On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft On Writing question

How long does it take you to write a book?
David Lucero David Mar 13, 2013 01:12PM
People have asked me this question and my answer is about 6 months to a year for a manuscript. This depended on my schedule, but my current job for the past four years is a set schedule allowing me to be a family man, do my share around the house, and also write.

I usually rewrite my manuscript twice or more before sending it to the editor, which could take up to a year for completion. Then creating a book cover, signing contract, marketing, etc. I figure at my pace I can release a new book every three years.

I've been asked, "Why don't you make a living as a writer?"

My response: "It wouldn't be fair to my wife to lower our living standards."

How about you? How long does it take for you to write a book?Who's Minding the Store?

I'm working on feeling "finished"; I don't really know how that feels.

Like everybody is saying, it really takes different lengths of time. My first book, Riddle in Stone (shameless plug!!) took five years to write (it's dark fantasy, by the way). Every day, I wrote for at least fifteen minutes. It was going to be a short story for my son but got out of hand:)

The second book, Betrayal in the Highlands (another shameless plug!) will be out in September and it took about ten months to write.

However, a better question is... How long does it take to write a GOOD book? That I don't know.

Farida Akberali Lol.. way to go on the "shameless plug"! I just looked up your books, because I was curious, and am already taken in by the summary!! Just the type of...more
May 13, 2014 12:03PM

I am not writing anymore, but when I was writing, it was hard to stop once I got rolling with an idea. I churned out a short YA (60K words) in a week once, but I was typing 12-16 hrs a day during that time.
On average, it took me about a 1-2 months to write a first draft, and a year to do all the rewrites, edits, revisions, etc.

I wrote three 100,000 word fantasy novels in three years. I'm writing the fourth and final book in the series now. I've sent a query to a literary agent for the first one. I should hear back soon.

From when I first conceived the idea for my first book to when it was released took about five years. Not all of that was just writing of course, a lot of it was figuring out how to do it. Now, it's been a year and half now and I am nearly done the last of my re-writes for my second book, which is a sequel to the first. Finding the time is the biggest thing for me (times like now, with my wife at work and son napping are quite rare.). I faced rejections with a few agents but never went to traditional publishers. I decided to go the self-publishing route.

I agree with you, Anne, that writing the rough draft does not take much time. It's the re-write that takes the most work for me, too.

Nicholas (last edited Dec 05, 2013 09:57AM ) Dec 05, 2013 09:55AM   0 votes
I'll embark on writing my first novella next semester (an expansion of a short story I wrote this semester). I've set my goal over the semester break at minimum of 500 words per day at about 5 days a week. In my experience, sometimes 500 words can feel like 500,000 words and sometimes it feels like 5. However, after I'm finished writing for the day, I'll start the next day with a re-read of what I wrote the previous day and do some editing. This way I'm constantly reminded where I'm picking up. Sometimes this revising gets a little out of hand. I don't even necessarily write "the next paragraph" or chapter, I'll write another 500 words sometimes in the middle of the piece I wrote the day before. Just depends what ideas I get. And how much of them I get. I'm the kind of person that'll spend MUCH MORE time thinking about what I'm going to write rather than actually typing or writing. Also, I like to write long-hand in notebooks, then type-revise at a later time. As you can see, I get most of my new ideas re-reading what i've previously written. I'd like to know other people's ideas about this, especially people who have written long pieces before. This is my first attempt, as I said and I'm primarily a poet (yucky, I know).

With writing I think its important not to rush, but don't take forever either. It took me over three years to write and edit three Novella's that are each between 50,000 -70,000 words. I work a full time job, I'm married, have children etc. and I think people greatly underestimate the drive it took to complete these books. I feel like I went the speed of light considering the work and the daunting effort writing can be— especially during the editing phase. But after my experience, I feel writing is the most rewarding and creative thing a person can ever do. My first book was a learning curve and I wound up rewriting the entire draft over after seeing how much better my second book was, but the pain was worth it. They are a trilogy but each book had to stand alone as its own story which made things a bit more difficult. Don't rush. Don't take too long is my motto. I read somewhere the average is about three years. I plan to keep going.

I've written the outline to my fantasy novel three or four times over the last 5 years but was never happy with it. This time I have started from scratch and hope to have my debut novel out by the end of 2014 (work and life in general, permitting!)

My first took about 16 months for the rough draft; lots of research; polished over next 20 years (The Last Day). Still not perfect, of course. My last one (Reluctant Intern) took 4 months for rough draft. Not much research necessary for that one -- all in my head since internship.

