10 Jan 45. How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?
Writing a book is easier said than done with so much going on in the world.
You’re excited to get your book out to the world.
And you probably want to know how long it should take you to write it.
In this episode, find out what factors influence how long it takes to write your book.
Go into this process with your eyes wide open, and plan your book launch without unreasonable pressure or impossible deadlines.
Mentioned in This Episode
Hey there, and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L. Davis.
As I record this, we’re coming to the close of another year. Everyone is celebrating putting 2020 in the rearview mirror.
And it’s not because they’re foolish enough to believe they’ll wake up on January 1 to a pandemic-free world with institutional racism a thing of the past and political peace.
People aren’t stupid. They’re just tired. And the new year promises a fresh start.
As you can imagine, the end of one year and beginning of the next are busy times for me.
People look back and realize they haven’t written the book they resolved to write, and they want next your to be different.
On a recent consultation call, the author really wanted to know how long she should expect it to take to write her book.
This is a legitimate question, and if you look at it on the surface, it’s just a math equation.
Let’s say you want to write manuscript of about 150 pages. That’s about 45,000 words, by the way—neither a short book nor a long one, but right in the middle.
Writing 2 pages per hour is doable for most people.
And if you write 2 pages a day, 5 days a week, that’s about 40 pages a month, so it will take you about three and a half months to complete the first draft of your manuscript.
But actual writing doesn’t usually happen this way.
First of all, these numbers fail to take into account the time you’ll need to revise your first draft.
Those rounds of revision are where mediocre books become good and good books become great. You may want to revise your entire draft two or three times before it goes to the editor.
So that may add another month or two to the time it takes for you to finish your manuscript.
This formula also assumes you write every day without fail.
You never get sick. You never have a family emergency that precludes you from writing.
And you never sit at your keyboard wondering what to write next.
And that last point, sitting down and knowing what to write next, is the most important one.
Let’s take personal and professional development books for example.
If you already have a well-defined process or method and you’ve used it to coach people, consult with businesses, teach courses, or give talks, much of the planning for your book may already be done.
However, if you don’t have your system locked down yet, then you’ll need time to work that out.
And in most cases, it’s not going to happen in an hour.
You may need to work on your system for a few weeks before you get it locked down.
You may even find that you need to tweak it as you write.
If you’re not 100% clear on your opinions or your philosophy, you’ll need time to think them through.
It may seem like you know exactly what you want to say about marriage or parenting or diversity and inclusion—whatever you’re writing your book about—but as you’re writing, you’re likely to find topics you want to address but aren’t 100% clear on.
One of my coaching clients changed his view on forgiveness, a central theme in his book, while he was in the process of writing that memoir.
As he wrote about his life and we discussed the insights he’d drawn from those experiences, his thoughts on forgiveness evolved. So it took him a little longer to write that section of his book.
If you’re writing a subject-matter-expert book, with or without elements of how-to, research can add to your writing time.
I co-wrote a book with a client who relied heavily on interviews for her book content.
We had to factor in not only the time to do the interviews but also the necessary time to research the events we discussed in the interviews.
Before we even started writing, she invested more than 20 hours in interviews.
During the writing process, I invested at least another 20 hours in researching the events.
That means the book wasn’t finished in 3 and half months. In fact, it took us about six months to complete the first draft of the manuscript, but the book wouldn’t have been nearly as good without that extra work.
As the subject-matter-expert, you’re not expected to know *everything* on the subject.
You can’t always rely on your own body of knowledge. You may need to take the time to find statistics that support your arguments or to find case studies or illustrative stories you want to include.
A friend and colleague of mine is writing a narrative nonfiction book based on events that took place early in the 20th century. She’s driving to historical societies to do as much research as possible and reaching out to descendants of people who experienced the events. Her book would be thin and unimpressive without that research. With it, she’s on her way to producing something great.
Even if you’re writing a memoir or novel, you may still need to do some research to get an understanding of different things like settings in your book, organizations or institutions that come up, or even people you include.
The time it will take you to write a book depends on more than how many pages you plan to write.
As always, I highly encourage you to outline your book before you begin writing.
Not only will you know what you want to write every day, you’ll also be able to see any holes in your writing plan.
You’ll see where you need to do some research or dig deeper into your own philosophies by doing more study or talking through those philosophies with a coach or a friend.
Taking care of your energy, creating a writing routine, and of course, creating a solid and detailed outline will make the process go more quickly.
It’s natural to want to have your book finished and published as quickly as possible, but don’t rush it.
If you’re writing a book you expect to provide real value, stand as your authority piece, and or position you as an expert, it’s worth investing time in the process.
If you sit down to write and you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like, ask yourself why.
Do you need to solidify your systems and processes before you share them in a book?
Do you need to do some research upfront so it’s there when you’re ready to write and you don’t have to start and stop, over and over again?
Do you need to get clear on where you stand on important elements of or issues in your book, especially when it comes to taking a stand for what you believe is true or best?
Don’t allow these speed bumps to frustrate you. They’re part of the writing process. And if you take the time to deal with them early on, you’ll not only write a better book, once you start writing, the process will be much easier and go much faster.
That’s all for this episode. If you find value in the podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you shared it with someone you know wants to write a book or share it on social media and tag me so I can stop by your page or profile and say thank you.
Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach Candice L Davis. And I’ll see you next time.