A Book—How Long Does It Take?

DSC07192The other day someone asked when I’d last written a book. I quickly replied last year. But that’s not really accurate. Yes, I finished a book last year, but I worked on it for several years before declaring it completed. Even then, I only ever refer to it as a manuscript. (Not a book until it’s published.)  I have several manuscripts in various stages of completion, ones that go back many, many, many years. It’s the nature of writing, I think; the ability to simply pick up and start or stop or even change directions. I don’t wear blinders when I write. Sometimes my eye wonders. I see a potential story some place else and I quickly jot things down—a paragraph, a sentence, a page—for a later date.

I’m not an organized writer. And I have periods when I’m not nearly as productive as others. I get in slumps. I procrastinate and often wonder what’s stopping me from writing more. Exactly why do I procrastinate when writing is something I absolutely love doing, something that’s a part of me? I’ve asked myself that question a time or two. But then I remind myself that creativity isn’t something that can be rushed. It comes in its own good time, the same way a story idea or character suddenly arrives right out of the blue when I’m washing dishes or stirring pots.

I don’t produce outlines or write character sketches. I don’t decide what my characters likes or dislikes are before heading into a story. In fact, it’s more like they tell me. This is the place where some people start looking at me a little strange. Characters tell you things? They might even suggest an evaluation of sorts—just to make sure everything’s okay. They might even pat me on the head. But yes, with every book I’ve written, every short story, I feel a connection to a character who then leads me through their story. Occasionally I have a certain topic I want to write about, even then I have to wait for some character to show up and guide me through to the end.

I know one author who wrote a book in eighteen days. I’m still in awe of that feat although she told me she wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I’m willing to bet she didn’t get a whole lot of sleep during those eighteen days. While I’m not expecting to write a novel in anywhere near that time I’ve learned to never rule anything out because, really, who am I to say what will and won’t happen. I don’t like putting restriction on life. I like to stay open to any possibility. Who knows, a character might show up one day, a character so strong and insistent and impossible to ignore and I’ll be at their mercy to write, write, write. I’m sure this certain author didn’t decide she’d write a novel in a few weeks, it probably just happened. When you’re open to all possibilities anything is possible.

So, how long does it take to write a book? It takes as long as it takes—at least for me.

What kind of writer are you? Do you write with an outline or simply fly by the seat of your pants? How long does it take you to write a book?

Leave a comment


  1. Preparing for my first NaNo in 2011, with no knowledge about novel writing, I wrote one to two-line ‘chapter titles’ which I hoped might keep me on track. I like what I’d accomplished, but the novel collects dust in a special box. For short stories, I fly by the seat of my pants and write as the story unfolds and reveals itself.Sometimes I need be more patient than others.


  2. I tend to write like you Laura and don’t make outlines or character sketches. I thought I would try it with the book I’m working on now but it just doesn’t work for me and tends to limit me. So it’s back to seat of the pants writing again. The answer to how long does it take to write a book, is “forever”!!


  3. I haven’t started a new ms in such a long time. I can’t remember what kind of writer I am. I do know I love the editing part, making it shine. When I get stuck, then I pull out all the stops. These days I’m searching for a new publisher, so I’m back composing a decent query letter and waiting for a reply. Not so much fun.


    • Editing is SO amazing. That’s where the magic happens. Best of luck with your search for a new editor. I agree that part can be a bit frustrating.


  4. Please check out my blog. I interview authors 🙂 and blog about random stuff too 😛 I need a few more followers! Please follow 🙂


  5. It seems methods of writing are as individual as the people themselves. There’s so much “how to” information available but for me it always boils down to “just do it”. The image that initiates my stories leads to the who, what, where, when and why questions — questions only the characters can answer. So, like you, I can say the characters lead me forward through their story. (It sounds good in theory, anyway, and gives me someone to blame when my progress stalls. LOL!)


    • Everybody has their own way of reaching “the end.” And I agree, we can always blame those pesky characters. 😉



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