You have dreamed about writing a book while working a full-time job, but every time you sat down to begin the project, you became overwhelmed by the scope of the undertaking. You may have sat at your desk attempting to calculate the time commitment and then simply given up before you even started. So, exactly how long does it take to write a book, anyway?

The answer to the question is (drum roll): It depends.

Each author approaches the book writing process with his or her unique work habits, writing skills, and goals, which significantly influence the timeline. Someone who is initially highly committed to the project may find themselves languishing because they did not set up a daily writing schedule to keep them on track. Another writer may have attempted to write their novel without first developing a book outline, causing them to veer off track and waste precious time.

There are, however, some strategies to employ that can help you move ahead in a steadfast fashion, bringing your book to publication from start to finish in about six to nine months, depending on the book page count. Stay tuned to learn how to plan your book project and set up a writing schedule that will get you from Point A to B in a timely manner.

How Long Does It Take To Write a Book? Factors To Consider

Not all writers, or their writing styles, are created equal. This means that book writing timelines can vary immensely and depend on many factors. Things that might impact how long it takes to write a book may include:

Book Length/Type

What dictates the expected writing timeline, right from the outset, is the type of book you are planning to write. Different genres have different average word counts you will want to follow for marketability.


An author’s ability to sit down and focus on their writing for a particular length of time will largely dictate how long it takes to complete the book. Some writers are able to concentrate on their stories for several hours per day, while others start losing focus after an hour. Luckily, there are several free online writing tools that may help writers concentrate on the task at hand.


Whether the genre is fiction or nonfiction, the book might require a great deal of research. Studying history, cultural details, and faraway lands prior to embarking on a historical novel, or researching topics like economics, psychology, or religion before beginning a nonfiction book, can add a significant amount of time to a project.


Writing a book requires a good deal of self-discipline. The more disciplined an author is about sticking to a writing schedule, the faster the book will come to fruition.


Many authors juggle a career and/or child-rearing or other responsibilities with their passion to write. The time needed to complete your book depends on the time you have available to devote to writing.


An author may sail right through the actual writing of their manuscript, only to spend weeks or months engaged in the editing process. Some authors will complete a cursory edit after completing their book and then send it off to a professional editor for copyediting and proofreading, which can speed the project along.

How Long It Took Bestselling Authors To Write a Book

There’s no definitive answer to how long it takes to write a book when you consider all of these factors and more. It is worth noting some successful writers that took a very long time to complete their novels. Some examples are:

J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien took seven years to write The Hobbit, and another 16 years to complete the sequel. He was a perfectionist, and it looks like that paid off for him.

Margaret Mitchell. Ms. Mitchell took 10 years to write her masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, which was also the only book she ever wrote.

Michael Chrichton. Chrichton labored over Jurassic Park for eight years before calling it a wrap.

On the other side of the coin, some renowned authors whipped through their books at breakneck speed. Some of these writers include:

Jack Kerouac. Because his travels across the United States spanned seven years, many assumed it took Kerouac that long to write On the Road. In fact, he wrote the entire draft in less than a month.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Russian author not only penned The Gambler in 26 days, but he did so while also writing Crime and Punishment.

How Long Does It Take To Write a Book?

It is easy to understand why an author might freeze up at the enormity of the book writing process. Avoid allowing anxiety to derail your dream by dividing up your writing sessions into small, manageable chunks. Adopt a system of writing daily to incrementally get you to your publication goal in a reasonable amount of time.

Consider the math, based on writing 2,000 words per week:

  • 32,000+ words = 4 months
  • 60,000+ words = 7 months
  • 100,000+ words = 1 year

For this plan to work, you will, of course, need to stick to it by scheduling four to six writing sessions into your weekly calendar. You can see how many hours per week you need to write to meet this goal. Adjust the goal accordingly if you’d prefer to write fewer days, or even all seven days a week.

The type of book you write also has a direct effect on how long it takes to write a book. Consider these average word counts by genre:

  • General Fiction Novel: 90,000 words
  • Children’s book: picture book 500 words; early reader 2,500 words; middle school chapter book 30,000-50,000 words
  • Sci-fi novel: 100,000-150,000 words
  • Thriller, Mystery: 70,000-90,000 words
  • Romance novel: 60,000-90,000 words
  • Novella: 10,000-40,000 words
  • Nonfiction: Memoir 90,000 words; self-help 50,000-80,000 words
  • Young adult: fantasy 75,000-95,000 words; general fiction novel 30,000-50,000 words

Tips To Increase Your Writing Speed

Motivated authors might want to employ some techniques to speed up their writing time even more.

