When writers are struggling through their proposals, outlines, and manuscripts, they often ask me, “Am I taking too long?” or “How long should this take?”
I’ve learned to not give the pat response “it depends,” but it really does depend on a number of factors.
- Are you actually in a rush? Sometimes writers want their books out in a hurry and for good reason. They might want to have a book out for a conference, for example, or they’re writing a legacy book and they have a short window. I encourage writers to instead consider what the book actually needs and what it wants to be. How can you achieve your intention in a shorter time span? Do you actually have more time than you think? Try asking a seed to hurry up 🌱
- Are you living the material as you write? It can be hard to gain reflection when you’re *in it*. For example, writing about a divorce before the ink dries, or showing how well a process works when you’re still prototyping it. If you’re developing and processing while writing, it will take longer. And that time is necessary to ensure you write a book that endures. You will require more drafts and reflection. This is OK 🤗
- What are the guardrails of this project? A book is a creative project, like a garden, or even Grand Central Station. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, your book has a budget and a team. How much time can you afford to take off work to devote to this project? Who needs to weigh in on your words (family, lawyer, beta reader, agent)? Who is relying on it (colleagues, publishing team)? How much time can you devote to your manuscript without neglecting important relationships?
Try plotting out how your book will fit into your life. How can your book-writing process actually support you? Can the writing be nourishing and generative? Can you build a schedule that taps into your available energy and time? Can you cut yourself some slack when it “takes longer than planned,” recognizing it’s exactly on time?