A lot of people think it takes a long time to write a book, but when they are saying this, they are conflating a LOT of different things.
• The act of figuring out what you are going to write about
• The act of keeping your fears about your worth at bay
• The act of managing your mind to stay focused
• The act of typing a first draft
• The act of editing a draft
• The act of designing a cover or working with a cover designer
And about 300 more other microtasks.
But let’s get specific about the meaning of “writing a book.” If we are talking about the physical act of typing a book. ANY BOOK. Even War and Peace. The truth is – it just does not take that long.
Most of our authors find when they are in flow they type around 1,000 words an hour. Running some easy math, War and Peace is 587,287. At 1,000 words an hour, it would only take 588 hours to type. That’s only 14 working weeks, or 1 business quarter or school semester, if writing your book was your full-time, 40-hour a week job.
The good news is, you aren’t writing War and Peace!
The average book we publish these days is around 30,000 words. That comes out to about a 200-page paperback book. To physically “type” those 30,000 words in a state of flow, it’s going to take you around 30 hours.
If you aren’t in flow you can spend 30 months or 30 years and still struggle to ever finish (in fact, it’s harder to write a book over years than it is over days, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Consistently, my authors tell me they spent between 24 and 48 hours writing the first draft of their manuscript.
What this should tell you is that the single most important thing you can, should, and MUST do to get your book written, is learn how to get yourself into a state of flow. When you are stressing, procrastinating, researching, wondering and worrying – you are not only NOT writing your book, you are actively undermining your books future.
Fast writing has a big advantage over slow writing: You are much more likely to finish your book and make a difference with your message.
If it takes you 3 years to write the first draft manuscript of your book, chances of you finishing it are pretty tiny. And the reason is obvious, you have changed too much in 3 years to publish that original idea!
What happens to most would-be authors is that life gets in the way of their book and then the book they were writing makes less and less sense to them.
As an author, you have to get in the way of your book and make it the number 1 priority, or other ideas and opportunities will crowd it out. The best way to do that, is to master the state of flow. Flow isn’t something that happens to you, it’s a choice you can make on behalf of your message.
Today, I want to give you my 3 best tips for writing from a state a flow. I approach flow from a practical, left-brain standpoint and I combine it with the right-brain, creative, spiritual side of things. When you can come at it from both angles, it’s a pretty magical combination for fast writing.
1. First, select or create a physical environment where you have evidence you will be productive. Think about the most productive times from your past and configure a working space that mimics the working space you were in at the time. Get a great computer, stock up on your favorite beverage, your favorite candles, comfy writing socks. Have no excuses for getting up from your chair.
2. Before you start writing your manuscript, have a plan for what you are going to say and when. This is more than an outline for your book or a description of your book. This is a full writing plan for what hours you will be writing and what you will be writing during those hours. I recommend you think of each chapter as a timed test. Instead of writing the best chapter you can write, write the best chapter you can write in 2-4 hours. Pretend there is a teacher telling you to put your pencil down at the end of the time block. Whatever didn’t get done, gets fixed in the edit.
3. Make a commitment to yourself before you start writing that if at any time you feel blocked or aren’t sure what to say, you will be extra nice to yourself. I make a joke to my authors all the time that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is go shoe shopping. I say this because beating yourself up into hitting deadlines, just doesn’t work. When you write from a place of stress, most of those words end up being totally unusable. It’s better to take a 15-minute break and take a walk, do some yoga, or – my favorite – color in an adult coloring book. Then you can return to the book refreshed.
These are just 3 of dozens of tips I give my authors to help them stay in a state of flow while they are writing, get their manuscripts completed quickly, and write a book that makes a difference.
The sad truth is, when you write your book without a writing coach helping you with productivity, clarity, and overcoming your blocks, most people just don’t reach their goal.
The honest truth is, most people who don’t finish their books, ACTUALLY DON’T WANT TO.
Yup, you heard me right.
If you haven’t finished your book, it’s probably because the secondary gain of NOT finishing it, has a bigger pay off, than the pay-off you are imagining from finishing it.
Not writing your book is a safe space. Everyone you talk to will be excited about your forthcoming book, but no one is judging your content or writing skills because there is nothing for them to see. And for a lot of people – most people in fact – talking about writing a book is enough for them. Those aren’t the people we work with at The Author Incubator.
If you are curious about yourself and wondering if the reason you haven’t finished actually has nothing to do with the time required to write the book but instead the secondary gain or being able to talk and think about your book, without facing the risk and rejection of actually putting it out there, you should go through out application process at www.TheAuthorIncubator.com/apply. Our talent scouts sort through a couple thousand application a month and they know how to spot an author who is ready to help and serve others with their book. What we are looking for goes far beyond writing skills or even book ideas, we are looking for people who are no longer willing to accept playing small or staying in the background as an option for themselves. Statistically, there aren’t many people out there who are like that, and that – not the time it takes to write a book – is why most people who say they want to write a book, just don’t get it done.
3 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take to Write A Book?”
Man, oh, man! Truth hurts.
What if the reason you aren’t finishing your book is because you can’t pick a genre? I have a great book started for a fiction novel but I also have an idea for something nonfiction that would be considered more in the self development area. Since they’re so different I feel like I have to choose one and only write in that specific genre moving forward. I’m not able to choose. Both are great ideas. Both have solid outlines. What does one do in this situation? Am I tied to only one genre forever?
Angela – thanks so much for this post. The way you explained the idea that you can write a book in as little as ~40 uninterrupted hours made it easy for me to anchor on something reasonable to set my goal on. Thanks to your inspiration, I wrote my book start to finish and published within 6 months: Zero Regrets. Thanks for your advice! – Meli Casey