One of the blogs I follow is the Mad Reviewer, and I remember some time ago she discussed her reading speed.  Being a reviewer, she has to get through a lot of books – and she has the advantage of being trained to speed read – not to skip, but to read fast.  I can’t remember now what rates she quoted, but I have a feeling that 10,000 words in half an hour was something like it.  Maybe double… maybe I should check.

If you read a book at 5000 words in an hour, it’ll take you 15 hours to read the average novel.  Of course the novel word count varies wildly, but that still makes two days reading at eight hours a day.

I don’t know how many words I read in an hour.  Perhaps it depends a lot on the writing.  I know I read one recently in well under 90 minutes, which I thought was a bit extreme, even for a Middle Grade book.  I tend to read most books in three blocks – to 25%, then 60% then to the end.  I don’t know whether the reading gets ‘faster’ as the plot ramps up or I stay with it longer.  I supsect the former, since if I’m reading on my laptop in the garden the time is limited to about 110 minutes by the battery!  That would suggest I read at about 10,000 words an hour then.

I write at 1000 words an hour.

I started to recognise this with my flash fiction.  Provided I already had an idea of what to write (which usually comes to me overnight, or a couple of days after getting the prompt) I sit down and write the story, check the word count, and by the time I’ve done at least 1000 words I’ve taken an hour.  Then it takes another hour or two to tidy it up, get the word count correct, edit it, improve it, and post it.  Writing a 2000 word flash fiction takes 2 hours, plus an hour or two tidy up.  The tidy up doesn’t seem to take any longer for 1000 or for 2000 which is interesting.

So when I started Camp Nano and set myself the task of writing for 2 hours in the morning before doing anything else, I became less surprised that I kept writing around 2000 words in that time.  Some days I write to a natural break point, find I’ve done 1500 words in an hour and a half, nip down and make another coffee, and come back for another half hour to write my daily quota.

The main thing is to keep writing.  At first draft stage it doesn’t really matter if it’s rubbish (or full of typos).  You sort that out later.  An ex-boss advised me to ‘write loose and edit tight’.  She had taken that advice from her tutor during her doctorate.  It’s good advice.  I pass it on.

Have you recognised you have a reliable reading or writing speed?

PS Writing blog posts is exactly the same. 🙂



On writing speed
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6 thoughts on “On writing speed

  • 21 July, 2014 at 10:34 am

    When I started writing I set my target word goal at 500 words each time I sat down to write, which unfortunately wasn’t every day. Sometimes I’d reach the goal and sometimes not because I would always edit/correct/rewrite as I went along.

    Recently I joined a group of writers on Twitter who do a thing called #wordmongoring. Someone puts up an invite to start at, say, the top of the next hour; people join in as they can. At the appointed time everyone writes and at the end of half an hour, announces her or his word count. Half an hour later, they start again. I’ve learned that, for half an hour, I can write and ignore typos, incorrect verb forms, whatever, and get some writing done. My daily word count has gone up to about 700 a day, with occasional sprints of 900 or more. It’s helped me no end. Of course, I go back later and clean the writing up, but that’s because a sloppy couple of pages makes me twitchy when I try to read it next #Wordmongering session to catch the story and continue writing. 😉

    • 22 July, 2014 at 10:23 am

      I think you’ve got the key, Suzanne – ignore the typos, etc and get the words down. I find I need to read through it to correct some of the typos (so I know what I actually meant to say at the time), but I often do that while I’m working out what follows.
      We each have a pattern that suits us best – for me setting 2 hours aside seems to work well.

  • 21 July, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I wish I could write 1000 words an hour!

    • 22 July, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Your style is far more literary than mine, Damyanti. I admire your work for its style and richness. You think more about your word choices than I do 🙂 I just chatter!

  • 21 July, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    This is a very thoughtful post and something I hadn’t thought about. I read very quickly, can finish a short book in a few hours. Writing not so fast, perhaps because I spent too much time thinking about the words themselves or running over dialogue in my head. But you are on to something in the link between reading and writing speed.

    • 22 July, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Is it ‘too much time’, though? One thing I’ve already noted for my second draft is to look at the dialogue of my characters and make sure they are individuals, not everyone speaking like wot I do (slang intended)!

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