Writing at 1500 WPH

For the new year, I wanted to make better use of my writing time (which mainly happens on my commuter bus). It is a common rule of thumb  for fiction authors to write 2,000 words per day. However, there are some authors who struggle to hit that and others who blow right by it.

I love discovering and testing productivity hacks and have picked up a few on writing speed. Jennifer Turner explains how she writes 10,000 words a day. Nathan Lowell said at a Balticon panel I attended that he regularly produces over 10,000 a day. Rachel Aaron measured and analyzed her productivity (how many of us think to do that?) and devised a three-sided approach that moved her from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day (from 500 to 1,500 words per hour or WPH). And Dean Wesley Smith has made the case that writers need to write fast and describes how to shoot for 1,000 WPH.

Do these speeds sound improbable? I gave it a shot with my 55ish minute bus commute, timing my hourly rate using the techniques they laid out. Here’s what I have racked up far this week:

  1. 1,400 WPH
  2. 1,500 WPH
  3. 1,700 in 55 minutes
  4. 1,500 in 47 minutes

The first two attempts were writing short stories by the seat of my pants (the 1,400 occurred on a dark ride home, the day after a sleepless night, and there was some nodding off in between the typing). The last two attempts were not writing actual prose, but story bible/world-building/exposition. But it was also completely by the seat of my pants with no planning.

By comparison, Dean estimates that he can write about 1,000 WPH, but I bet he uses a Qwerty keyboard layout while I use the superior Dvorak layout (big grin).

But is anything I wrote this fast any good? I won’t know until I read through it again, but as I wrote it, it certainly seemed like awesome material. I really didn’t want to stop and my brain flew along with my fingers. Dean believes that you can’t tell what you wrote quickly or slowly, so faster is just more productive, but Rachel believes that quality increases with speed.

I could see how maintaining the speed may help maintain voice and characterization better. In brainstorming, idea generation should be fast and inhibition-free and quality improves by increasing quantity. Since the brain does both activities (and they really are  similar), there’s probably something to porting lessons over from brainstorming to fiction writing.

I’ll keep posting my results as I go. Tell me what you think or your experiences in writing fast.

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