Amazon Bestselling Fantasy Author
How Long It Takes to Write a Novel

How Long It Takes to Write a Novel

For the first time in my writing career, I have almost the full picture of time spent on a novel. Aside from the first draft written years ago, I kept track of all the work I’ve done on A Fistful of Fire. The result is an accurate picture of how long it takes to write a novel (with pie charts!)

Despite the first draft’s hours not being included in these stats, I still feel this is close to how long it’d have taken me to write the final book from scratch. I spent so much time doing rewrite and re-outlining the novel, if anything, the hours noted here are longer than it would have been to write a novel from scratch.

A Fistful of Fire - RequestSizeI’ve listed the steps in approximately chronological order. Because this novel required massive rewrites and new text, some of the editing came before the writing, some after.

Input into Scrivener: 1 hour

I wrote the first draft in Word, and then later fell in love with Scrivener.

World Building: 29 hours

This includes brainstorming time to create new creatures and flesh out the rules of the world. This is different from creating plot.

Outlining: 50.5 hours

This is where I spend my time creating plot, fine-tuning it, and running my outline through a gazillion checks to make sure I have a good foundation from which to write. For more on this process, see my “How I Write” three-post series.

Writing: 181 hours

Pretty self-explanatory.

Editing: 354.5 hours

This includes my personal multiple rounds of edits I did on the novel (which also included some rewrites) as well as the edits I made after I received notes from my editor.

Quote Selection: 9.25 hours

I like having interesting chapter titles that correspond on some thematic level with the content of the chapter. I don’t know if it translates, but the idea was for each chapter to have a bumper sticker saying as a tribute to Madison’s fake job.

Copyedits: 23 hours

Different than the earlier big-picture edits and my own polishing, this time was for me to go through all the problems the copyeditor had caught and clarifies queries and make the fixes in my final document.

Writing Front and Back Matter: 3.75 hours

The copyrights page, other works, dedication, acknowledgments, ads for my own novels, and author page all had to be written or tweaked from what was used in A Fistful of Evil. I also added a teaser for Magic of the Gargoyles to the end of the novel, and I had to do some massaging to make sure it would look right and show up with the right title on the TOC.

Cover: 2 hours

Specifically, purchasing it. These two hours were me providing guidelines for the designer regarding how I wanted the cover to look, then providing feedback for the rounds of tweaks until I had a cover I adored. Since I already knew the designer I wanted to go with and the style of A Fistful of Evil, which I wanted to mimic, this was a quick and easy process.

Cover Copy: 5.5 hours

Cover copy is the text on the back cover a book, which is also the sales text on the book’s Amazon page. Aside from writing a good book and having a good cover, this is the most important part to selling a novel. I would have sworn I spent three times as many hours on this process.

Online To-Sell Prep: 2.75 hours

Everything has to be uploaded and checked, including my Amazon author page, the sales page of A Fistful of Fire, and the Goodreads page.

Advanced Reader Copies: 0.25 hours

Prepping the manuscript to reflect that it was not the final copy.

Kindle Preview: 2 hours

To make sure there were no file corruptions or faulty translations of code, I checked through the entire book using Amazon’s Kindle previewer program.

Total Time: 664.5 hours

It’s easy to see here that the bulk of writing a novel is not writing (at least not for me). It’s editing. Surprised?

By Hour

FOF Pie5

By Percentage

Obviously some time was spent on those “0%” tasks, but not much compared to the bulk of the work.

FOF Pie4


My calculations do not include everything it took to launch A Fistful of Fire. Specifically, I did not include:

  • Reviews: contacting reviewers regarding ARCs
  • Spotlights: I ran two month-long blog tours and a week-long release-week blitz, which included contacting over 100 bloggers, writing guest posts, doing interviews, and following up with contest winners
  • Website updates: I added information about A Fistful of Fire to my site and created several pages dedicated to it

Whew! Let me know if you have any questions. Or if you want a different shape pie chart. I’m having fun with this in Excel.

3 Responses to How Long It Takes to Write a Novel

  1. This is way cool, Rebecca! I’d like to do this with my own writing, but I’m not sure I can remember to track my time, lol. Although making pretty pie charts would be added incentive… 😉

  2. I should be saying edit like the wind and not write like the wind. I like the chart and had no idea that could be done in Excel. Now get back to writing because I’m already ready for book #3!!!

    LOVED Fistful of Fire but we know Amazon will not let me leave a review because they know I know you. And here I AM the spy, who knew they were too.

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