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How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

How Long Does It Take to Write a Book

The Time Commitment

Writing any book is a process that takes dedicated and sustained effort. That kind of commitment is where most people fail and why most people haven’t written a book. It’s one thing to want to, but it’s another to actually put in the energy and time to be able to do it. How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

Well, that can depend. Some people like to set a certain time each and every day to sit down and write. For example, someone might decide to get up early and write before work from 5 am to 7 am. That makes 2 hours a day, say 5 days a week, 10 hours a week, and then however many weeks that takes…

While having a *specified time each day for writing will help you stay committed to the process*, measuring your progress by hours may not really be the most productive. If you’re focused only on how long you sit in a chair and stare at an empty word document, then you risk not ever actually typing the words out on the page.

The goal of “time at the computer” is where a lot of people fail to write their book. They think that if they sit there long enough, then they will eventually write something amazing in the first draft. But that’s never going to happen. Especially for your first attempt at a book, your first draft is going to be bad. And that’s ok. You can fix it during the *editing phase*. But, you have to get it written first.

Word Count Goals

I still recommend setting a specific time each day to sit down and start writing. Instead of setting a daily commitment of time spent writing, I recommend setting a word count goal. By focusing on deliverables, you force yourself to get those words down (however good or bad those words may be) and actually get the book written.

And though there isn’t any set word count that a type of book has to meet, here are the most average word counts for the most popular genres.

  • Fiction
    • Novellas like Jekyll and Hyde: about 25,000 words
    • Mass market romance book like The Notebook: about 50,000 words
    • Literary fiction novel like All the Pretty Horses: about 100,000 words
    • Epic, world-building work like A Game of Thrones: about 300,000 words
  • Nonfiction
    • Industry and instructional type of books like *Stop Getting Fu*ked by Technical Recruiters: A Nerd’s Guide to Negotiating Salary and Benefits*: about 30,000- 50,000 words
    • Self-help book like The Secret: about 25,000- 40,000 words
    • Memoir like The Glass Castle: about 70,000 words
    • Detailed informational book like Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln: about 350,000 words

As you can see, that’s quite a broad range, and so there’s no one most typical length for any given book. Your book’s length is ultimately determined by how long it takes for you to get across the information and messages needed to your reader without becoming redundant. That determination can clearly become pretty subjective. How can you approximate your word count and ultimately the time it’ll take for you to write your book?

Say you want to write a book based on your expertise as a juvenile therapist to help a working parent connect with their child. Based on average word counts, your book could fall in the 30,000 to 50,000 word count range. That range will produce a book that’s about 125-250 pages, which is nothing intimidating but still respectable.

Ok, so let’s split the difference and call your initial overall word count goal to be about 40,000. Your book may end up being more or less based on what you need to write to get the point across to your reader, and that’s totally fine. This is just your initial goal.

From this initial overall goal, you can divide it into weeks or even to the individual writing sessions. Now, how long it’ll take to write your book is completely dependent on your pacing and *writing schedule*. If you don’t have time to do much more than 4,000 words a week, you’re still going to finish the first draft in about 10 weeks, which is relatively quite quick. If you’re really pushing it at 10,000 words a week (or to break it down further, 2,000 words/5 days a week), you can get your first draft done within a month. Again, it all depends.

Let’s Review

To figure out how long it’ll take to write your book:

  1. Determine your initial overall word count by looking at the average word count for something in your book’s genre.
  2. Break that initial overall word count down into a weekly and/or individual writing session word count goal.
  3. Divide your weekly or individual goal by the overall goal to see how many weeks or “sessions” it will take to get your first draft done.

The formula:




Keep in Mind

Your book’s actual word count is unlikely to actually be your initial word count goal. You may find that your book is “finished” at a much shorter length or that you need to write way more than you had originally thought. Creating a word count goal per week or writing session is ultimately just to keep you focused on actively adding to your draft rather than just sitting at your screen. A goal is not the law, though. Sometimes you may not be able to meet your goal and sometimes you might far exceed it, and that’s ok. The point is to get it done.

Also, remember that a first draft is not the finish line. You still need to go through the *editing process* and the *other steps* needed to turn that manuscript into an actual book. This can take weeks or even months. But the faster that you can finish your first draft, the faster that you can get to the rest.


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