Last week, I read a message board post by a moderately-popular science fiction / fantasy author, in which he claimed that he typically writes a 120,000 word novel in 100 hours. That’s 1,200 words per hour, or 20 words per minute.
That doesn’t seem possible to me, so I’m hoping those of you who are authors will leave comments and let me know your usual writing speed. I’m not linking to the discussion board because my goal isn’t to start an argument with the author in question. Instead, I’d like to determine a reasonable speed target.
In my case, typing speed isn’t much of a problem. I conducted two separate one-minute tests, typing a nonsensical story I made up on the fly. I averaged 66 words per minute. However, if I had to do things like revise sentences, think about character reactions, double-check science facts, etc., then I don’t see how I could get anywhere close to 20 words per minute.
My only fiction writing consists of a handful of short stories (none polished enough that I’m willing to share them with anyone other than family or close friends). I completed them at a rate of about 1,500 words per day. I never tracked my time, and these writing sessions were on weekends where I also jogged, grilled something for dinner, took my dog to the park, messed around in my garden, etc.. My best guess (a very rough estimate) is that it took me around 5 hours to write those 1,500 words.
A related issue: I’ve read numerous author blog posts which claim that a writer must not edit during the first draft stage. I guess I’m a little too obsessive-compulsive to follow this advice; I frequently spot something wrong earlier in a paragraph and return to it. I know it slows my initial writing, but I feel that my cleaner first draft results in fewer editing passes. I’d appreciate feedback on this as well.