Over lunch recently with a pair of travelers who are considering writing a book, one asked me how long it took me to write mine.
“More than a year,” I told him. “I worked on it full time for a year, then revised while getting my social-media business up and running.”
“A year?!” he said, practically gaping. “That’s a long time.”
It is a long time. Writing a book is no small project, of course, but sometimes I wonder what took me so long to write — and revise and revise and revise and revise and revise — 85,000 words. Of course, it’s not the writing that takes a long while; after writing on deadline for a newspaper, I know how to crank out paragraphs. It’s the telling of the story that takes time, discovering not what to write but how to write it.
Yet when I mentioned this to an author during my second writer’s residency at The Hambidge Center, she had the opposite reaction. “Two years for a revised version of your book? That’s nothing.” Plenty of authors take years to write a book, she said, and a year and a half or two years is a totally reasonable goal.
Of course, it depends on the type of book you’re writing, the length, your experience, whether it requires research and more. We often hear about how popular novelists pump out a book or more each year, while I read somewhere that it took Rebecca Skloot a decade to complete her fabulous The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
So I think the only answer to this question is that it takes as long as it takes. Likely longer than you expect. No matter how many months or years you plan to spend writing, a book is the kind of project you don’t want to take on unless you’re dedicated to spending a whole lot of quality time with it.
How long did it take you (or is taking you) to write your book?