How long will it take to write my memoir or biography?

How long will it take to write my memoir or biography?

This is a great question because I just got through comparing book projects from the last couple years and the answer may not surprise you: it’s variable. Meaning, there are a lot of factors that go into each project. HOWEVER, there are a few ways to estimate this number and they are relatively easy.

Before I get into the time it takes to write your book, I’d like to address the… why is this important? There are several reasons why you’d like to know how long your book might take to write. Here are a couple examples:

  • You are a writer and want to give an accurate estimate: I can’t think of a time when a new client didn’t ask me how much is this going to cost in total? Or, can you give me a max-cost. The thing is that it is difficult to provide either, but a good estimate can be very helpful as well as providing information as to why the estimate could be higher.
  • You are writing your own memoir and want to have a good timeline set up for yourself: It’s difficult to sit down and just start writing without a gameplan. Your gameplan might be as simple as an hour a day. But, inevitably you will be trying to figure out how much time your book will take to write; because writing isn’t always as glamorous as you think and at some point, you will be counting down the clock wondering if this whole thing will go on forever.
  • You have a deadline: Do you want your book out in time for friends to buy it for Christmas? Do you want your mother’s biography ready for her 100th birthday in four months? Are you running for office and need to have the book on the shelves by midterms? Having an idea of how long it will take to write will help you understand if you can hit your deadline or if you need to put more time in to hit it.

So, as you can see there are several reasons – I didn’t come close to hitting them all – where knowing how long it will take to write your book matters. Below you will find a few ways that I estimate the time it takes to write a book. While they are all different, I do find that they tend to be relatively accurate.

  1. One hour per page: First off, writers work by word count, not page. But, people who don’t write for a living love page count. So, assume a page is about 280 words. For many people they are purely focused on page count. If you are one of those people, then this is an easy way to figure out your estimated time to complete. The one hour per page will cover everything from data collection through editing. 100 pages = 100 hours. If you want a 150 page book (42,000 words), consider 150 hours as a good start. If you put in an hour a night, you are looking at about five months.
  2. Recorded approach: This is one of the components I use. If you are writing your own memoir then this is pretty easy. If you are writing someone else’s memoir then this will be a piece of your estimate. The average person speaks about 100 words per minute. With this approach you will use a recorder to complete either your interview or recording. Once you feel you have all of the recording that you need simply divide the total number of minutes by 100. So, if you have seven hours of recorded time that would be 420 minutes. Then multiply by 20. Why 20? Because that’s what my number tend to show.
  3.  The pro way: So, this way is similar to the recorded approach, but a little more itemized. Having been writing for some time now I can estimate the number of hours it will take to interview someone. Let’s say someone want 150 pages or about 42,000 words. I take the estimate word count and multiply by 40%, then divide by 100 to estimate the recording time. I get 588 minutes, or just around ten hours. I then break it down like this:
    1. Recording: 10 hours
    2. Transcription: (5x) or 50 hours
    3. Writing: same as transcription or 50 hours
    4. Editing: 20% of writing or 10 hours.

In this last scenario I’d be looking at about 120 hours. If you think the project will be more difficult or in-depth you can add another 50% onto the total number of hours. I often add on a multiplier depending on the person and the project so I don’t underestimate.

These are what I like to call the “simple” way to estimate how many hours it will take to write your memoir. This is based on a few caveats such as understanding the subject, having a basic idea or outline of the book and a smooth process.

Estimating the time it will take to write a book is not an easy process, and often you will take much more time than you thought, but at least this is a solid start.

So, have fun, and if you get a chance I’d love to hear your thoughts or your process of estimating how long it will take to write your book.

 

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