Making Time to Write

How long does it take to write a book? That’s like asking “how much is a car?” It depends on a great many things. According to Brenner Information Group, on the average, it takes 475 hours to write fiction books and 725 hours to write nonfiction. Subscribers to Writer’s Digest magazine spend 12.64 hours writing each week. Beginners spend seven hours a week and advanced writers spend 30.5.

When Maryanne Raphael first read about the international Three-Day Writing Contest, she thought it was a joke. But the idea of writing a book in three days fascinated her. So several years later she signed up, got a sponsor, and arranged to spend Labor Day weekend at her keyboard day and night.

She began typing as fast as she could, writing her best at all times because there was no chance for rewriting. The subconscious was in control with the conscious mind in the dark much of the time. The same powerful curiosity that keeps readers turning pages kept her writing them.

She finished the manuscript, The Man Who Loved Funerals, by the deadline with short breaks for stretching and naps. It is now in New York with her agent who thinks it is her best work. And she spent ten years writing her nonfiction book, How to Write a Novel in Three Days.”

For many authors, the writing of the book is not grueling; it is a journey to be enjoyed. Many writers like to set aside a few hours for their writing each day; they establish a schedule and stick to it religiously. A few have the luxury of writing full-time or of getting away to concentrate on their writing. They find marathon writing is more fun and avoids the challenge of getting back to the manuscript each day. Still others have to fit in their writing whenever they can.

Nat Bodian decided to write his first book in 1979. Finding time was difficult because he worked full-time as a marketer at a New York publishing house and commuted from New Jersey. He did some writing on the bus to and from New York, some was done on a pad of paper walking across Manhattan and some was done during his lunch hours. Then, evenings after his kids were in bed, he continued in a basement typing room until the wee hours of the morning and on weekends.

The Book Marketing Handbook was published by R.R. Bowker 20 months later and it is still selling. This and several more industry books led to his nomination to the Publishing Hall of Fame.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King wrote powerful articles and books about their activities or causes while behind bars. Make effective use of your most valuable asset: your time.

Dan Poynter, the Voice of Self-Publishing, has written more than 100 books since 1969 including Writing Nonfiction and The Self-Publishing Manual. Dan is a past vice-president of the Publishers Marketing Association (now IBPA). For more help on book publishing and promoting, see


  1. says

    Quite true: if I put my mind to it, I can write a first draft in about 6 weeks. Fixing, re-writing and editing takes about a year. I could possibly shorten that by eight months. I then send out the manuscript to my first readers.
    What eats up most time is procrastination. Sometimes, I’d rather do housework than write.

  2. says

    I think the greatest challenge, and the primary pitfall, is re-writing, re-drafting, revising and editing. So often, your best writing comes straight out of your fingertips; but there’s a humongous urge to scrutinize everything you’ve written. If you fall prey to it, it’s easy for that book to end up collecting dust rather than royalty cheques (or, in my case, rejection slips).