How Long Does It Take To Write A Book? [Tips To Finish Faster]
Are you interested in writing a book? Find out how long it'll take you with this simple online calculator. Learn the typical length of a novel and other popular writing formats like non-fiction books, screenplays, novellas, and short stories. Also, I provide five helpful tips for getting your writing project done faster.
Typical time to complete a book's first draft
A novel has a minimum of 60,000 words, which is also a common length for a non-fiction book. Let's assume you're writing a book of this length, you're able to dedicate 3 days per week to it, and, on average, you can write 3 pages per day.
With double-spaced pages and 12-point Times New Roman font, the time to write the first draft of novel would be approximately 6 months.
Use my calculator for a custom time for book completion
Are you able to write more than 3 days per week? Can you finish more than 3 pages per day? Or maybe you're on a tight schedule and can only write a couple pages a day, once a week?
Whatever the case, I put together a simple online calculator to let you estimate the time you'll need to finish the first draft of a 60,000-word book based on your own schedule:
How many words on a page in Microsoft Word?
Double-spaced with 12-point Times New Roman font, a page in Microsoft Word (or a similar program) contains about 275 words. This value considers blank space for paragraph breaks and dialogue.
My calculator factors in a 275-word average per page in its time estimates.
How long should your book be?
The pages in a physical book are not necessarily laid out the same way as a page in a word-processing program. Pages of published paperbacks often have height and width dimensions that are quite different from other books', making page count a non-standardized measurement for length.
Thus, when authors discuss the length of a manuscript with industry professionals, they often use the metric of word count, vs. page count. If you submit your manuscript to a publishing company, an acquiring editor likely won't ask how many pages your book is, but what its word count is.
As mentioned, in general, a novel has a minimum of 60,000 words. Novels of 80,000-100,000 words are common. Novels of 120,000 words are surely published each year, however, are quite less prevalent than shorter ones. Not many novels exceed 150,000 words.
Non-fiction books tend to be shorter, on average, ranging from about 50,000 to 80,000 words.
Sub-genres within fiction and non-fiction have their own word-count ranges. When submitting a manuscript to a publisher, you may be given a required word-count range based on sub-genre and the formats the publishing company tends to market most (ex, e-book, paperback, hardcover, audiobook).
In general, publishing companies primarily focused on e-books accept shorter manuscripts than those that invest in physical-copy marketing.
Planning to write a longer book?
If you're planning on writing a longer book than 60,000 words, just take the total my calculator gives you and multiply it by these numbers:
If you're a first-time author, you should likely avoid writing an extremely long book. Not only can the writing process become cumbersome, but most publishing companies won't even consider a new author's manuscript if it's over a certain length.
Aim for at least three drafts of your book
My calculator provides an estimate of how long you'll need to start and complete a first draft. Though finishing a first draft is a major step, your book will likely need to be polished through at least three drafts.
These additional drafts tend to take a shorter time than the first. If you are planning on self-publishing your book, I recommend self-editing through at least three drafts, then finding another editor to review your manuscript before publishing.
If you are looking to submit your book to publishing companies, you should definitely self-edit it through at least three drafts so you make a good impression. If your book is accepted, the publisher will then assign it an additional editor before release.
Length of shorter fiction
Instead of jumping directly into a long format like a novel, many new writers begin their careers by writing short fiction. In no way is this a requirement, however, it can help you develop your skills before taking on longer projects.
Length of a screenplay
Unlike books and short fiction, screenplay length is measured in page count, vs. word count. A film producer won't ask you the word count of your screenplay, but rather, the page total.
As a general rule, one page in a screenplay equals one minute of run time within a produced film. For example, when filmed, a 95-page screenplay would typically result in a 95-minute movie.
Films tend to run between 90 and 120 minutes, and thus, the typical length of a screenplay is between 90 and 120 pages.
Yes, a movie can go over 120 minutes, and therefore, a screenplay can go over 120 pages. However, if you're a first-time screenwriter, you may have an easier job convincing people in the film industry to give your script a read if it won't consume a big portion of their day.
Thus, I would suggest you keep yours between 90 and 99 pages.
Tips to complete your writing project faster
#1 - Create a great outline
Your first draft will go a lot smoother if you have a strong sense of what you're going to write each day. An outline will accomplish that.
If you happen to be writing a novel, novella, or screenplay, I have a free outline guide you can download, which will help you create compelling story elements in a dramatic sequence.
An effective outline will not only help you with your first draft, but your later ones as well. Without an outline, you may reach the end of your first draft when finally realizing that a certain large story element - like a major character or plot sequence - doesn't work.
Instead of your second draft being focused on tightening up your descriptions and dialogue, you'll be obligated to pull off a massive structural change, which can take a lot of time.
Instead, if you dedicated some time to an outline upfront, you likely would've identified the unworkable story element before beginning your first draft. You'd start thinking of solutions early.
An issue that may take a month to fix in a second draft could be resolved in a day in an outline.
#2 - Get early feedback
Once you come up with the premise of your project, you may want to share it with some friends to see what they think. They might point out some potential concerns, causing you to reconsider part of your premise.
Reassessing your premise early on is much simpler than doing so after you've started your first draft. The latter could force you into a time-consuming structural edit.
Though early feedback from friends can be helpful, if you're writing a novella, novel, or screenplay, you might want to consider partnering with a story consultant, especially if you're struggling to put together an outline you're happy with.
A story consultant can help you shape your premise and outline. Unlike editors, who join a project after you've completed multiple drafts, story consultants can join a project early, before the first draft is even started.
#3 - Stick to a writing schedule
If you tell yourself you'll find time "here and there" to work on your first draft, you can easily get sidetracked by other commitments in your life (job, family, etc) and go weeks without writing.
Instead, I recommend creating a writing schedule and sticking to it unless a genuine emergency arises. If you have a lot of other commitments in your life, that's okay - maybe your writing schedule will consist of just one hour, one day week.
Whatever the case, find slices of time during the week where you can focus. If you happen to work a 9-5 job, possibly you can give yourself a nightly chunk of time to write, say from 8 to 10 PM, Monday through Friday.
If your 9-5 job is exhausting and you don't think you'll be able to give your writing project quality focus on weekdays at night, consider a four-hour block of time every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Whatever schedule you decide on, I recommend using a planning tool like Todoist - which has a free version - to set reminders for yourself and measure your progress.
#4 - Organize your writing project
Whether you're writing a fiction or non-fiction project, you'll likely be doing research as you create your outline and/or begin your first draft.
Writing software like Scrivener - which offers a free trial - can help you store all your research content for easy access, cutting down on the time you spend looking up images, articles, etc.
Scrivener has a bunch of other writing tools that'll help you, such as a nested folder system for adding scenes to relevant sections in your outline. Easily shuffle scene sequencing in your manuscript without spending time manually copying and pasting blocks of texts.
#5 - Focus on the story, not grammar
The purpose of your first draft is to get the main elements of your story onto pages. You want to focus on making sure major aspects like story structure, character development, and plot points come together in a workable way.
Before writing a book, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the rules of grammar if you don't yet know them in depth. However, when writing, you don't want to spend time noticing and fixing small errors.
Yes, there's a time for addressing these issues - during the editing phase after your third (or higher) draft is complete. Not during the first.
I recommend using a tool like ProWritingAid - which has a free version - that'll look out for small errors so you don't have to. A ProWritingAid account can also give you helpful writing tips, like stylistic suggestions.
Time to start writing
Now that you have my tips for completing a first draft of a book, you should begin making your writing dream a reality. Be sure to grab my outlining guide as your first step.
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