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Writing Paces and Schedules

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  • #136882
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Okay y’all, I’m curious about a couple things. First off, for those of you who aren’t total beginners (you’ve been writing consistently and with a purpose for a few months or more), approximately how many words do you write per hour ? Or at least try to write per hour, I know it can vary greatly, and writers get faster and faster the more they’ve written, but what do you currently aim or to write per hour (or typically write per hour)?

    Secondly, for those of you who are really staying consistent on your WIPs, what are your writing schedules? Again, I know it can vary (life has a habit of getting in the way), but what is your typical writing schedule (morning, evening, sporadically, etc…) and how many hours do you try to write on the average day?

    Lastly, how long in words does a book need to be for you to consider it long or epic in length (I’m just curious)? And how long do you usually prefer books to be (I’m thinking along the lines of fantasy or medieval fiction particularly)?

    Here, I’ll tag a few people in:


    @rose-colored-fancy


    @sparrowhawke


    @obrian-of-the-surface-world


    @arindown

    #136883
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    Hi Noah, nice to see you around again!

    Or at least try to write per hour, I know it can vary greatly, and writers get faster and faster the more the written, but what do you currently aim to write per hour?

    On a good day and an interesting chapter, I’ll get nearly 2000 words an hour. Say, about 1800. On a slow chapter or a hard day, I’d say my average is about 1500 words an hour. Forewarning, this depends very much on your typing speed. I touch-type, and I’ve had a lot of practice with that, so I type very quickly.

    Secondly, for those of you who are really staying consistent on your WIPs, what are your writing schedules? Again, I know it can vary (life has a habit of getting in the way), but what is your typical writing schedule (morning, evening, sporadically, etc…) and how many hours do you try to write on the average day?

    Aahh… the dreaded question. I struggle with this. A lot. Especially the last couple of months, I’ve been struggling with motivation and just plain getting the energy to write.

    It’s been better this last while (I had a record-breaking week, as far as word-count is concerned) but it’s still hard.

    The only thing I can tell you is that sprinting works very well for me. I have mentioned it before, but I’m bringing it up again. Basically, sprinting is setting a timer for yourself and seeing how much you can write within that time. (I usually work for 20 minutes, that’s enough to get in the zone but not enough to get tired out.)

    After you finish the sprint, you take a short break and repeat. The pressure of a ticking clock really helps me, as does the thought that “I only have to write five more minutes, then I can take a break.”

    It also makes it easier to see my progress. So, give that a try if you haven’t already.

    Lastly, how long in words does a book need to be for you to consider it long or epic (I’m just curious)? And how long do you usually prefer books to be (I’m thinking along the lines of fantasy or medieval fiction particularly)?

    Okay, this is actually a thing in publishing! You can find more specific charts on the internet, but a general guideline is between 75k and 100k for a YA book. Adult is longer, Middle Grade is shorter. Fantasy and historical fiction are longer, romance is shorter.

    Your manuscript needs to be at least 60k long, anything under that is considered a novella. Anything over 120k is too hard to sell, especially for a debut novel. (Unless you’re Brandon Sanderson XD)

    Now, for personal preference, I like longer books, anything under 300 pages (about 75k) is a bit doubtful since I don’t know if the author will work out the plot they’ve set up or if they’ll rush through it. Personally, I don’t hesitate when I see a 500-page book. I love that stuff, it means that the author fleshed out their characters and has proper buildup. Or they’re going to meander all over eternity before falling on their face. Yaknow. Always an option.

    I know a lot of people who are intimidated by long books (Why though? The book won’t bite) and don’t read anything over 300 pages. It depends on your readership, but historical fiction and fantasy readers tend to expect longer books.

    Also, I want to add a disclaimer. I worried a lot about word count during my first novel. Like, a LOT. My first novel (YA fantasy) only turned out to be 72k. I was even afraid I wouldn’t get it past 60k.

