Measuring the time investment involved in writing.

Do you want to write a book but worry about the time investment required? How long does it take to become an author anyway?

The short answer is: it depends. It depends on whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’ll seek help or go it alone, and whether you’ll make use of proven strategies like setting aside dedicated writing time.

The good news is that with the right tools, even busy people can find time to write a book. So how long can you expect to be at the keyboard before your manuscript is complete?

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

It’s very difficult to answer this question for fiction manuscripts. Not only does the length of the average novel vary between genres, but fiction authors will attest that made-up stories and characters can take twists and turns the author never expected, leading to rewrites and periods of reflection as you wait for ideas to solidify. In general, you can expect the first draft of a novel to take about a year to write, but again, this varies hugely from author to author, and even from book to book.

Nonfiction manuscripts, however, tend to be more predictable, because you’re not inventing or fabricating anything—you’re just trying to figure out which facts and anecdotes to include in your book, and in what order. It’s easier to fit this type of writing process into a “timeline,” especially if you have help from a professional writing coach or critique group.

Timeline With Professional Help

With the help of a writing coach and/or critique group, it is possible to take a nonfiction manuscript from idea to completion in about a year, if you stay on task and devote regular time each week to the project.

A good writing coach will help you break the process into manageable chunks that you can complete week by week. A critique group will alert you quickly if you’re getting off-track, such as organizing it in a confusing manner or failing to keep the reader’s interest. Both of these resources help you move forward at a brisk pace without letting the project stall when you inevitably run into challenges.

The Book Professor’s personal coaching option and Executive Group MASTERMIND program both adhere to a weekly curriculum that takes about 12 months to complete, and both involve personal coaching from a professional book coach. The Group MASTERMIND organizes authors into cohorts to help review and cheer on each other’s work.

Sometimes life events force an author to put the project on pause and come back to it later, but barring that, if you complete the weekly tasks on schedule, you’ll have a finished product in about a year.

Aspiring authors who worry about the time investment of writing will be pleased to note that you don’t have to quit your job and lock yourself in the home office 24/7 in order to meet the demands of this schedule. Our curriculum helps you carry out the steps of writing a book in regular time blocks that fit around your weekly schedule.

Timeline With Curriculum

Some writers want the guidance and structure of a writing curriculum without working with coaches or meeting deadlines. A writer might prefer this option if life circumstances that make it hard to commit to a long-term program with others.

Flexibility and freedom from deadlines can seem advantageous, but it can also be a downside if you’re anxious to finish your book quickly. The more breaks you take, the longer until you complete your manuscript, and it can be hard to stay motivated when you’re not accountable to others.

On the other hand, with a self-directed writing curriculum, you can at least calculate how much time you have left in the process. Even if you work sporadically on your book project, you can see how many months or weeks of material you have left to completion. Some authors find this preferable to an unknown endpoint.

The Book Professor’s self-directed writing course uses the same curriculum as our other two programs, meaning that if you don’t skip any weeks, you could complete your book in a year or so. A word of caution: it’s not possible to blaze through the material ahead of schedule in our self-directed course. You’ll gain access to course material one week at a time, meaning you can’t skip ahead if you finish the week’s writing assignments.

This is where the time commitment of writing a quality book comes into play. It’s difficult to write a manuscript in just a few months and end up with a quality project, so planning for at least a year is your best bet for success. It will take the first few months of work for your ideas to fully solidify, and you want time to flesh out those ideas as they arise. This helps you make your book the best that it can possibly be.

Working on Your Own

If you don’t use a specific writing curriculum but pull together your own sources from Google and books about writing, there’s no way to give an accurate estimate of how long it might take you. Ask ten different authors how long it took to write their books, and you’ll get ten different answers.

It is very likely, however, that it will take longer than if you used a program or curriculum. Here’s why:

  • Organization. It can be hard to organize your ideas for a book. You’re so deep into your material that you won’t have an objective view of the finished product. Many an author has struggled to figure out a good structure and sequence for their book, only to realize that they can’t see the forest for the trees and can’t sense what structure will “flow” from the perspective of an outside reader. A good writing curriculum or book coach should be able to help you organize well.
  • Selecting the right idea. Again, as a writer, you’re very close to your material. It can be difficult to see from the perspective of outside readers, who may not know your topic well. How do you balance facts with anecdotes to keep a reader’s attention? How do you ensure that you give enough information on your topic without giving readers more than they need? In the absence of external guidance, you may discover the answers to these questions only after you’ve written a messy manuscript—and it may force you to start over, or at least carry out serious rewrites.
  • Writing schedule. Unless you learn how to set aside regular writing time, and how to pace yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll finish your manuscript quickly. If you only write “when you feel like it,” you’ll eventually get stuck by writer’s block or a busy schedule and the project timeline will suffer.
  • Research time. Keep in mind that if you go it alone, you’ll also spend a significant amount of time learning how to write. You’ll spend time researching the best writing resources, reading them to see which parts apply to your particular project, and then finding test readers and editors when you’ve finished the manuscript. An aspiring author may overlook this aspect when calculating how fast they can write.

In short, if you’re not working with a specific writing program, you won’t know how long it’ll take to write a book until you do it—but expect to work for at least a year.

Other Considerations

Remember that the total time to “complete” a book includes more than just writing to the end of your ideas. After you’ve gotten everything on paper, you must polish your draft and seek professional editing. You’ll also need to find a publisher, and unless you land a deal with a large publishing house, you’ll be responsible for procuring cover art, choosing a printer, and much more.

This is why The Book Professor® offers the option of professional editing and publishing through our sister company, Stonebrook Publishing, to those who complete our one-on-one coaching or Group MASTERMIND programs.

Interested in Guidance?

To learn more about The Book Professor® and our programs, contact us today. We can help set you on the path to completing a quality manuscript in a reasonable timeframe, on a schedule that fits into your busy life.

Don’t let a lack of guidance hold you back. The world needs your book. Get in touch today!