  1. Set a publication date. Setting a publication date gives you a goal to help you stay on task.
  2. Create a book outline. Start your project by creating a book outline, which gives you a roadmap that helps keep you on track, and then set up a writing schedule to meet your deadline.
  3. Create a writing plan. One of the best ways to establish some control of your overall writing timeline is by creating a writing plan. A writing plan helps you structure your time and keeps you moving forward toward your completion date.
  4. Create a writing-friendly space. To meet your daily writing goals, avoid distractions that can really slow down your writing timeline. Place your phone out of sight, have the family respect your writing time by giving you some quiet time, and create a writing space that is well-lit and organized.
  5. Don’t stop to edit. Instead of editing as you go, skip the editing until the first draft is completed to speed up the writing process. Writing sprints are also an effective method for writing books. Set a timer for 25 minutes and write without editing anything until the timer goes off. Then take a five to 10 minute break and repeat.
  6. Utilize book editing software. When you have completed the first draft and are ready for the editing step, expedite the process by using book editing software programs. After the rough edits are done, hand the manuscript off to a professional editor who will be able to efficiently finish the editing process.
  7. Use a dictation app. It never fails that you get the best ideas for your book while you are away from your computer. Use a dictation tool to translate voice recordings to paper when you are on the road or otherwise away from your computer.
  8. Be accountable to someone. Choose an accountability buddy or writing partner to report your progress to. Not only will they help you stay on track, but they can also offer encouragement to keep you motivated.

How To Create a Writing Plan That Works

After you have set a goal for yourself to write a book, it can quickly begin to feel overwhelming. This is where the writing plan and good old-fashioned discipline come in. Establish a writing plan to act as momentum to help you reach your goal. Follow these easy steps to create your writing plan:

  • Define your purpose and goals. At this early juncture, it is essential to clarify the theme of the book and what you hope to accomplish by writing it. Set a realistic deadline for completion of the book and calendar the date. These are the fundamental goals that drive the entire writing process.
  • Decide if you want to publish using the traditional route or the self-publishing route. This either-or decision isn’t cast in stone, but it does make a difference as far as the timeline to publication. Going the traditional route adds additional layers to the length of time it takes to see your book in print.
  • Create a writing environment. Select a quiet space in your home that is conducive to writing, and then create your own writing niche. All you need is a desk, a comfy desk chair, and some good lighting. Of course, not all authors write at home, so if you are better inspired by writing at the local coffee house or sitting on the beach, that’s great, too.
  • Set up a writing schedule. Establishing a daily writing schedule, and then sticking to it, is where discipline plays an important role in reaching your goal. Determine which time of the day is your most productive period for writing, and then schedule an hour a day (or more) to chip away at your book. This might equate to completing a chapter a week or writing a certain number of words or pages per day. The key is to write daily to keep the momentum moving forward.
  • Build in some incentives. As kids, we all loved seeing a row of gold star stickers next to some goal we were striving for in school. It was a visible reminder that hard work pays off. Now that you are an aspiring author, why not build some small rewards into your writing plan? When you meet a milestone, such as completing three chapters or 5,000 words, go ahead and treat yourself to lunch with a friend, or whatever will keep you motivated.
  • Start creating your book outline. Once all the nuts and bolts of your writing plan are in place, go ahead and begin the process of creating your general book outline. Having a book outline in place before you write word one can help you avoid wasting time and veering off track.

As you begin your daily writing habit you will learn what works best for you. Try to remain flexible, especially at the beginning of the book writing process, allowing you to find your own groove. When life interrupts your writing schedule, don’t beat yourself up. Just jump back in the next day and don’t look back.

Feeling Stuck? Hire an Editor to Help Move the Project Along

When an author wonders, “How long does it take to write a book?” it is a logical question. Having an idea of the time commitment involved helps you plan the timeframe for publication. But if you find yourself stuck on a challenging plot transition or deciding how to structure your book, why not ask the experienced editorial team at Gatekeeper Press for some guidance? Call us today!

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