    But honestly… it doesn’t matter that much. Your first draft will probably be way too long or way too short (like mine XD) That’s cool, you’ll fix it later. Don’t worry about it. I used to struggle with writing a chapter over 1500 words, now I often have to split up 5000-word chapters because I couldn’t stop writing.

    As you get more practice, you’ll figure out how to show more, how to expand your character’s thoughts, how to show more clearly. Or, if you write too much, you’ll learn what you can cut and what you should keep. You’ll add subplots or subtract them in later drafts.

    Wait, what was my point? I had a point. Oh, yes.

    It’s just a first draft. Follow your story and let it be whatever length it wants the first draft. You can fix it later.

    Hope this helps!

     

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #136885
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Nearly 2k words an hour? Wow Rose, you’ve got skills. I also type fairly fast, but I’m only just now getting to the point where I can get close to 1k words an hour. If you can even do 1500 words an hour, you could breeze through NaNoWriMo. You could pump out 6k words a day with just four hours in the morning. You should do NaNoWriMo and then flaunt your skills when you write 150,000 words in a month instead of 50,000. xD

    How many words did you write in your record breaking week? My schedule right now consists of getting up at a good time in the morning (6:00-7:00, unless I’m feeling lazy) and writing for 90-120 minutes. After that, I just write sporadically through the day. When school and college start up this Fall though, I’m going to have to really form a stricter schedule if I’m going to get writing done. When I first started writing, I told myself I was going to do pure sprints. However, now I really just find myself getting lost in the writing, and not paying much attention to time (though if I hit a mental block, I’ll really try to push through it fast). I should probably do a sprint sometime, to get closer to the that 2k an hour. This morning I wrote for 90 minutes and got out 1500 words.

    I prefer longer books much more. The longer the better, is my typical belief (unless it’s just long because the author filled it with bloat and verbose descriptions). Sanderon’s YA books are still over 100k (at least Skyward is).

    Anything over 120k is too hard to sell, especially for a debut novel.

    This is interesting, because if you look at a lot of first books for authors in fantasy and medieval fiction, they are usually range from 150k-400k. Which I’m good with, because it’s hard to make something feel epic if it’s not long. I am not a fan of novellas. xD

     

    Hey, you made me think of another question for @everyone. How long in words do you like chapters to be, and what word count per chapter do you aim for in your own writing?

    #136886
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    @noah-cochran
    Hi Noah!

    I have been writing on and off for over [mmrmpher (indecipherable mumbling)] years. I have a full library of writing craft books. I have taken college courses on creative writing, acting & directing [made A’s], attended virtual online seminars, (have yet to go to an actual physical writers conference), watched videos on the writing craft, purchased $800 worth of training courses taught by Ted Dekker, etc.  I taught two classes of Freshman Composition in a major university in Texas as a grad student. And have read and collected Christian-based fiction: fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, crime thrillers, etc. for many, many years.
    I have written multiple manuscripts from kid’s fiction, starting at the young age of seven to larger works of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  I had some of my poetry and a short story published in my undergraduate years in a college magazine and a small college publication book.  (But, I don’t count these as me being a “published” author in the traditional sense.) Here is a photo of just some of the writing craft books in my library.

