Want to learn how to write your first book in one month? I did, and it became a #1 international bestseller!
How to Write Your First Book
I was eight years old before I learned to actually read. Up until then, I’d been awkwardly sounding out words and stringing them together into sentences that I didn’t really understand. But when I was eight years old, the pieces finally fell into place in my brain, and I started reading fluently.
I remember later that same year was when I first decided I wanted to write a book. Pretty ambitious for someone who’d only just learned to read! But pushing boundaries seems to be an inescapable trend in my life. Not that I’d want to escape it.
At eight years old I wrote my first book with the help of my best friend. It was a sort of picture book that told a story we made up about my mom’s cat. Each page had a picture and maybe a couple sentences. I seem to recall that my friend drew the pictures, and I wrote the words; but perhaps I made up the story and she wrote the words. It was quite a while ago, so I can’t say I’m quite sure.
Regardless, after a number of hours of work, we'd finished the book cover to cover. Pictures carefully colored, our best handwriting, and a story we were proud of.
It was fourteen more years before I finished another book. But not because I didn’t want to! In the time between, I started at least a dozen books. Most of them never got past the first couple of pages. A few of them had perhaps a couple of chapters, but none more than that.
There’s another pattern in my life: Always being distracted by my next “great” idea, and leaving the previous project to die alone.
The primary reason that so many books went unfinished? I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the end. The only frame of reference I had was the common anecdote of “it took him five years to write that novel,” or “she spent half her life writing that book.”
So, that is what I believed! I believed that writing a book took many years (or a few, if you were really lucky), and that it was a difficult process that couldn’t really be hurried along.
How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?
Over the past few years, I’ve had increasingly more ideas for books that I wanted to write. Ideas fill my head that I can’t wait to share! But I held off and didn’t even start any of them, because I thought, “I know myself better than that. I know I can’t keep writing the same book for three or four or more years. I’ll get distracted by some other grand scheme long before then. I’ll have wasted so many hours on a worthless, half-finished draft.”
But the ideas kept coming, and finally (geek that I am) I decided to sit down and do the math. How long would it really take to write a whole book? How many years?
The formula was quite simple: # of words / words per hour = hours of writing
For example, if I wanted to write 2000 words and I can write 1000 words per hour, then it would take me two hours to have it complete.
I wanted to know how to write my first book and actually finish it. For me, the answer was in the math.
Word Counts of Classic Books
So how many words did I want to write? How many words are in a book?
Here’s the word counts of some classic books to give you an idea:
- War and Peace (Tolstoy) = 561,304
- The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) = 187,790
- Pride and Prejudice = 122,685
- All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque) = 61,922
- Animal Farm (Orwell) = 29,966
- As a Man Thinketh (Allen) = 11,780
I knew I didn’t want to write a very long book. I wanted it to be just long enough to say everything that needed to be said, give my readers actionable advice, and offer them a few examples, without going long-winded and explaining the same thing five different ways.
So I looked at the lengths of these different books, and determined that I wanted to write about 40,000 words. Short, but fully sufficient.
How Fast Do You Write?
The wrong way to determine writing speed would be to multiply your “words per minute” speed by 60 minutes. That would cause a great overestimation, because the reality of writing a book is that it involves a lot more time thinking about what you’re going to type than actually typing, and a whole lot more backspacing than most of us would like to admit. Even if you’re a fast backspacer, it still interrupts your flow.
The easiest way to accurately determine your writing speed is to write. Set aside an hour on each of the next few days to write. After at least three days, add up how many words you’ve written and divide by the number of hours it took you.
Personally, I discovered that I was writing about 1,000 words/hour. Of course, you’re writing speed may vary greatly from day to day. Sometimes I write twice that speed, other times half. Inspiration, clarity, and energy levels all will have their effect.
How Many Hours Will It Take to Write Your Book?
Once your goal word count is set and you know your writing speed, it’s easy to determine how long it will take you to write your entire book.
I wanted to write 40,000 words, I write 1,000 words/hour, therefore it will take me 40 hours to write my book.
My reaction: What???? One work week??
Considering that I had believed writing a book took several years, I was quite shocked to discover that the reality was closer to a week (or two or three, if you were to write something longer.)
Now, you may have noticed that this article is titled, “How to Write Your First Book in One Month.” Why a month, and not a week? I assume that you aren’t available to write full time. You probably have a job to work or children to care for. I also assume that since this is your first book, you don’t have the mental endurance to write for eight hours straight each day.
Even if you could will yourself to keep writing all day, every day for a couple of weeks, you’re quality would probably suffer if you’re not used to performing at that level. A month is a much more comfortable amount of time to spread your writing over, and will allow you time during the day (when you’re not writing) to process your ideas.
Daily Writing to Finish Your Book in One Month
To write your book in a month, you’ll divide the number of hours you expect it to take by 25 days. For example, my 40 hour estimate, divided by 25 hours is 1.6 hours/day.
Why 25 hours rather than 30? You’ll need to allow approximately one day each week for outlining a couple of chapters. Your writing will go faster and the resulting draft will have a much more logical flow if you take the time to plan rather than just hacking away at it without direction.
The most important step to take to write a book in a month is to set aside non-negotiable writing time each day. You must plan exactly when you will write, and you must be consistent, or else it won’t get done.
Perhaps you don’t have a couple of free hours each day. I don’t think many of us do! However, that is what it takes to write a book in a month. If this is something that is truly important to you, then you must create the time to accomplish it.
Personally, I’m a mom and was also working 35 – 50 hours/week teaching classes at the music academy I own, so finding the time was a challenge. I chose to wake up an hour and a half early (before my kids were up) every day for a month so that I could finish my book and reach my goal. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but I am very happy to have done it!
It’s important to set aside sufficient time each day to meet your writing goals, but your progress can be measured in time or by word count. I preferred holding myself accountable to a certain number of words each day (in my case, 1,600 words/day). That way, when I was having a particularly inspired session, I got to be done a bit early.
One Month Book Writing Plan & Schedule
If you want to write a book in one month, you’ll start by doing the planning to figure out how much time you need to set aside each day. After that, you’ll want to schedule out your chapters so you know what you need to write on each day. You’ll also need to fit in those outlining days.
I’ve created a worksheet and calendar for you to print and fill out to help you with this planning process to make reaching your writing goal just a little bit easier. You can download the worksheet and calendar for free by clicking here.
When Will Your Book Be Ready to Publish?
Just so that you’re fully aware, at the end of your month of writing, there will still be a bit more work to do before your book is ready to publish. You’ll have a complete first draft, but it will need some finishing work.
Editing can easily take about twice as many hours as the writing itself took. After I spent 40 hours writing, nearly another 80 hours went into editing. At least two rounds of editing (one for structural issues, and another for proofreading) are generally needed. Fortunately, editing can be outsourced for a reasonable cost, and it’s actually better to have someone else do it.
Aside from editing, you’ll need to have the interior of your book designed and formatted. You’ll also need to commission a cover design (or create one yourself). None of these things are terribly difficult, but they all take time. To give you a general idea, I’d estimate that your book could be ready to publish 2 – 3 months after you finish your first draft. However, the amount of time can vary greatly depending on how much of the work you decide to do yourself and how much you outsource.
If you’re among the 80% of people who want to write a book, I highly recommend that you at least do the math to determine how long it would take you. Anyone is capable of writing a book, but less than 1% of people ever do.
Writing a book in one month is certainly an attainable goal! If it’s on your bucket list, I encourage you to give it a try. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.