You need to write fast enough to meet your deadline. You need to write fast enough to finish.
There is no minimum speed requirement. So, how fast do you want to write?
We can’t answer that question for you. But, we can tell you how to manage your writing speed.
We strongly suggest, and actually use, a digital timer. Dial-type kitchen timers don’t seem as precise. There’s nothing like a good digital timer.
A Taylor Stainless Steel Timer with Clock, is a wonderful thing. It is rectangular, with a stand that folds up. It is not much larger than a cell phone, and it folds flat. You can hang it from the stand, or stand it upright. It works fine on its side.
This timer can be used as timer, or as a stopwatch. The timer is good if you want to get a sense of how many words you can type in a specific amount of time. If you have an hour to write, how many words can you finish during that time?
The stopwatch feature is great if you want to see how long it takes you to write a certain number of words. If you want to know how long it will take you to write 1,000 words, start the stopwatch and just keep typing until you have typed 1,000 words. Stop the stopwatch. There. Now you know.
Some people say that, if you type faster, you write faster. It is perhaps possible. But, ultimately, you can only type as fast as you can think.
However, if you know how fast you can reasonably type, you will be a more realistic writer. You won’t feel so discouraged because you have an unrealistic expectation of how much you should be accomplishing.
Just to throw a kink in the works, remember that word processors are relatively new. Typewriters are fairly new, given the history of the written word. And, there are still people who write in longhand.
But, the rule is the same. Know how quickly you write.
So how does it work?
First of all, this is not a race to see how quickly you can write. In fact, don’t even try doing timings until you get that notion out of your head.
Secondly, you need to do two kinds of timings. The first type is a timed writing.
Relax. Get everything in position. Gather together whatever media you are going to use. Clear everything else out of your head. Turn your phone off, or make a conscious decision to let voicemail pick up. Ignore text messages. Feed the dog, before you begin. Do whatever it takes to give yourself a clear playing field.
Start the timer, in timer mode for 5 minutes.
Start writing. Do not rush. Write in your usual speed.
When the timer goes off, look at what you accomplished.
That was just one timing. I recommend half a dozen timings, over several days.
Your average word per minute writing rate becomes obvious. Now you know what to expect of yourself. You know how much you can accomplish in 5 minutes.
Now try some longer timings.
I am a pragmatist. I do actual writing when I’m doing timings. If I don’t have an assignment, I make one up that I might want to actually sell or that I might post on a blog. I want the experience to be as real as I can make it.
Now, try the second timed writing technique. Turn the stopwatch on and just start writing until you are finished. Stop the stopwatch and make a note of how long it took you to write that piece.
Again, try this several times. And, again, pragmatism wins out in my book. I do this with actual writing projects, just to save time. I’m not fond of wasting precious writing time on something I know I will trash.
With both timings done, you now know how fast you write. You no longer have the excuse that you don’t have time to write. The time is there. You just need to learn to manage it.
Plan out your writing. This doesn’t sound as fun as calling yourself an author, does it? But, it works.
Every November is National Novel Writing Month and every November I hear one person after another lament that they wish they didn’t have a job so that they could participate. Guess what? Almost every person who does participate does have a job. NaNoWriMo participants don’t take the month off!
So what’s so special about them? They know how to gauge and manage their writing time.
The first time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I realized that I needed a spreadsheet. I adore spreadsheets. I can do amazing things with spreadsheets. I use them for everything.
During NaNoWriMo, you have 30 days during which you commit to writing 50,000 words. Yes, that comma is in the correct position.
A 50,000 word is short. It is not even a novel. It is considered a novella. So, yes, you can do this.
Yes, in 30 days. Because, you know how fast you write thanks to your timed writing experiments.
Here is how I suggest you use NaNoWriMo to become a more productive writer, whether you write novels or non-fiction. Map out your writing time. That’s why I use a spreadsheet. I like it better than a calendar. I created one for myself that actually does a countdown to zero.
I create what looks like a calendar. Then I determine how many of those 30 days will be writing days. I know that 29 days are the most number of days I will write—because I don’t write on Thanksgiving.
Generally speaking, we all have days when we just are not going to write. If you plan to devote a day to Black Friday, then you need to reduce the writing days to 28. And, so on.
The idea is to be realistic. Mark off days when you will not be writing.
Next identify days when you have other commitments that will require some, but not all, of your day. Like a workday. If you are working 8 hours, then you need to deduct 8 hours of work, plus lunch plus commuting time, plus food preparation time, plus family time, plus any other commitments. Whatever is left over becomes writing time.
Begin with weekends. Schedule long hours of writing on Saturdays and Sundays. Then calculate how many more hours it will take to reach 50,000 words based on your writing rate, as determined by your timings.
Divvy up the rest of the writing throughout the rest of the month until you schedule yourself time to write 50,000 words. Now, do the work.
It’s really just that simple. Know your thinking/writing rate. Plan your writing accordingly. Do the work.
Use AutoCorrect to compensate for your typing foibles.
Thanks to technology, your computer can actually do some of the writing for you. I realized years ago that my fingers refuse to believe that lavendar is not a word. So I taught my computer to replace the word with the correct spelling as soon as I type it in wrong. It’s not a spelling feature. It’s an AutoCorrect feature.
I have also learned that my fingers have a habit of typing certain things wrong, well beyond just the spelling. I went through a phase where, for whatever reason, I could not type “let’s” if my life depended on it. So I added “let;s” to AutoCorrect so that it always replaced it with “let’s” as soon as I typed it.
Do this with anything you just can’t type correctly.
Save even more time by creating acronyms in AutoCorrect.
I am currently writing about World’s Columbian Exposition. I added an AutoCorrect entry of “WCE” that automatically replaces the acronym with “World’s Columbian Exposition.”