    My current WIP (fantasy) was over 360,600 words, back when I last printed it out (2019?), and it is 2 5/8″ inches thick and this is single-spaced with a 2 cm top margin from the edge of the paper to the written text.
    The point is, finding out how many words to write per hour, is not the point.  That gets you nowhere, other than producing a lot of material to sort through later.  Speed does not equal quality, or get your work publishable.
    If you spend an hour and only come out of it with a paragraph of quality writing, it is the quality writing that is salvageable.  Dean Koontz says he writes every page at least 30 times before getting it the way he wants it for submission for publication.  So, if there is anything I could tell you, it is this.  Focus on just getting the story out, however fast or slow that you need to.  Do not get distracted by the words per hour.  If the inspiration hits you, you will write furiously and barely be able to keep up with how fast you are writing to chase it down and bring it to paper.  Those days are wonderful.  But don’t expect them to always come that way. Some days you may puzzle over a few lines and work on them and feel like you are getting nowhere.  If you are distracted by artificial wpm speed, you will get discouraged by those days of seeming to find no progress.  Focus instead on pursuing the questions raised by your story, scene-by-scene, and line-by-line. This will ensure that you have more of those faster-paced, idea-chasing days.
    Also, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for when is the best time to write.  It all depends on your lifestyle and preferences, but it is good to find that sweet spot for when you will not be distracted by other things, people, or pressing duties.
    I would begin every writing session with prayer.  Deliberately and mentally connect with your Creator before you begin.  Tell Him what your concerns are with your writing, mentally place those cares on His shoulders and tell Him you trust Him with the outcome, whatever it may be.  He doesn’t need us to get in His Way.  He wants us to allow Him to illuminate those gifts and desires He had put within us.  Let Him flow through you as His instrument and co-Create with Him, letting Him lead in the dance.
    Be open to what God will show you in your own writing.  God uses our gifts to teach us and reveal to us something about ourselves and how we interact with others.  There is a personal revelation in it, that must be allowed to reach you before it will ever reach others you anticipate as readers.
    Gauge the effectiveness of your scenes by how they hold your personal interest. If they don’t challenge you, they won’t challenge others.  Bring it to the edge.  Challenge the darkness. Defy it in Jesus’s Name.  An author is a Word Warrior.  Learn to fight through.  Challenge yourself to make it feel as real to you as possible.  Bring your senses into it, and your worldview and those that counter that worldview.  Disarm the enemy, with research into what God says, over mankind’s pretensions.  Keep it authentic.  Do not be afraid to depict the darkness, but don’t revel in it. Keep the Light of Truth with you as a reference point so you don’t get lost in the dark places you have to write to reach authenticity.  Don’t show every monster.  Sometimes a silhouette is enough.  Find creative ways to give a sense of darkness, without bluntly assaulting the spirit of the reader.  Have a redemptive goal in mind and a theme that you keep too.
    If you write a longer set that must go through the dark, take breaks and find something light and humorous to keep you from plunging off an emotional cliff into nihilism and irritability.  Writing will take you through a full range of emotions, so beware that you don’t lose yourself in it.
    God’s book unflinchingly shows a dark world in need of Him. A stormy sea, with mountainous waves threatening to drown us in despair, but like Peter, you have to focus on Christ to walk over the pitching water.
    Philippians 4:8 is a command of deliberate action to find the mindset we need to confront the tasks before us.  Anchor your mind there.  A fiction writer should never lose sight of the truth, even when they are spinning the webs of fiction.  The “tale” should come back to the head.
    As for schedules, once you find that time that works for you, try to guard it and keep to it.  Your mind seeks a cadence of routine, and order.  It stresses in chaos, so you will want to give your mind that regular rhythm, however, don’t close off spontaneity.  Sometimes an idea will come at the strangest times and not in your regular scheduled writing time, so keep a notebook that you can capture those random thoughts.  Number them in the idea notebook, so they don’t have to be in order. Your mind will jump forward and backward in your story, so don’t expect your idea book to be filled with ideas that follow a linear sequence of events.  If you number the ideas, though, you can create a general outline or timeline and put those numbers on the larger timeline in the sequence in which they need to happen.  This gives you a sense of the whole scope of your story but allows you to retain those ideas that come to you in a flash.
    Since I do many other things, I find it hard to quantify how many hours per day I write.  There is no effective way to keep a chess-clock counter on it.  Just be open to inspiration.  Don’t be discouraged or distracted by the artificial benchmarks.  Have a general goal, but recognize that life intervenes and intrudes, so allow yourself that flexibility.  You don’t need to keep score.  God is faithful to work out those things He has put in you, so just listen to Him and follow His prompting.  If you partner with Christ, He will move you along the timeline He sets for you and brings you to those timely and fortuitous moments that only He can foresee.  I will leave you with this:

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what [will happen] tomorrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you [ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” [James 4:13-15 NKJV]

    God Bless, my friend!

