How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

A lot of people ask this question. I want to know the answer from my favorite authors, so I can look forward to their next book. Writers ask it because we’re always wondering how others work and if they have a better system that we can borrow parts of. The general non-writing public asks it because they’re fascinated by the creative process and how writers make so much out of so little. At least that’s my guess.

So how long does it take me? I really have to think about that and the answer is, it depends.

My first, still unfinished (as in not polished, although I have a full story arc) book, has been in process for…at least eight years. I still hope to go back to it, and I might even have enough life experience now to understand that one character’s motivation. He was sabotaging the whole story because I couldn’t figure him out.

I finished what I thought was a close to final draft of my second book, working title The Desert Wall, in the first six months of 2008. It was 45,000 words and I was worried it was too short. I gave it to a fantastic reader and based on her initial comments, I revised it for a year. So I finished it, more or less, in June 2009. I had added 50,000 words (yikes!) and many, but not all, parts were unrecognizable from the first draft. I started sending it out to agents in August, although I admit I didn’t get going until about January 2010.

Meanwhile, I had started my third book in the hiatus between giving TDW to my reader and getting comments back. So that was about May 2008. Then I took a long break to finish TDW. A really long break. I didn’t start working on The Red Fortress until August 2009. I was worried it was broken, that I had left it too long, but the magic was still there. (Which I found after a lot of hard work.) I finished a rough draft in November. So again about six months. And now I’m in the structural morass of taking my first extensive outline/sketchy draft and making it into a story.

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2 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

  1. Sara Lilly says:

    I started drafting my novel at 17. About two years later, I’ve finished 3 drafts (50 G, 55G, and 60G) wrote a bunch of material that wasn’t in order or cohesive (another 55 G words) and now I’m on the fourth. Writing is crazy, isn’t it?

  2. Nicole Lisa says:

    Hi Sara. It sure is! Sometimes I wonder why we do it. Still, if you’ve finished three drafts of a novel before turning 20 you’re ahead of a lot of people I know. Congrats on getting so far! I’ve written material out of order too. In fact I wrote my first ms completely out of order and I will NEVER do that again! Thanks for commenting.

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