How long does it take to write a bestseller (or ‘just’ a book)?

Borges had a way with words as a child, apparently, though his passion and its plaudits did not really seed until his thirties, or start to bloom until his forties. Point being, it often takes decades to get going, to get good. So, how long does it take to write a bestseller… or ‘just’ a book? A month? A year? A life?

One month       

If you’re a writer you’ve surely done the math/s. You start with some received wisdom about the minimum number of words permissible for a book to be called a novel (let’s say 75,000 for brevity’s sake). Then you hit upon your ideal, usually unrealistic, deadline (let’s say a month) and you work out that you can get this done if you just hammer out 2,500 words a day. It’s a deceptively simple, attractive sounding formula.

Of course it’s rarely that simple. Yet somehow this ‘X’ amount of words per day optimism has spawned “NaNoWriMo” – National Novel Writing Month, which seems a misnomer now that it appears to have gone global…


2016’s cohort have conjured up a combined total of over 15.5 million words (visualised). Perhaps it does not matter how many of those words will be read (or heard) by anyone beyond their respective authors. More people write, and in doing so many will find perks beyond the (extremely unlikely) payday of a bestseller.

One year                          

So there’s a new(ish) podcast that is part journey, bestseller-experimentpart promo for the result: a book. Indeed it’s being touted as a book that is knowingly aiming for bestseller status.

Now this could be an ego trip for the podcasters, and an immediate turn-off for listeners… yet it might be an intriguing, insightful experiment to eavesdrop.

Can you deliberately write a blockbuster? In one year? You can find out by checking the pod’ to see if it sounds worth following.

One life               

Meet Harry Bernstein (pictured).portrait-of-harry-bernstein-nyt

His story caught my eye as he was born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, UK – not far from where I currently reside.

Bernstein scored a best seller… aged 96. Aged 101 he died.

The bittersweet lesson of his lifelong love for writing, and his short-lived success, is summarised in this NYT obituary (linked through the portrait).


Me? The tortoise won the proverbial race, right?

I’d be happy to follow even a few of the illustrious steps trodden at a sensible pace by Borges – not known for bestsellers of course, rather a stellar career and lasting legacy.

How about you?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s