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #136887
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    Brian my friend, I’m not asking because I think I need to be writing a certain speed. I’m asking because I’m curious. 🙂 You are correct that it doesn’t matter what a writer’s current speed is, and again, I didn’t ask to compare myself to others to see how much better I needed to get. However, as in all academic and career arenas that someone is trying to become skilled in, one should always try to improve themselves and become better, that includes your writing fluency, speed, and value of prose.

    But again, you’re right, no one should ever get bogged down in comparing themselves to others. 🙂

    #136900
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    Nearly 2k words an hour? Wow Rose, you’ve got skills. I also type fairly fast, but I’m only just now getting to the point where I can get close to 1k words an hour. If you can even do 1500 words an hour, you could breeze through NaNoWriMo. You could pump out 6k words a day with just four hours in the morning. You should do NaNoWriMo and then flaunt your skills when you write 150,000 words in a month instead of 50,000. xD

    Bold of you to assume I have enough patience to write 4 hours XD I seldom write more than two, on a very good day. And 1k is a great start! That’s already way faster than I was writing when I started!

    I’ve actually been considering trying NaNoWriMo this year! I just finished participating in Crazy Writing Week. (A sprinting competition where you see how many words or hours you can write in a week.) And I found out two things, a. I can write way faster than I thought, and b. I’m far more competitive than I’ve ever admitted to myself XD Anyway, that proved that I could manage NaNoWriMo, probably! It’ll probably be harder once school starts again, but still…

    How many words did you write in your record breaking week? My schedule right now consists of getting up at a good time in the morning (6:00-7:00, unless I’m feeling lazy) and writing for 90-120 minutes. After that, I just write sporadically through the day. When school and college start up this Fall though, I’m going to have to really form a stricter schedule if I’m going to get writing done. When I first started writing, I told myself I was going to do pure sprints. However, now I really just find myself getting lost in the writing, and not paying much attention to time (though if I hit a mental block, I’ll really try to push through it fast). I should probably do a sprint sometime, to get closer to the that 2k an hour. This morning I wrote for 90 minutes and got out 1500 words.

    That’s excellent! If sprints don’t work for you, you don’t have to use them! They help me because if I don’t have a set time I tend to take breaks every five minutes or my thoughts meander all over creation. XD

    My record-breaking week, (This past week, last day was today) was about 15500 words! My previous record was 10k. I’m super happy with the word count I achieved, I honestly wasn’t expecting that much, but I got in the zone and it worked out!

    (Oh, did I mention another important thing about word count is not to compare yourself to other writers? Don’t compare, if it discourages you. You’re doing great 😉 )

    I prefer longer books much more. The longer the better, is my typical belief (unless it’s just long because the author filled it with bloat and verbose descriptions). Sanderon’s YA books are still over 100k (at least Skyward is).

    Ooh, you read Skyward! Awesome! I really loved Skyward and Starsight, and I can’t wait for Cytonic! Spensa was an amazing character, I loved her so much! (I definitely giggled every time she’d start on her elaborate threats XD) And Jerkface… what’s his real name? He really grew on me!

    This is interesting, because if you look at a lot of first books for authors in fantasy and medieval fiction, they are usually range from 150k-400k. Which I’m good with, because it’s hard to make something feel epic if it’s not long. I am not a fan of novellas. xD

    That’s cool as well if you’re aiming to write an epic! I just honestly do not have the patience to write something that long XD I think it would be easier to write a series because then you have separate story arcs to work with. No idea how that works in epics, I can’t say I’ve read any. (Unless you count some of the lengthier classics LOL)

    Hey, you made me think of another question for @everyone. How long in words do you like chapters to be, and what word count per chapter do you aim for in your own writing?