It usually takes me about a week to write the outline, and then a month to write the first draft of a new mystery, but it takes about 6 months to do the revisions. I like getting the story out quickly, because it helps with continuity, and then taking my time to make sure it's working. My agent usually doesn't see it until around draft 8 or 9.

Great info shared! We all have common passion for writing. I probably could have released my latest book in 2 years, but my publisher had contracts with other authors, too, so we all most likely will come across that as well.

Keep on writing and sharing!


It varies. My first published novel took 17 months to write, and that was with several off months peppered throughout the process.

My second novel took six months to write, start to finish.

Novel #3 was actually my first completed novel and has been in various stages of completion for seven years.

Robat (last edited Oct 30, 2013 02:01PM ) Oct 30, 2013 01:45PM   0 votes
i haven't written a book, am just writting one now, and want to finish it in 6-8months; that includes 1st draft, editing and final copy. i know its going to be hard task but am ready to embark on it and hopefully get it done.

My recently completed memoir ROCKET MOMMA took 12 years to write. Writing about life with my bipolar-manic mother was at times traumatic. I had to stop writing, regroup, and restart. By the time I finished, it was liberating. It is currently being submitted to publishers by my agent.

Took me 2 1/2 years to start and finish my book: Instant Connections, Essays and Interviews on Photography. It actually took longer to edit the book than it did to write it.

It took me almost two years to write and edit my first novel 'Collision - A Sci-Fi Romance'. It didn't have to take that long, but I was determined it had to be the best I could produce. It was also and enormous learning experience. I had written and produced six text books before, but never a novel. And during the process I must have read every 'how to' book on writing fiction. There was also a lot to learn in becoming and indie author all of which is time consuming. My next book, I'm working on, I expect to take a year. I could do it in less if I wanted to, but quality is more important to me than speed or word count.

Takes me around three or four months each time, other factors vary but I usually try for 2000 words a day, but that might vary from 1000 to 4000 depending on the day in question, so it evens out.

I've finished 4, with one being released at the end of the month and am in the middle of a 5th one. I write a few scripts and poems and stuff inbetween but I basically force myself to write for at least 2 hours a day, no matter what happens, so I really churn it out!

I don't know how ya'll do it that fast. My first book has been 10 years and three revisions in the making. Two of mine are ideas I started as college papers and two are NaNo novels that took a month to write a very rough draft. The biggest problem is that I get to a certain point and then I can't keep going and then I get other ideas and start working on those.... One of these days I'll finish one of my projects.

I've come to this late, so apologies.
It varies, but on average I manage to write 3 books in a year. I have to. I'm old. Time is running out. The intitial draft can be from six to eight weeks, but the re-drafting, editing, polishing, call it what you will, will take considerably longer. Then I submit it, and if it's accepted, I'll work with the editor on the final copy. BUT, whilst this is happening, I am of course writing another novel. As soon as I complete one novel, I embark on another. I do not have a break as I am forever thinking up plot outlines. My first book was published in 2009 and by the end of this year I will have 16 books published, so that is above my goal of 3 per year. But as my interests change, so has the length of my books. And the longer the book, the more work it entails. Fortunately, I love it and do not see it as work at all. That is why I write so fast on the first draft. I simply write. All the thinking, stress and worries occur during the re-drafting stage! And then, they get worse!

I am working on a novel that I am projecting will take about 9 months. There was a two month halt in the middle though. Nothing was written in this period at all. I'm now at the halfway point. The final book should be around 75 or 80 thousand words and I'm not counting time for an editor, cover artist, or revisions. That being said, if I can produce one book a year that others enjoy reading, I will be happy.

I was collecting notes, journals and small ideas for around 2 years before the idea of 'organizing' it into a book took form. After that I think I wrote with the final book in mind for 6 months and then the editing and last re-writing took around 6 months. So I guess you can say 3 years actually. Wow, it sounds like forever when I think of it like this :)
Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps by Charlotte Eriksson - Charlotte Eriksson, author of Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

Sounds like Jason has a good plan to keep the words flowing. I'm taking the month off from writing to go to Europe next week, but I'll be making notes I'm sure.

Lee (last edited Apr 05, 2013 08:16AM ) Apr 05, 2013 08:13AM   0 votes
Years - and more. So far. I am horrible. I'm part way through a dozen books and am trying now to stay focused and actually finish one.

remarks about stuff I see above -

"some self published authors say it doesn't take that long to edit" ... I couldn't help but draw the conclusion that more editing might lead to a more satisfactory conclusion than self publishing. Not judging, just thinking out loud here.

