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 think it depends on the story. You can try to get every story you write done in a certain amount of time, (and some very disciplined seasoned authors do) but I haven't reached this level yet (lol) but every story is different, characters are different and plots are different. Sometimes the story comes easy and sometimes it needs time to cook. I feel like if you rush it (or try to squeeze it into too tight of a schedule) you can psych yourself out and jeopardize the creative flow. But, after saying all that....I do think it is imperative to have a deadline. Some end date in sight. Otherwise, it will never get done. For my most recent book, I would say it took about 9 months to a year--but that wasn't writing every day. The White Wolf Origins Book 1 of the Werewolf Queen Trilogy by Jennifer Rhae Jennifer Rhae

Well I learnt a lot about writing. It is not a walk in the park. I recently started to write my first book but from what I've read about writing a book here today, I am actually nowhere near to the end. And it's not easy as I thought it would have be but I make sure I write as much as I can think of every single day. Me thinks what makes it hard for me to write, is that I want to write in english of which is not my home language. However I love it so much. I've been inpired in english

deleted user I can relate to this! English is my second language too, and I love writing in English. Of course, it's a bigger challenge and many more difficulties ...more
Feb 14, 2018 11:23PM · flag

I read "On Writing" three times. I am publishing my first book on July 4th. It took me three months to write the 110K word novel (now 75K once it reached my publishers hands). But it was the editing that took the longest--about a year and a half. This is with working a full-time job. Weekends were prime time for me to write. I think it depends on your writing style. For fiction, I found that having hours and hours to write at once was more beneficial to doing 30 mins here, an hour there...etc.

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.

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'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.

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.

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.

It depends on the book for me but I think 6 months, including rewrites and so forth might be about average.

One Labor Day weekend about ten years ago I participated in a 'Labor Day Weekend Book' contest ... starting Saturday morning, you had three days (the long weekend) to write a first draft and send it in on Tuesday ... I prepared as little as I could to try and 'play fair' (unfortunately, when the winners were announced I found out others did not play fair, including the winner who wrote a book about his family immigrating to the USA, etc, that he had researched for several years ... I thought it was more about creating fast and furious but still it was fun) ... I had my character names (I'm pretty picky about my character names so that does take what might be an unusual amount of time for most writers) and a general idea where I was going ... a lot changed along the way, as it always seems to, but I hammered out about 160,000 words by Monday night ... it was fun to do tho it required a great amount of coffee and cigarettes lol ... but you do end up with at least a decent first draft to work with :)

It took me five weeks to write 37682 words. Is that fast or slow?

U 25x33
John Hamilton That's a little over 1,000 words for a 5-day workweek. That seems like a good Klick (speed), to me. ...more
Jul 24, 2018 02:42AM

Last year I wrote the first three full-length novels in a new series in about six months. These flowed easily for some reason, unlike any previous book I had written. That said, last year I also finished a book that I had been working on for over 14 years. It was a hard sci-fi thriller and kept getting set aside when stronger ideas emerged.

It depends on the subject and how often you go back and re-edited your work. Plus if your a plotter or a pantser I think would make up the difference also. I finished a first draft of one book that I currently have to go back and edit and that took about 4 months but that's only draft 1. It also depends on the amount of time you invest as I currently still hold down a full time job as well as the time i invest in writing.

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.

deleted member (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).

K (last edited May 22, 2017 10:36AM ) Apr 26, 2014 11:27AM   0 votes
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. 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 with full time work. If you can write full time it goes much faster. I feel like I went the speed of light considering the daunting effort writing can be— especially during the editing phase. Don't rush. Don't take too long is my motto. I read somewhere the average is about three years.

Examine this article review and you can learn how to write on your own.

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.

Mihigo (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.

As a writer I have found it difficult to keep writing.
I had started writing some of my books in 2005 time. Though mainly drafting of them. Over time I have added more context to it. Character creation, artwork (Inclusive of cover) Languages.
All fantasy based / multiverse which all links them in some way.
I have been working on a collection of about 14.
It's been tricky due to my mental ups and downs and moving here and there and my living conditions changing a lot. Not to mention lack of concentration.

Not to mention I am very creative with this I have created tracks that are based on three of the books. All symphonic metal / Electrical and deep.