    I actually didn’t answer that one in my last post, so I’ll answer it here. I’m still not sure what’s ideal, but my chapters usually turn out to be between 2000 and 4000, with 3000 being the ideal number.

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #136905
    imwritehere1920
    @imwritehere1920

    @noah-cochran

    Interesting questions.  I’ll take the last two because I don’t really keep track of how many words per hour I write (actually, I try to get in 1200 words a day… at least, I keep telling myself that XD)

    Generally, I like to write in the morning and edit other projects in the afternoon.

    As for book lengths, I’d say I prefer around 50,000 words (give or take) because a lot of the books I love are MG and are in that word length range.


    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    “Here is a photo of just some of the writing craft books in my library.”

    *eyes bulge* Wow. That’s a huge stack of books! If you don’t mind me asking, which one is your most favorite?

    “I have written multiple manuscripts from kid’s fiction, starting at the young age of seven to larger works of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.”

    Cool! I write for kids as well. Have you had any of your kids’ manuscripts published? Also, thank you for visiting our blog! (I know it was a while ago, but I have been a bit behind in checking WordPress updates *haha*)


    @rose-colored-fancy

    2000 words an hour?! That’s super impressive! I’m lucky if I can get 1200 words in a day.

    We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. — Ernest Hemingway

    #136907
    Linyang Zhang
    @devastate-lasting

    @noah-cochran I usually write 200-300 words per ten minutes by hand so that would be about 1200-1800 words per hour by hand, and on the computer is about the same.

    My writing schedule… I try to write five pages a day, so about an hour of writing a day if I don’t get distracted. Usually I do that after breakfast, and then later go write other things that I don’t have set schedules for. Of course, all this is about to change with school starting, so I will have to completely reorganize my allotted 24 hours. But yeah, over the summer I basically wrote my required stuff in the morning, and did my other stuff in the afternoon.

    Lastly… I don’t know how to answer that question. I usually don’t write very long works, with one installment ranging from 60k to 80k, but to me anything over 100k is very long. And what I prefer to read… I actually haven’t read fantasy in a very long time, I lost my taste for medieval fantasy at some point in life, and for books in general except for classic lit… But if I was reading something I enjoyed, I wouldn’t care how long it was! So yeah, you do you.

    "I set a melody upon the scenery I saw outside my window;
    It's beginning in my spacy world."
    - TK

    #136910
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    @imwritehere1920

    If you don’t mind me asking, which one is your most favorite?

    Actually really enjoyed Ted Dekker’s The Creative Way course, which is in the box at the top.  There are 3 books inside it.

    I haven’t actually sent any of the kid’s stuff out for publication.  Just wanted to publish an adult book first so that I didn’t get pigeon-holed or dismissed for writing a particular genre.  I like and write several.
    Thank you for asking.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #136916
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @rose-colored-fancy

    Nice! 15.5k is great! So, you mentioned finishing your first draft for your YA fantasy, are you in the editing stage for it now? Or what are you currently working on?

    I am currently reading Skyward, so make sure that no spoilers slip off your tongue. 😉 Yes, Spensa is the shining star of that book. 🙂 Jerkface (aka, Jorgen, which btw, I like that name a lot), is an…interesting fellow. But Spensa does her share of…unscrupulous acts well. xD

    My chapters usually end up being 2000-3000 words, so at least that’s pretty close to okay. I prefer chapters that are a minimum of 3k though.


    @imwritehere1920

    Thanks for the response! 1.2k a day is great, keep it up. Not all of use are Roses. 😉


    @devastate-lasting

    Okay, so I’ve got to say, I respect you. If I was to write by hand, I would probably not ever finish a book. xD Being able to write fast and legible by hand is a skill disappearing in the computer age, so keep it up. 🙂

     

    #136919
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    Nice! 15.5k is great! So, you mentioned finishing your first draft for your YA fantasy, are you in the editing stage for it now? Or what are you currently working on?