"I can write a 30 -40,000 word book in two-three weeks" ... that's not even close to being novel length. NANOWRIMO is a 50,000 word commitment, and that's about bare bones, almost needs to be published as art a two part book or something length. BUT, arguing against my own point, if you tell a good story in 20,000 words, publishing electronically sort of takes the "teeny little book" stigma off shorter novels. IMHO

"The one I finished last year in November had about 177,000 words." ... Bravo. now that's what a book looks like! Though how you did it in a month boggles my mind.

As a children's book author, so far my experience has been like a 1-2 months.

The process involves getting the idea, writing, sending it to my editor to make the manuscript readable, sending my illustrator detailed instructions for each image in the book, putting it all together and getting it published.

It takes me about 6-9 months from first idea/planning stages to publication. I don't have a day job, so I spend a solid six hours a day on it. Actually writing the rough draft takes no time, but I always start with notes and an outline (which take considerably longer than the rough draft) and then the revision process is a killer...I do it all myself, and hold my breath with the beta readers, but it's my job, and I take it seriously. I do write shorter fiction: one's novella length, and the longest is 80,000 words. They're contemporary romance though, so they don't require too terribly twisty plots.

It took me just six weeks to write my first novel, 'Home Run' which was then accepted by a publisher here in Australia.

My next three novels were in production for periods ranging from three to ten years and are still awaiting a home with a traditional publisher.

Maybe there is a lesson for me there somewhere :)

The Z Redemption by Daniel Wetta

The total process for my novel, including research and submission to an editor, took close to two years. The novel contains 154k words. However, there was a lot of research. Since much of the story takes place in Mexico, I used Spanish primary sources (newspapers and history books). Although I am fluid in Spanish, this was slow going at first. For the authenticity of a crucial kidnapping scene, I actually went to Monterrey, Mexico (where I used to live) and photographed and timed an enactment of the scene.

Rewriting and editing was ongoing as I wrote. My editor stayed on top of the various versions, and then we spent a few days together reviewing what became the final manuscript.

Although The Z Redemption is a stand alone novel, I developed the characters in depth and detail so that I could used a few of them in a second novel which I am now beginning. I am much more experienced now. I am shooting to write a 90k word first draft in about four months, and then spend about two months in rewriting and final editing.

I'm nearly finished with a novel that I've been working on for about 14 months. I spent many years working on dozens of stories, most unfinished. Nothing easy about this business, but it sure does feel good when you finally write the end.

A: On Writing is incredible--thank you S.K. for putting it out there.

B: Mine took about three months, but it was my first and I was doing the teacher-with-the-summer-off daddy daycare, so I only wrote 1-2k words a day, sneaking it in when while the kids were in the sandbox, etc. With re-writes and editing, though, about a year for a final draft.

The book I just released this month (Book 2 in my series) took about 8 months from start to publication. This includes revisions, editor feedback, and beta reader feedback. 8 months was a big improvement over the my first book, which I worked on and off through the years.

I'm currently working on my 3rd book, which I anticipate taking 6 or 7 months. I've found that doing the research and outline ahead of time keeps me from wondering what I should be working on. My first two book lengths were about 100K and the 3rd book will be at least that long.

I am not a full-time author so I fit this in the early morning hours when I'm fresh and the brain will work for me, especially during the 1st draft phase. 5AM start time and 6:30AM finish (My kids start getting up by then). I will try to fit some time during lunch. Weekends I take off mostly or keep it light with some planning for the next week.

I can write a 30 -40,000 word book in two-three weeks (working 8 hour days) but as others have pointed out, the editing takes far longer!

Kirsten (last edited Mar 14, 2013 06:53AM ) Mar 14, 2013 06:51AM   0 votes
Just came across this bit from an interview with Neal Pollack (it's Pollack speaking):

This a quote from A.J. Liebling that says, “I can write better than anybody who can write faster and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.” So I want to try and apply that math to my own life.

That's pretty much my goal, too.

That said, I think the fastest I've ever written a book -- from first notes to publication ready -- is probably about 2 years, not counting breaks.

That's working a day job.

My current working theory is that one reason it takes so long is that I don't invest enough up front in planning.

It's a lot more time-consuming to revise a book to fix fundamental issues (e.g. poor plotting, unrealized character motivation) than to fix surface issues.

So as I look to my next novel, I'm going to work more of it out in advance, before I really start committing anything to "paper," and see if that helps me push through the process a bit more efficiently.


My first book took me around three to four years of writing, on and off, with large gaps where I was too busy to write anything. Editing was a few months, and then self-publishing a couple of weeks.