Research is one thing that I find hard to keep in balance. I watch a lot of things and listen to a lot of music as well. So it's very bouncy. At most I write about a paragraph at most a week.

Lets say I have written introduction to one book and it is about 20 A5 pages log. Mainly creature creativity. Introduction to languages. This is book one in the vast collection and so far I am only on chapter IV. This book is the one that I started in 2005 and the drafts for it was put together as poetry format. Which in whole so far is 12 poems. Though due to the soundtrack names and how the tracks develop which is 74 tracks atm. And it confuses the poetry with the events that happen in the music titles.
Writing the main book is only intro and 4 chapters so far and to get to that point has taken a good 3 years. To piece it together.

Yet it's difficult in the aspect that as a multiverse of events that unwind in all the books as well.

For instance the first book will be broken into a trilogy. Then after that there is a smaller book which explains events that cross from one place to another (From space to earth)
Then the forth book so to speak is start of heroes on earth which is 9 books. 8 of which are individual character bios and personal events. Most of those are barely 2 chapters. then a couple are about 5. The 9th of the superhero collection is the closure of all of the books basically and that so far is on chapter 10.

While deep in writing it's been very backwards and forwards. Rechecking certain names and events and places. Not to mention the fact that I write only a little here and there.

The main books I have worked on is book 1 and book 14.
To me writing a book in three years seems a bit rushed. Not saying that people aren't taking all the care they can and putting all there love and heart and soul into it. Just seems that writing a book could take near on twenty years to get it all completely perfect.

Look at how much time it took Tolkien to write and release lord of the rings. He started in uni and the books were released when he was in his 40's (Or older) I can't remember. Yet there's still information that is missing. Though if I remember correctly, it took a few years to get all the editing together.
Also he did a lot of Poetry readings and other projects and moving around as well.

Anyway I just don't know if it's possible to actually put a book together in a short amount of time like 3 years.

deleted member Jan 22, 2015 05:38AM   0 votes
The first draft of a 50k word book will take me about six weeks or a little less. But the editing takes the longest time for me, about three months and that's without too much extra things going on in day to day life.

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 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 found writing my first book much easier than self-publishing and then advertising that my book is out there. And it's a non-fiction. I'm half way through writing a second book because it calms me after trying to market my first. I am much better at writing than marketing apparently. Still need to get the first off the ground though...back to writing lol

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 :)

I write my first draft fast in one month. Then, after about 20 drafts and rewrites I publish. I find that cranking out the first draft in a hurry keeps my momentum going.

Mine is a different scenario. Wrote 3 novels during my senior college. Lost all the manuscripts, now re-writing everything from scratch. The whole trilogy just took me 2 years to make, but this time since i cannot devote full time in writing it might take me much longer.

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.

When I write I have to force myself to write rapidly or I'll lose it. My MS's clock in at around 60k usually give or take five thousand or so and it takes me about two to three weeks for each one.

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.

I wrote the first draft of Petty (96,000 words) in about three months, and it would have been two if I'd not had a baby in the middle. :)

Editing though.... was a nightmare. My editing process will definitely be WAY different for the next book. I should have been able to edit it entirely in about a month, and it took me more like five because I was so inefficient about it.

It depends on the individual. Does that person write for a living or have no other job than to write per hours needed or does the person have a career, family & other things going on in life? That is a large part of how long it takes.

The lesson is not how long but who is qualified for actually getting a book published. NOT MANY. Most want to write yet most can't. Anyone can write a book but very few can write one that gets published then actually sells. We are talking about a tiny handful of people. They have harsh competition or I should say we do since I do this full time.

Most of us are not making fortunes writing. Only a tiny % of writers do that so out of 300 million people; there are a few dozen who do well then a few hundred that earn a great living then a few thousand who make a little money so chances of wining 500k on lottery are higher unfortunately.

Those who want to be writers must be realistic like actors. How many get parts in films to make living? How many become Stars? How many want to vs those who do?

Bad news out of way if you're a really good writer then don't let anything stop you. Never take no for an answer. Learn from things but keep on trying & pushing forward if you know for sure you're good at what you do.

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.

If life didn't get in the way, I could write a novel in approx. 6 months. But, life...

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