How long is needed to write a professional book?

Often when novice writers set out to pen a book, they ask, “How long should this take?” Since writing is their passion and a talent they express better than most others, when the book doesn’t come together in a matter of weeks, uncertainty creeps in.

Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes a book comes quite easily for a writer and is written in a matter of days – and then the next book written, though in the end as good as the last one, takes years to construct.

Still, a number of variables do play a role in determining how much time you’ll spend writing a book. Among them:
• In the zone – Call it the muse’s blessing, call it a room of one’s own; maybe it’s the inspiring books the author is reading or the amount of angst in their lives. Simply put, the writer’s mood is vital to a how many words are committed to a story each day; if you’re in the mood, you’ll be productive.
• Time dedicated per day – Especially with nonfiction, churning out words often means simply making the time commitment. A writer who dedicates eight hours a day to a book likely will show a larger word count than the writer who only gives the book an hour per day.
• Skill level – The more you’ve written, generally the easier writing becomes. Skilled authors better grasp the craft of writing and understand how their fellow published writers have dealt with description, plotting, character and style issues that might be encountered when writing.
• Research needed – Books that require a lot of research, such as biographies and histories, demand interviews and a lot of additional reading, so they’ll probably take a lot longer to write than a novel in a setting familiar to the author.
• Planning – At least where nonfiction books are concerned, the more outlining the writer does, the easier the first draft will come. This typically is true of fiction as well, so long as the author remains flexible and considers the outline a guide rather than the only route to a completed work. Planning your book, after all, forces you to think about the story and to anticipate potential problems before you begin drafting.
• Revising – The more revising and polishing that must be done, the longer the book will take to complete. Often increased planning and skill level diminishes the amount of revising needed, but most writers will say they spend far more time editing their manuscript than they did writing the first draft.

Of course, each of these variables comes with a big asterisk. For example, a writer who’s already published 20 books may find No. 21 difficult to write because she’s used up all of her ideas and finds herself being repetitive. A writer who’s “in the zone” but dedicating only an hour a day to it might complete a novel before the author who’s not in the mood but dedicates four hours a day to writing.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.