How long does it take to write a book?

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gettingby

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OK, this question is not as stupid as it sounds. My agent wants to know how much time I will need to finish my nonfiction book from the time of book deal. My agent said to be careful with this answer. If you guys have gone through this, how much time did you allow before delivering your book to a publisher?
 

qwerty

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I'm a bit intrigued by the suggestion of your agent getting a book deal with an unfinished book.

However, when my agent asked to see an unfinished novel, I completed it from 50K words to 92K in five weeks, if that helps. That was working approx five hours a day five days a week.
 

underthecity

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Qwerty, nonfiction books are often sold based on a proposal and sample chapters. The question of how long it will take gettingby to complete the manuscript is perfectly legitimate. Fiction, OTOH, is a different animal, as you are already aware.

Gettingby, the length of time it will take you will depend on your writing and working habits, your life schedule, how complex your book is, how much research you have to do, your subject matter, and how much you've completed already. Plus the time you think it will take you to revise everything you've written.

I gave myself six months to complete my third book, and it was six jam-packed no-time-for-anything-else months.

allen
 

aka eraser

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I'm mostly going to echo Allen - there's too many variables for anyone else to answer for you. But I'll suggest adding 4-6 weeks to whatever timetable seems workable to you. Stuff ALWAYS comes up. And if you happen to finish and submit early - nobody will be annoyed.
 

steveg144

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I'm mostly going to echo Allen - there's too many variables for anyone else to answer for you. But I'll suggest adding 4-6 weeks to whatever timetable seems workable to you. Stuff ALWAYS comes up. And if you happen to finish and submit early - nobody will be annoyed.

I'd agree with the others. Take your best SWAG (Silly [email protected] Guess) and then pad it well, I'd say to the tune of 20% more than you think you'll need. That's been the metric we've used for many years in sizing software development projects (my day job) and it's held up well. Might save you some embarrassment.
 

inkkognito

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I'm doing one in just over eight weeks, but I didn't quite plan it that way. I had pitched a different, tho' related, topic, and the publisher rejected it but offered me a contract on the topic I'm doing now. I accepted because it's something I am already knowledgeable about and I'm a fast writer, but I'm discovering that the research is a big time-eater. When you give a timeframe, take the following into account:

-Are you the kind of writer who can knock something out quickly or do you tend to agonize over your work?

-How well do you know the subject?

-How much research will be required?

Then add a few weeks for good measure if you can! Good luck and happy writing.
 

HeronW

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How much is done research wise? How many hours a day can you put into the book? Do you have beta readers and fact checkers lined up to help polish it? How long will it be? Do you need to get rights/permission for quotes/pictures etc? Figure that out and add 8-12 weeks for buffering. Better to deliver early than to beg for more time.
 

June Casagrande

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I just today accepted an offer for a nonfiction book (my third). The publisher wanted a deadline of June 1. (I write fast and it's a short book, so that's not a problem.)

My first book, which was very short, took me two mornings a week for six months to write. My second book I don't remember.

Based on my experience, I'd say six to eight months is standard.

But if you tend to have problems with deadlines or if the project feels overwhelming to you, proceed with caution. Either way, consider giving YOURSELF a deadline of at least a month sooner. That'll give you plenty of time to let friends look it over, to let it steep, to revisit it with a fresh eye, and to reconsider some of your choices.
 

Prevostprincess

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Very much agree with everyone. Pad, pad, PAD! I gave myself 2 weeks/chpt, and then padded by a bit, so looked like a star when I submitted the finished ms ahead of schedule. Much better to do it that way then be late.

It also depends what season your book will be released in. If I was going to take more than 7 months, I'd would have had to wait an additional year for pub, since my book was obviously a summer release. So, you may want to adjust your estimate based on this.
 

doja

Of course it depends on a lot on the length of the book and the research you need to do.

For computer textbooks (our primary projects), we typically allocate 1-2 weeks per chapter, including end of chapter material. For authoring that typically means 10+ hours/day, 7 days/week over a period of 4-7 months--a long, grueling run.

But computer books are always on very tight schedules (have to get them out to maximize shelf-life)--it would be much nicer to take 3-4 weeks per chapter if it was possible.