I am determined to finish my WIP in three or so months, as Stephen King suggests, but I imagine the revisions will take a while longer. I would be disappointed if I didn't have a workable draft by the end of the year.

Three months, four max. Doesn't matter about the length, I tend to write faster when it's longer. My books range between 70 and 190k. That 190k one took the longest, pretty much bang on four months.

Editing and all the other boring stuff can easily double that time, though, plus I leave a couple of months between writing it and editing it, to give it time to settle.

It took me a year to write my first book.

My first book one year, i was cruising. My second books five years. It depends on research time

I began WWIV-In The Beginning July 14, 2013.

I published it on Amazon March 28, 2014.

That's 8 and 1/2 months.

Looks pretty much in line with what everyone else has written thus .

e a lake

I first draft in about three weeks.
I'll normally put it aside for a few months, so I wouldn't count that in production time.
I then take maybe a month to first edit, and another month or so for second, third and fourth edit, which will include using feedback from my editor.
I'll try and get cover art, blurb etc done during that time, so probably three months in total.

a year including the editing process

My first novel was my vehicle for learning to write, which begins to explain eighteen years. A further explanation is that I was taking the time to create a story that would be my gift back to the horror genre. The final portion of the answer is that I write differently from many others and my process simply takes longer. My second novel took about five years. My third novel will end up at about four years.

When I begin a story I start with a basic concept, some appropriate characters and turn it all over to my imagination. I check in with my magic genie every few days to view the short movie clips that have been prepared for me. My job as a writer is to convert those movies into words so that I can show the reader what my imagination shows me. Because of the way I do this I'm often surprised by dialog and actions of my characters. Occasionally I have a minor background character step up into the main cast and affect the story. I never know the end beyond the most general terms. The bad guy gets it, but I don't know how or where until it is shown to me.

After reading "On Writing" I disciplined myself to carve out time with two young children and a disabled wife. Yes, those almost 2000 creative words a day can come by losing sleep for 8-10 weeks five days a week. Besides, unless you're self-publishing, you won't be required to complete more than one book per year because the publisher doesn't want the marketing energy for the current book to lose steam and be directed onto a new book out of your box. If you are self-publishing, you can do what you want. I'll have put three out by the end of this year!

I wrote my first book after reading On Writing and The Writing Life. It takes me about six months to write one book.

i agree it takes time, i started one the day before yesterday... not a horror novel or anything, but started one and wrote for 10 hours straight only producing 33 typed pages in MS Word (15,800 words). However, i have to wait for my co-author to write before we can edit the pages and either add or subtract content to continue.

S.R. Karfelt That's a lot of words for ten hours! I'm impressed! You go girl!
Jul 26, 2014 12:10AM

It took me three years to write my first novel. I think I could have saved some time had used a formal outline. I finally self published it after I sent out about 30 queries to various agencies with no luck. The funny thing is, it is getting very good reviews here on Goodreads which I am so grateful for. I think I decided to self publish because I wanted feedback about my writing from readers. That being said, I would still like to be picked up by a traditional publisher. Does anyone know if this is possible? Running for Yellow by Christina Varrasso

I'm all over the place on this one. The first two volumes of Stagehands took five years. The third one is still unfinished after ten. Fairies took a year and a half. Swamp Witch took three months of frenetic typing during a slow period at work. Solomon Family Warriors took about six years interspersed with other projects. Heron Baby Island took two years. Citrus Sanctuary took one, Murder As An Element of Competitive Business Strategy took almost a year. I have two that I started over a year ago that are still not finished. One of these has fewer than ten pages written and I don't particularly like those.

So, the answer for me is that there is no answer.

Looking at my last two books, I wrote Angels and Their Hourglasses in 6 weeks. It was 600 pages, and then my editor and I pared it down to 410 pages over the next year and 2 months or so.
My newest book - T.I.T.O.R. - took longer to write, but less time to edit. In both cases, the approximate total time until it was what I would call a "finished product" was about a year and a half. I'd say that a year to two years is fairly typical in my case.

It took me about a year to write the first one. I was so obsessed with editing, I'm sure I took longer than I needed to. By the second book, I was much more confident in my approach and didn't self-edit the book to death. It took about 6 months.

I can write a first cut of a 100,000 word novel in three months. Editing and so forth takes longer of course. I am hoping to write (to completion) one 100,000 word novel and one 25,000 word novella each year.

Who is minding the store? ME! I work full-time as a lawyer and have two kids, my husband also works full-time. I am lucky enough to be able to write on my commute.

Most writers don't make a living from their work because there just isn't enough money in it.

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