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How long does it take to write a book?

By June 8, 2016September 7th, 2016Writing Craft

This has been one of the most common questions that people have asked me when they find out I’m a writer: how long did it take? It’s been hard to pin down. My first book was written on and off over a few years. The second and third were a lot quicker, but none of them were done completely in one go and I didn’t keep good records. So I didn’t know how long the actual writing took. I could only guess.

More recently, I have been trialling a new technique known as Sprints. This was brought to my attention by an author called Chris Fox. He wrote a book called 5000 Words Per Hour. It’s worth a read if you’re interested in understanding more about how you write, and how you can increase your speed. There’s also a companion app to help track your Sprints.

What are Sprints? Sprints are essentially a block of time (usually 30 mins or under) where you try and write as fast as possible. By focusing in this way, you can more easily get yourself into the ‘flow’ state and track your speed. And by knowing and tracking your real writing speed, you can work on increasing it. Before I tried this method, my average number of words per hour was consistently 1,000. But not all of that time was spent actually writing. There was time spent writing, time spent figuring out what to write next etc. Now my writing is more focused, and my sprints better capture my actual words per hour.

So what’s the number?

With my latest book, I tracked sprints from the first word until the last. Now I can answer the question. Writing my latest book (Pool of Knowledge) took 27 hours.

27 hours?

That’s right. Had I put in more time I could potentially have written that book in a matter of days. But 27 hours is only one piece of the puzzle.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Elapsed Days: 172 (5 months, 20 days)
  • Number of Writing Days: 59 (I only wrote on 59 of those 172 days)
  • Maximum break between Writing Days: 26 days (Christmas Break)
  • Total Word Count: 64140
  • Average Words per Hour: 2377
  • Average Words per Writing Day: 1087
  • Most common Sprint Length: 10 minutes
  • Number of Sprints: 195
  • Highest sustained writing speed: 3168 WPH during a 15 minute Sprint (792 words)

So what does this all mean?

It means that with some concerted effort and a more regular writing schedule I can write more books faster. It makes the task of writing a book seem less daunting, and shows the rewards for putting in the hours more regularly. Knowing how long it will take is motivating. My next book is a sequel and should be a similar length. So I know that in roughly 27-30 hours I can complete it. How many days will that take this time? I’ll let you know!

I hope you found this interesting, and maybe it will inspire you to track your own writing, or even start that book that seemed to hard to write. The End is closer than you think.

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