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What Is a Realistic Timeline for Writing a Book?

What Is a Realistic Timeline for Writing a Book?

how long does it take to write a book

Think you’ve got the next great American novel rolling around in your head? Not sure where to start? And how long does it take to write a book anyway?

Taking on a project like writing a book can be daunting, even for experienced writers. For beginners, it can be even scarier. How, where, and when do you start?

There are as many different answers to those questions as there are authors and books. But there are some generalities that we can look at that may put you more at ease about getting started.

To begin with, real writers write every day. Essays, blog posts, short stories, just about anything. A place to start might be reading blogs of other writers for inspiration. That inspiration can lead to the daily practice of putting pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard.

How long does writing a book take? J.R.R. Tolkien took seven years to write The Hobbit. Jack Kerouac wrote his 1957 novel On The Road in less than a month. There are many factors to consider when thinking about a timeline for writing a book.

The type of book

Different genres have different average word counts you will want to follow for marketability. For example, romantic fiction books average 70,000-90,000 words, while books in the fantasy genre average 100,000-150,000 words.

Your availability

Many would-be writers begin their projects while holding down full-time jobs, raising a family, etc. Figuring out a reasonable amount of time per day or per week is something you need to consider at the outset.


Writing the material is one thing, but after the first draft, books can need several rounds of editing. Some authors handle the first round of edits themselves, and then send it off to a professional editor that can proofread, and edit the copy. This is an especially good idea for novice writers.

Many writers find it helpful to set a goal of a certain number of words a day or week, which makes it easier to forecast how long it will take.

For example, if you commit to writing 400 words a day, 5 days a week, that’s 2000 words per week. At that rate, it’ll take you a little over 8 months to reach that 70,000-word mark.

Whatever formula you come up with, it’ll help lessen the anxiety involved to look at the project in smaller pieces.

If you are truly motivated to get started and get finished, here are some tips that could help speed up the process.

Set a publication date

Having a goal that you can see every day might help you stay on task.

Create an outline of your book

Having a roadmap always helps you get where you’re going.

Create a writing plan

If you break down the numbers as we did earlier, you can set up a plan for how many words a day, a week, or a month you need to hit your deadline goal. This plan will help you structure your time and keep you moving forward. Share your plan with your family as well so that they can respect your writing time.

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Create a good space for writing

Find a place that is comfortable, but not too comfortable. Remember that for you, this is work. Maybe it’s in your home, or maybe it must be somewhere away from the distractions of home.

Think of it as a job

Many people dream of being able to work all day in their pajamas, and that works for some. But during the Covid 19 pandemic when many people were forced to work from home, they were more productive when they got up and started their day as if they were still going to the office. Get up and shower, eat breakfast, and dress as though you were going to your regular job.

Don’t edit as you go

Most writers will tell you that once the muse is doing their thing, you don’t want to slow down. Just keep writing! You can always edit later.

Use a dictation app

We’ve all had those instances when a great idea came to us but we weren’t sitting at our writing place. There are apps that will record your voice and then translate the recordings to your computer.

Find someone to hold you accountable

Just like losing weight, writing a book takes discipline. Have someone that can check on you and your writing plan. It would be helpful if this person could also offer encouragement and motivation!

The Chinese proverb says “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Someone else asked what’s the best way to eat an elephant? “One bite at a time!”

Getting started is an important part of the process. The things listed here are all very general, and as you begin and continue the process you will figure out what ways work best for you.

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