How Long Did It Take Roald Dahl To Write a Book?

Roald Dahl is one of the world’s best-known children’s book writers. With titles such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The BFG, he is well-known and adored by millions. We have read his beloved books and watched them come to life on the big screen, but how long did it take Roald Dahl to write a book?

It took Roald Dahl one to two years to write a book. He often wrote more than one book at a time, overlapping his children’s fiction novels and adult short stories. George’s Marvellous Medicine was published in 1981 and The BFG in 1982, meaning it took him approximately one year to write The BFG.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at how long it took Roald Dahl to write a book. Read on if you’re curious to know how fast Roald Dahl wrote.

How Fast Was Roald Dahl at Writing Books?

Roald Dahl wrote fast, having published fourty-nine books and 12 screenplays during his life and posthumously. His first book was published in 1943 and he passed away in 1990, meaning he wrote 49 books in about 48 years.

That’s a rather high number, especially when you compare it to other authors. Many writers take over 5 years to write a novel, although others can finish a book in under 6 months.

Dr. Seuss, another of the great figures in children’s literature, published 60 books during his career, which lasted about 45 years. That means that, on average, he took less than a year to write a book.

Beatrix Potter, the creator of Petter Rabbit and one of Roald Dahl’s inspirations, published 35 books. It took her around 6 months to write each one.

Of course, it’s very difficult to estimate how fast a writer is. Some books can be written faster than others, and some writers simply have a talent for pumping out books quickly.

It’s worth saying that just because he wrote children’s books, that doesn’t mean they were easy to write. As any reader of Dahl knows, his stories were carefully thought out and interwoven with complex themes.

Roald Dahl kept a steady writing pace throughout his career. Rarely more than two years passed without him publishing anything, and the longest period between two books was of 4 years.

Here is an informative YouTube video about Roald Dahl’s life:

Roald Dahl Books

To better understand what an incredible author Roald Dahl really was, you need only look at his list of publications and accomplishments. Not only did he write novels and short stories, but also scripts for Broadway and screenplays for television and film.

Now that we know how fast Roald Dahl wrote, let’s look at four of his most famous children’s novels. These novels have been adapted into movies and deserve a closer look:

  • James and the Giant Peach. This fantastic children’s story was written by Roald Dahl in 1961 and published in the same year. We don’t know precisely how long it took him to write the book, but we speculate that it was less than a year. The novel was adapted into a film in 1996.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Possibly Dahl’s most famous book, and understandably so, has been adapted to film twice. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005. The novel was published in 1964, leaving three years for Roald Dahl to have written this masterpiece.
  • The BFG. Made into a movie in 1989 and 2016, this fantasy adventure takes you on a magical journey. The novel was published in 1982, and unless Roald Dahl started writing The BFG while working on other projects, it is estimated to have taken him a year to write.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox. This book was published in 1970, 4 years after his previous unedited work. It was adapted into a stop-motion movie in 2006 that, although child-friendly, was also geared toward adult viewers.
  • Matilda. This fantastic novel took two years to write and was adapted into a film in 1996 and again as a musical in 2022.

These movies are classics, just like the books they are based on, and deserve to be on everybody’s to-watch list.

If you, like millions of other people across the world, love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and want to read some more books about candy, you can check out my article on the 9 best kids’ books about candy.

How Roald Dahl Started Writing

Roald Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins (1943), was written for Walt Disney Productions in 1943. It was supposed to be turned into a movie, but production never took off.

However, despite being known for his iconic children’s books, Dahl’s early career was mostly dedicated to adult fiction. He wrote a novel and three collections of short stories before he wrote James and the Giant Peach (1961). After its success, he started focusing on books for children.

Dahl didn’t completely abandon adult fiction. Even after he became a renowned author in children’s literature, he still wrote short fiction. All of the short story collections he published during his lifetime were adult diction.

One of the things that set Roald Dahl apart from other writers of children’s books was the dark undertone in many of his books and his willingness to show violence and even death. In fact, the gruesomeness in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kept it from being published in the UK for a few months.

Final Thoughts

Roald Dahl wrote many books during his life, some for children and some for adults, but all of them are masterpieces.

Since his first book was published in 1943, it is easy to establish that he wrote at least one book a year. Sometimes he worked on more than one project at a time, so it is possible that completing some of his books took longer than others.


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