15

A couple of axioms here. Firstly, most people agree that you should write your first draft quickly, without too much care on quality, and get something down on paper first. The real writing begins with the second draft. This is the approach that most writing books try to teach, and I'm taking this as a given for this question.

Secondly writing is more than just typing (no matter what Truman Capote says), so there has to be some level of thought into the first draft. I'm no professional typist, but I can at least manage 40wpm when copy-typing. Clearly though I'm not going to reach 2400 words per hour on the first draft.

So what sort of figure should I be aiming for? At the minute I'm around 250 words/hour which I'm worried is veering into 2nd draft territories for slowness. Are there any de facto guidelines here from the professionals?

  • Vote to close as subjective. Everyone writes at their own speed. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 29 '11 at 12:03
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    @Ralph I think the question is not subjective. Craig Sefton's answer would be the perfect answer for this question, and I think writing speed is something a lot of people worry about, even if everyone writes at their own speed. This question stands well. – Dan Hanly Mar 29 '11 at 12:21
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    Enough words to convey your message- unfortunately this question does not meet that criteria. You want a number? 500,000. Now since you probably don't like that number pick one of your own that you can meet. BTW, 500,000 bad words is not as good as three good words. If you are an accountant setting an objective goal might work, Are you.? – Joshin Nov 14 '11 at 23:38
  • at least 10000 words per hour. – user3294 Feb 22 '12 at 16:11
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    The problem isn't that the question is subjective - it is, clearly - but that's okay. What's missing is "...to achieve [goal]" but that's explained well in Craig's answer. – Neil Fein Feb 22 '12 at 17:00
17

Slow and steady wins the race.

Cliché's out the way (although I do think it's true), one of the things I find with writing is that you should always stick to what you're comfortable with, unless you're finding it detrimental to your writing.

So, if you're doing 250 words/hour, and feel that's too slow, then I would suggest you set yourself an easy target. Double it to 500wph, or increase it to 1000wph, and try achieve that.

If you can sustain it, and feel that it's easy, then up the ante again. If you find yourself struggling, then lower it.

The best thing really is to experiment, and find the level that you feel most comfortable with.

Edit: I also wanted to add that, according to this article, author Dean Wesley Smith says:

“Most professional writers can average about one thousand words an hour, when going on a novel. Not in the struggle of the beginnings, but once the novel is underway. So, simple math says that to write a 90,000 word novel, you have about 90 hours of work.”

That would suggest that you should set your own expectations based on where you are in the process of writing your novel, but I still recommend sticking with what you feel comfortable with. With practise, your wph will likely start to increase naturally by itself.

  • 2
    This answer is quite excellent. The issue isn't how many words per hour you should write, but how many weeks/months it'll take for you to write the book. – Neil Fein Feb 22 '12 at 16:58
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    I don't know about that. I'm not a professional typist (or writer) but I used to write many fanfiction's; I usually wrote around 6,000 words every 2.5 hours. I wrote each episode of my ff's around that number; and as I hated sloppy plots, said-bookisms, plastic dialogs, etc (you get the gist), I'd say I wrote some very good pieces back then. Then came the day I decided to write something worthy of submitting to a publisher, I fell to ~500wpm with tens of drafts... It all depends on how confident, comfortable, and stressed you are. – Mussri Feb 23 '12 at 18:53
5

I write about 350 words an hour and judging from what i've read about famous writers (like Hemingway or Jack london) who typically only write 1,000 words a day while working around 4 hours a day or more, their words rate must be quite slow. fiction is an inefficent business.

4

I really wouldn't worry too much about words per hour. I agree with Craig (and Dean Wesley Smith) that 1000 words an hour is a good, sustainable rate, at least for some genres, but I don't think professional writers got there by trying consciously to write faster - I think that the faster writing comes naturally as you get more comfortable with your craft.

In my experience, there are always parts that go smoothly and quickly, and parts that drag a little. Sometimes it's because I've thought things through so much ahead of time that I'm essentially just typing what I've already written in my head, but I think there are other reasons, too. I write romance, and the big dramatic conversations flow out of me as fast as I can type, but sex scenes take me forever. I think it's because there are millions of ways to make dialogue sound fresh and original, but sex -- well, unless I get kinky to the extreme, there are only so many ways to write it. So I have to slow down and really think it through in order to make it original and avoid the cliches.

So, really - I'd pay attention to writing speed as one tool to get feedback about what you're comfortable writing and what you aren't, but I'm wary of making a conscious effort to increase your speed. It takes as long as it takes. Focus on the content, not the extraneous details.

2

I write around 1k an hour. But have wrote 3, or 4k on word-wars for NaNoWriMo. It depends on how fast you can type, if you are hyper etc and also if you can concentrate. I'm a pro writer but I find myself at low word counts.

1

I'm late to answering this question, however I'm going to answer it anyway in case anybody else comes across this question and reads my answer.

Like everybody on this post says, generally I'd go with 1000 words, or whatever you're comfortable with. I'm just beginning a first draft, and I go at 1200 words per hour, generally.

However, I disagree with some people on this question. Writing faster doesn't come naturally. If you want to write faster than you're writing now, or you feel you're writing too slow, I recommend these methods which have basically doubled my writing speed:

  1. Music: Not the songs most people generally listen to, but instrumental and classic. It's been scientifically proven that if you listen to this while writing, you're writing speed and productivity will vastly improve.

  2. Outline: Always outline before you work. Even if you're a pantser, you should still try to have some idea of where your scene is going.

  3. Time: Don't write for two hours straight. What works for me is writing in 25 minute increments, with a 5 minute break in between where you can get a snack or whatnot. (Do as many of these 25 minute sessions as you want. Generally I do two, and then if I have time I'll do another one, or another couple.)

I hope you found my answer helpful.

  • While some of the points may not work for everyone (I know many writers who find music annoying, for instance), they are definetly worth trying. – Liquid Dec 11 '18 at 10:51
0

I would recommend you to start with noting down whatever you think caring less about quality while it satisfies you.

I don't think number of words per hour really matters. Coz a paragraph of excellent text might be more appreciated than whole 700 page book. Devote more time on thought, once its clear rest will flow by itself.

0

I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to share from my own experience. I was actually trying to see if I'm a slow writer, having just finished a craze(wrote for 9 hours with only a few 2-3 minute breaks) which I usually don't do and didn't intend on before I sat down.

I definitely agree with Olivia about the music, I have a "creative" music folder I listen to whenever I write or paint, if I want to be creative but need a push I just need to put the right music on and ideas a streaming through like someone just broke down the dam.

Don't push yourself, but try and get into a rythm, write 20 minutes a few days a week if you're new to writing. If you're midway through a novel and feel good about it, set yourself a goal, like 2000 words per day or 2 hours per day. That's how I, despite a full time job, did a decent first draft in just under 3 months.

Train yourself in not reading back constantly, only look at what you've already got down if you forgot someones eye colour or what not, do NOT correct before you're done with the draft. This is what slows people down the most, even if they think they don't do it, they usually do. I've gotten more and more aware of myself doing this and have finally reached a point where I realise straight away and stop myself. Basically it's a very subjective thing.

Sometimes I write 500 wph, other times like today, I was at a whopping 1400 wph, it really depends on your mood as well.

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