How long does it take to write a good book?








Several years ago when I first got serious about writing a full-length novel, I hired a writing coach, Jory Sherman,  to shepherd me along the way. He had written for years and produced a tremendous back list of great books.

In our first getting down to business discussion, I asked him a question I had wondered about for a while:  How long does it take you to write a book?  I don’t know what I expected him to say.  At that stage in my writing, I had started and abandoned a couple of manuscripts and was laboring over the first seventy pages or so of my current work in progress.  I would write a chapter, re-write it, re-write again and so forth.  At the rate I was going, I knew I would never get to the end of the story because of my obsessive re-dos of those first pages.

Before he answered, Jory gave me sort of a ho-hum look as if the question was unimportant.  “About three  months,” he said.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  Like I said, I didn’t bring a particular expectation about what his answer would be, but I guess it was Jory’s matter of fact tone that surprised me.  For him writing a book was just something he did, day in and day out.  He had a routine in which he spent most of his time meditating about the story, then about an hour each day of maniacal keyboarding.

“How long does it take you to do your re-write?” I asked, not willing to leave the subject alone.

“I don’t re-write,” he said.

I was flabbergasted.  By this time in my writing experience, I had attended conferences where writers went on and on about the re-writing process, the endless revisions, the never-ending second guessing of what they had put on the page.

“Everything you need to write your book is already within you,” Jory added.

About four  months later, I completed my first book, a thriller entitled Last One Chosen.

The world of writing is full of stories about books written in a matter of days and about books that took years to write.  Amanda Hocking once wrote three books before breakfast (well, maybe it was only two).  Jonathan Franzen took nine years to write Freedom. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451in nine days on a rented typewriter at a public library.

Jonathan Franzen

There was a time when major publishers expected a book per year from their star writers. Now those writers are under pressure to produce more work than that.

One of the incidental themes that is emerging as part of the Indie writing revolution is the production of multiple books from the same writer in a year’s time.  If there is consensus on any issue in the new publishing paradigm, I believe it is that one book authors have the hardest time of it.  The pressure is on Indie writers to write fast and write often.

I know some will say that it is counter-productive to turn out a lot of books in a relatively short period of time if the writing in those books is inferior.

I agree entirely.  I also agree that the production quality of the book must be topnotch, including editing and cover design.

To be sure, we can get into an apples and oranges discussion.  Some books require months or years of research.  Most genre fiction doesn’t fall into that category.  The stories in those books rely on a writer’s peculiar slant on the human situation and little else.

I’d like to hear from the writers out there about how long it takes you on average to write a book.

And, readers, I would love to know how often you like to see the next book from an author whose work you enjoy.  Is one book a year enough? Two? Or more?


(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of five legal thrillers. He doesn’t write as fast as Ray Bradbury did.)


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