I had to work on my non-fiction historical book (280 pages) in between projects, but I kept a rough track of the time spent on it. My best estimate is the equivalent of over two years of full-time work (10+ hour days, 7 days/week). Perhaps 1/4 of that was straight research, outlining, etc. About 1/2 was writing and re-writing--endless revisions sent out to large numbers of reviewers. The last 1/4 was final revisions. That project took much longer than I had anticipated, but since it was not a contracted schedule, I was able to take the time to try to do it right.
 

Sunnyside

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I ditto pretty much everyone here -- but with the caveat that only YOU can know how comfortable you are with your subject to know how much time you need. If you're still doing the bulk of the research, make sure you give yourself plenty of time.

I was given ten months to deliver a manuscript. The first five months were relatively easy, since I had the research finished. The second half, however, was a a b!tch, as I was still completing some of the research. It was a mad scramble to make it -- and if I had it to do over again, I'd have really pushed for at least another month. And that was with writing almost non-stop from 5 am until 10 pm every day!

Only you can really know how much time you need -- but add ten percent to that, at the very least. Nothing like giving yourself some room...
 

Wayne K

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I got a lot faster with age. It took me 45 years to write my first book, and ten months to write two more.
 

kimmer

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Hey gang, haven't been around awhile but wanted to chime in. I wanted six months but was negotiated to approximately 100 days (a little over three months) with the first two chapters already done. I gulped but I didn't freak out since that boils down to 2 pages a day for me. Of course I didn't stick to that schedule and had some all-nighters, long weekends, etc. but still met the deadline...and had a few months of editing.


I think a big part depends on your experience and your level of perfectionism. My husband is a professional technical writer and he admits he never could have met that schedule. I am passionate about my topic so the words just flowed (sometimes) and when I had writer's block all it took was a workshop with some college-bound students to fire my motivation.

Bottom line - it depends on you, your day job, your passion, your writing and editing skills and how much time you have to spare.
 
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KikiteNeko

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The fastest I ever wrote a novel of 75K words was three months. But there's a good chance I'll never do that again. If you have no day job you can probably do it.
 

inkkognito

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I've got two more weeks to go, and it looks like I'm gonna pull off my eight-week deadline for my WIP. It will probably come it at 60,000 to 70,000 words. I'll tell ya tho', get more time if you possibly can. This came about due to a weird set of circumstances or I would most definitely have asked for more time.
 

scope

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Its impossible to answer your question without lots more info from you. You say "...from the time of my book deal." Based of this I assume your agent contacted a publisher and pitched them (using your query letter for background info) and gave them your proposal for the book and sample chapters. Are you asking for a "deadline" based on a date required by the publisher that they want to include in a contract? If not, for what reason?

How long is the entire book (words), how many words have you written and are you satisfied with them or do you KNOW you want to rewrite? How many as yet unwritten words to go? How much research is involved? How much for rewriting? how much for editing? And we could go on and on. More details please.

And whatever the result, add at least 4-6 weeks to to your deadline, as recommended by aka eraser earlier.
 

Writing Again

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My experience says the faster you write the more rewriting is needed.

Sometimes a little slower is a lot faster.
 

susangpyp

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My proposal said 6 months but my editor asked me, in May (before they bought the book), if I could complete it by September. I said of course. Meanwhile I was freaking out about how I was going to do it.

1. I took all my vacation in the summer just to write the book (about 3 weeks) and
2. Spent every waking minute on it and
3. Hired a freelance editor because I did not have time to keep editing (I edited a pass or two and then turned it over to her).

The publisher was surprised when she got it on time. We're actually ahead of deadline. It was supposed to go to production after the holidays but it went last week.
 
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dot-dot-dash

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Too many variables to guess from here. Why not sketch an outline, and write the second chapter (the first one without all the blah)?
Make an estimate from that, and add 50%. If you agent is smart, he'll add his own 75% to that.
 

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Too many variables to guess from here. Why not sketch an outline, and write the second chapter (the first one without all the blah)?
Make an estimate from that, and add 50%. If you agent is smart, he'll add his own 75% to that.

You're responding to a thread that is nine years old.
 
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