times they told us it took to write their first book. Note that these times don’t include printing, they only refer to writing book.

  • 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.

Time Available

How much time do you have to write each day? If you want to reach a goal of 500 words a day, how many hours do you need? Some fast, experienced writers can write 500 words in an hour. Others might take four times as long.

Again, it’s not a competition, but you must be realistic about what you can do in the time you have. Most writers have jobs, families, friends, hobbies, and other things that take up time from writing. How much time can you devote to your book?

Aim to be as productive as possible, even if you don’t always hit that 500-word-a-day goal. Maybe you can only consistently produce 250 words a day. It doesn’t matter. You will still get there, even if it takes you a little longer than you originally planned.

Revisions

You may be producing a lot of writing, but is all of it good? Experienced, professional writers who regularly get published usually produce a lot of usable material. Even the best writers, however, need revisions, editing, and polishing.

Writing a book means writing a first draft and at least one other revision. How long to write a book depends on how many versions you write until you create the final version that you plan to publish.

How Long Did Your Favorite Book Take?

Are you curious about how long it took certain famous books to be written? Here are some favorite books and how long the authors took to produce them:

  • “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn – 3 years
  • “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger – 4 years
  • “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell – 10 years
  • “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling – 6 years
  • “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens – 6 weeks
  • “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien – 2 years
  • “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming – 2 months
  • “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer – 3 months

Tips to Writing Book Faster

1. Write every day

Get in the habit of carving out time to write, even if it’s just for 10 minutes at a time. Any time you can devote to writing will help you improve your speed and keep you in the habit of writing. Don’t worry about word count until you have a schedule and routine in place.

2. Use strategic deadlines

Strategic deadlines work better than a strict deadline that says, “I must finish this book by this date.” Instead, use a series of strategic deadlines that help move you toward your goal.

Set short-term goals. Break up your book into one or two parts. Focus on completing the first part, and don’t worry about the rest of the book right now. Only go onto the next part when you’ve finished this.

Be realistic. Work hard, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t meet a set daily goal right away. Focus on goals that are manageable for you.

Reward yourself. Each time you make progress, remind yourself how far you’ve come. Give yourself a small reward for reaching each milestone.

Shake things up

Once you have a routine in place and you’re regularly hitting your goals, change things up with some fun challenges. They will keep you on your toes and help speed up the writing.

Increase your word count goal. Are you regularly hitting 500 or 1,000 words a day? See if you can double it.

Cut out distractions. Turn off the phone, TV, and radio while you’re working. See how much that improves your productivity.

Allow a new person to read your first, unfinished draft. This will give you a fresh perspective on your writing.

Get It Printed

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to writing a book. If you need help getting it printed, talk to Publishing Xpress.

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