June 10, 2023



Can You Really Write a Book in 3 Months?

Since I offer visitors to my website the prospect of a un cours en miracles in 3-6 months, I thought I should address the questions of when, whether, and how it’s possible to produce a full-length book so quickly.

At the recent BACN Publishing Panel, Dr. Bette Daoust said that it takes her 32 hours to write a book. You could hear the gasps of astonishment from the audience. She quickly qualified the statement by pointing out three things:

  1. That time is only for writing, not for research or editing. The research (gathering of relevant articles) may take months, not counting the years of experience that create the author’s expertise.
  2. It takes 32 hours to write the first draft. Few writers actually want their first drafts published.
  3. As the author of 150 books, Dr. Daoust is a practiced writer; first-time authors can expect to spend three times that on their first draft, even if they have all their ducks in a row.

When I was a young, energetic graduate student, I researched and wrote a 300,000 word quasi-historical fantasy adventure novel during our four-month summer break. That’s several times as long as any business book. (In fact, 300,000 words is really too long to be one novel; I decided a few years later, when I got nowhere with publishers, to divide it into two books and add a couple of chapters to the shorter section, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

That’s where the research comes in. Whether you’re writing your own book or someone else’s, you have to gather a lot of source material before starting to write. You also have to go through the proposal process, to find out who the book’s intended market is, what the author’s goal for the book is, which books are comparable, etc and so on. I advise even authors who know from the beginning that they’re going to self-publish to write book proposals, because by the time you’ve done all that preparation, actually writing the book is almost an afterthought.

It can take longer to create a good proposal, with its marketing plan, hook, handle, outline, and sample chapters, than it does to write the rest of the book. Again, it depends on how well-prepared you are. Patricia Fry, author of How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less, explains the value of book proposals on WBJB Radio.

Part of preparing to write-and thus being able to write quickly-is getting your source material together. You might collect relevant magazine articles and web pages over the course of a few months. Make sure you have them where you can get to them, and that you go over them to decide where you want to include them. You should also collect any short articles you’ve published that you want to include or expand on. And if you have illustrations or figures of any kind already picked out, you’ll need to get those together, as well.

If you have recordings of yourself giving presentations and leading workshops, get them transcribed. If you don’t have them, start making them. They’ll save you from reinventing the wheel. You can get a digital recorder for less than $100; for a little more, you can get one that comes bundled with voice-to-text software. (This technology is much better than it used to be, but you’ll still need a human to go over and correct it.) If you want, you can produce your entire first draft by talking rather than writing.

If you’re working with a ghostwriter, s/he will probably record interviews with you, as well as making use of any recordings or transcriptions you already have. It can be useful to hear the original audio as well as having the text to work with, but you’ll almost certainly lose time and money if you ask your ghostwriter to do the transcription. There are specialized services that will do it faster and cheaper if you don’t want to go the software route.

If, instead of planning for a few years to write before you sit down at your keyboard, you get struck by a mental lightning bolt one day and conclude that you need a book now, you can condense your research and preparation period. It may mean some long days at the library and on the Internet, not to mention in front of the microphone, either presenting to an audience or getting interviewed by a writer, but you should be able to manage the research inside a month if you can take time off from your regular business to do so.