Why Does It Take So Long to Write a Book?

It does not, cannot, will not, happen in a day.

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The second you get an idea for a story, you wish it could simply write itself.

No matter how much we love to write, we’ve all had this thought more than once. Because it would just be so much … easier … if we could snap our fingers and have a finished, polished, totally publishable novel in a matter of seconds.

After all, that’s how it seems to work from the outside looking in. An author mentions they’re working on a book, and the next thing you know, it has a release date and you can pre-order it from Barnes & Noble.

But that’s not how it really goes. You know this. It’s just easy to forget, in those moments you’re sitting in front of your imperfect draft wondering if continuing is even worth it.

Many of you reading this now have a pretty good idea of the typical steps involved. It’s not just getting an idea for a book one day and submitting it to a publisher (or whatever your chosen method of outreach) the next.

First you probably end up way overthinking even the most basic fragments of your story.

And then, for some reason, details like characters’ names, dates, locations, and things that might not matter much — at least in the beginning — take up way too much of your creative energy.

Then you start/continue writing … and it feels like you’re stuck in that stage for a long, long time.

You doubt if anything you’re dumping onto literal or figurative paper even makes sense.

You stop trying to correct your own spelling and grammar because you’re a little bit disgusted with yourself, to be honest.

You get on a roll … and then you start noticing major flaws in your story. And you have to decide whether to go back and fix them now or just keep writing and worry about making improvements later.

More writing. Your spelling isn’t getting any better — in fact, it might be getting worse.

You hit walls. You take breaks. You crash through those walls and … yeah, you’re still writing.

Days, weeks, months … even years go by. How are you still writing?

And even when you “finish” your first draft … you have to reread everything you wrote.

(Ugh.)

Then come the revisions. All your attempts to make things better, more entertaining … PUBLISHABLE.

It’s exhausting.

But the cool thing is, if you just keep taking things a day at a time, eventually, you end up writing a book. Something a surprising number of people never do, even though they try to.

It does not, cannot, will not, happen in a day.

It might seem like everyone can write a book. But not everyone will. And even those that do don’t do it without some struggling. Your pace, your fluctuating levels of drive and determination, they don’t matter beyond the fact that you’re doing the absolute best you can.

Writing a book takes a long time because it’s a very difficult thing to do.

Don’t rush. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it doesn’t feel like you’re making much progress. Just keep writing. It’s not always that “easy.” But it IS necessary. Write, and you will be rewarded. Maybe not today or next month or within a few years. But you’ll be glad you didn’t quit.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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9 thoughts on “Why Does It Take So Long to Write a Book?

  1. In a society that craves instant gratification and results, many want to write a book in a few days, or even in a few hours. I also overestimated my writing skills, and underestimated the difficult of writing a complete, semi-readable book. Yet, the best of writers struggled for years without much confidence that it will all end well for them. I’m still coming to terms with that reality, and much like writing itself, I’m slowly improving myself and constantly changing my perspective.

    1. Good on you for coming to this point in your journey as a writer. It’s hard, and many struggle, but honestly, you just have to take it one day at a time and try not to worry as much about how long it takes. It takes a long time, ironically, to build up a healthy level of patience as a writer.

      1. Exactly! I used to get worry that my writing will never amount to much, and how all it could do is so collect dust (virtual and otherwise.) Instead, as you said, I began to be more patient with the process, rather than focus on entirely on the end goal.

  2. This was a truly brilliant and encouraging description of what the writing process is really all about! I have thought about a book I want to write for a long time. I came up with an outline added to the outline, but that is where I am at right now. I do not plan to write a book in a day or a month and I also never plan on giving up the dream of actually publishing my book someday! Thank you for this incredible advice!

      1. Thank you so much Meg! I will always hold onto my dreams and I am determined to someday write a book. Maybe in 20 years or so it will be a best seller!! A girl can dream!

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