How long it really takes to write a book.


You’ve just typed “The End” on your first draft.

Or, you’ve just had an idea for a book.

Or, you’re halfway through your first draft and can’t wait to finish.


You’re a real writer! Look at you go!

What you may not know, and what you need to know is this: writing a book is a whole heap of work. That’s why only a small percentage of people do it.

And it’s also why we look up to the people who have.


Let me give you a quick run-down of the process, noting the time and effort that most writers don’t factor into the whole idea-to-finished-book progression:


Idea – not much time, a whole lot of thinking

Plan – maybe/maybe not. Depends on your style, and what you’re writing.

First Draft – LOADS of time. SCADS of time. You might start several times before you get going, or you might get stuck at various points. (These are usually one of several textbook sticking points in the manuscript writing process)

Resting time – you shouldn’t look at your book for a few weeks. Maybe months. Get some distance. Get some hobbies. Get back in touch with your friends. Wash your dishes and your clothes.

Second Draft – EVEN MORE TIME. Months, maybe. Definitely more time than you thought.

Resting time – sanity is important, after all. Get some sunshine.

Third Draft – yes, you should do a third draft. No, you should not skip this step. Yes, you might need the opinion of an editor for this one. You could ask for a manuscript assessment, at this point.

Final draft/working with an editor – This is the stage that most writers think will be easy: hand your manuscript over, then get back a finished book, right?



So much nope.


Budget time for editing


Most editors will give you advice, and expect you to apply it to your own draft.

They’ll then look over your manuscript again, and give more advice.

You’ll have to do that work, too.

(Learn more about working with an editor here: How Do I Hire An Editor? How Do I Hire An Editor #2, How Do I Hire An Editor #3, and How Do I Hire An Editor #4.)

The editing of a book takes SO MUCH longer than you think, if you’ve never done it before.

When you speak to prospective editors, make sure you ask them how much work is in it for you.

And then LISTEN.

Make a note.

Block out time in your calendar.

Don’t think it’ll take you 10 minutes. It won’t.


So many authors that Tanja and I work with comment with some version of, “I had NO idea how much work editing a book would be – for me!”

And we’re very upfront with how much time our clients will need to set aside for their part of the editing work.

Most of the time, people don’t believe us when we say they need to leave almost as much time for editing as it took them to write the book. (In hours, that is, not counting the procrasticleaning and procrasti-whatevering that it took.)

So this blog post is really a bit of a PSA: remember that editing will take your time and energy too.

At least as much as writing your book. And make sure you budget for that.

That is all.

Now go forth and write!

How long it really takes to write a book
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