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How Long Should It Take to Write a Memoir?

How Useful Is A Memoir Timeline?

Have you ever wondered, “How long should it take to write a memoir?”

One answer, of course, is that it takes as long as it takes. While so true, this answer is not useful to those writers who are trying to get their duckies in line—looking at where the time is in their schedules to write, knowing what support to ask from their life partners, etc.

I’ve come up with a calculation for those people who want some sense of how long writing a memoir might take. The following time frame is realistic for any writer who needs a timeline to complete a 200-page memoir.

Two Years Is Often Enough

Realistically, how much time ought you to budget from idea conception to self-publish?

Well, to be honest, two years is a good chunk of time, but at The Memoir Network we believe that anything that is worth doing requires sacrifice. Given that we are talking of a memoir writer who is serious about producing a book for his/her family, we think it might take two years or less. (Add another year or two if you are not self-publishing but seeking commercial publication.)

  • The first year is spent conceptualizing your memoir and writing a first draft.
  • The second year is spent writing a second and polishing a third draft.

If writing the memoir is your focus, there is no reason a memoir project ought to be endless—take more than perhaps two years. (How long have you been working on your memoir?) With dedication on the part of the writer and help from a coach or an editor, your memoir can become a reality.

Two years may be all you need to leave a written legacy for your family. Here’s the choice:

  • two years are going to go by and you can have a published memoir at that time or,
  • after two years, you can still be moaning about how long it takes to write a memoir and how you don’t have time.

Commit to a timeline and then consider:

  • in two years, a book; or
  • in two years, no book.

Which is your preference?

Remember: what gets dated and scheduled can often get done expeditiously.

Good luck and stay in the memoir conversation.

Action Steps

1. When would you like to complete your memoir?

2. Take that time and split it in two. In the first portion, you will write your first draft. In the second, you will rewrite and polish.

3. Estimate the number of writing days you will have in each portion and make a guesstimate about how many pages you need to write on any given day. Is this feasible? If not, re-assess the length of time or re-assess your commitment and discipline.

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