How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

20027134_sWelcome back to Two Navy Guys and a Novel, the blog series where two ex-Navy guys, J.R. and David, try to write a military thriller. If you want to get caught up on previous episodes, go here.

This week, David talks details about the project schedule. As a writer, I often get asked the question: how long does it take to write a book? That’s the wrong question. Writing a book doesn’t take all that long, rewriting the book is what takes all the time.

How Do You Write a Book? Step by Step

Every writer has their own writing process, the stages below are what has worked for me in the past. The times indicated are my conservative estimates for what it will take for each step.

  • First Draft – 9 weeks – I like to write the first draft as fast as possible. For me, that’s 2000-3000 words a day (6-10 pages). We’re estimating WMD will be a 90,000 word draft, so I’ll need about 9 weeks for the first draft. (NOTE: I am terrible at estimating word counts, so it could be less than 90K words. Heck! It could be far more!).
  • Second Draft – 4 weeks – JR and I will go back through the entire document at least once, (probably twice, maybe three times) to add in details, fix plot issues, smooth out the text, and generally make it a real story.
  • Editor – 4 weeks – we’re planning to use my long-time editor, Sarah Kolb-Williams. I’m estimating she’ll need a month to rework our story. It goes to her as an MSWord document and comes back with changes annotated electronically.
  • Rewrites – 4 weeks – Another pass (or two or three) back through the story to address the edits from Sarah. This four-week window assumes a chapter-a-day rate of progress, which I think is pretty conservative.
  • Beta readers – 4 weeks – this is a crucial stage for WMD. Our goal is to write authentic fiction, and we will be sending the manuscript to a number of active duty and former military “betas” for their feedback on our descriptions.
  • Rewrites – 3 weeks – we do another rewrite to incorporate feedback from our betas.
  • Editor – 2 weeks – the “final” draft goes back to Sarah for one more look at any changes we’ve made.
  • navy-13Final revisions – 2 weeks – address any final edits and do a final proofreading pass. The proofread is usually best done by someone who has not looked at the manuscript before. At this point, the book can be formatted into an e-book and ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) distributed to reviewers.
  • Interior Design – 4 weeks – at this stage, the finished manuscript is formatted for the paperback version of the book.
  • Launch Party!

Some Caveats

This schedule assumes we will be independently publishing our novel. If we decide we want to publish traditionally, our manuscript would go into the publisher after our final revisions. I’m told the process from manuscript submission to seeing actual printed books on the shelf of your local bookstore can be two years… We’ll wrestle that tiger in a future blog post.

Can we do it any faster?

5624056667_57ffca018d_zIf you add up all my times and consult your calendar, you will find this has us releasing the paperback of Weapons of Mass Deception at the end of April 2015.

I can already hear the cries now: can’t you do it any faster? The short answer is yes, and here’s how:

  • Process the rewrites faster. If we shave a week off each rewrite cycle, we can pull in the schedule by 3-4 weeks.
  • Send the manuscript to our editor and our beta readers at the same time. Each of those steps consumes a month of the schedule and assumes a separate rewrite stage after each step. Bottom line is we could save seven weeks if we combined these two steps.

If you add all that up, a modestly aggressive schedule could have Weapons of  Mass Deception released in e-book form by the end of JAN 2015 and in paperback by the end of FEB 2015, a full eight weeks ahead of the conservative schedule.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

As decision points come closer, we’ll be blogging about our choices and why we make the ones we do. As always, feel free to drop a comment or send us an email at

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David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series  The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.

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