    Well, my current project is actually a trilogy. I’m very, very close to finishing the first draft of the second book, (I’m on 95k, I only have the finale/climax left to write, and then finish everything off. It has a dual POV, so it turned out longer than I thought.)

    After that, I’m going back to completely rewriting the first book. (A large part of it is barely salvageable garbage and I have to cut out entire chapters and add completely new ones.) Anyway, I’m really looking forward to rewriting, since I know my characters so much better now! It’s also really fun to see it coming closer to the book I’m imagining!

    The original plan was to write a standalone but then my main character (Who is a snarky brat in the most extreme sense of the word) ran off with the plot so I had to change the plan.

    I am currently reading Skyward, so make sure that no spoilers slip off your tongue.   Yes, Spensa is the shining star of that book.   Jerkface (aka, Jorgen, which btw, I like that name a lot), is an…interesting fellow. But Spensa does her share of…unscrupulous acts well. xD

    Jorgen, that’s right! I remember being really annoyed by him in the first part of the first book. I’d say my other favorite character is M-Bot! (I don’t know if you’ve met him yet, but he’s awesome!) I won’t say anything else 😉 I can’t actually remember anything else, it’s been a while XD

    My chapters usually end up being 2000-3000 words, so at least that’s pretty close to okay. I prefer chapters that are a minimum of 3k though.

    That’s a good length! But I do find I have some chapters that need to be like 1500 words long and some are 4000 words long. It just works out that way.

    @imwritehere1920

    2000 words an hour?! That’s super impressive! I’m lucky if I can get 1200 words in a day.

    Thank you!

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #136920
    Linyang Zhang
    @devastate-lasting

    @noah-cochran *whispers* It’s not legible…

    Writing by hand has both its pros and cons. I’ve been trying to put off the cons for as long as possible. But thanks for the encouragement, haha.

    "I set a melody upon the scenery I saw outside my window;
    It's beginning in my spacy world."
    - TK

    #136943
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @noah-cochran

    When I dictate, I write about 5000 per hour, but when I factor in the editing time it goes down to maybe 3000 an hour and is the least interesting editing work I’ve ever done, so I don’t use it for anything except writing sprints any more.

    Now I do writing sprints every morning with a few writing friends, and usually get 2000 an hour when things are going great, and 1000 an hour when the words just don’t want to come. This is the best balance for me where if I have to toss or rework a scene I don’t feel frustrated at all the lost progress, but my alpha readers don’t get too distracted by a technically poor first draft. My schedule is writing from 8 AM to 10 AM or so, in five-minute bursts and check-ins with the others every fifteen minutes. I really need to become more productive, actually.

    As for length, the advice I trust the most at the moment is to consider 70K words your minimum, because that’s the point Audible readers believe a credit is worth their money, but aside from that your genre will determine your ideal length so you should look at examples from your genre which are well-received, you like a lot, and were published within the last couple years at most.

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #136974
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @taylorclogston

    If I dictated, my prose wouldn’t even be readable.

    What’s your process after you finish the first draft? Do you write a second draft, or do you just do lots of editing?

    #136975
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @noah-cochran Have you tried using the Google Docs dictation tool? It’s way better out of the box than the last version of Dragon I tried was after hours of calibration. The main problem comes from saying constructed words or names, but generally it does a fantastic job.

    I get a lot of structural feedback as I write, so I make whatever big picture changes I need to (when I get the feedback in time) before finishing the first draft. After the first draft is finished, I decide if I need to make any further structural changes, then go scene by scene through the story using ProWritingAid and a checklist I’ve built over time.

    My goal is to create a story that’s good enough, not one that’s perfect, because I know I’ll grow faster by learning from mistakes on finished products than polishing the same story for three years (which I’ve also done).

    To give a concrete answer, I don’t rewrite an entire draft, and I usually only make one round of edits after making my first draft fairly clean.

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

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