Writing: Fast or Slow?

Do you ever wonder how fast you type? Usually it isn’t an issue, or is it?

Typing is a necessity for many of us, writers even more than most. Something about all those novels makes it hard to understand how you could manage at a slow pace. Do you do 120,000 words on a novel for how many revisions?

In the interest of keeping the writing time down, do you organize your thoughts? Do you wade through an outline or just start chugging from page one through to the end? Do you write longhand or do you sit at the keyboard for hours on end?

I love it when people get to study things like writers tend to be wordier when they do rough drafts at a keyboard instead of by hand. So what does it mean by wordier? Did they put the same writers side by side on the same topics and count words for each of the outpourings? I think it has to be difficult to make a really good comparison between writers. Especially when you consider that there gets to be a point where each writer makes a decision about the form that works better on an individual basis.

I’m one of those writers who logs hours in front of a keyboard. Perhaps less than some who transcribe their longhand so much slower than I type, but more than many if you consider all the other things I do in front of a monitor. Ha.

When I’m warmed up and awake, I can type about 100 words per minute. That’s from a typing test, though, and it isn’t about how fast I can create the words in my head. Creating requires more attention to detail and sometimes the proper word doesn’t just sprout from the fingertips. At times you end up with a blue where you really need a cerulean or a navy.

For me, the first draft is about getting the ideas out. It’s all about the concept. It’s one reason I just let it all run out from my fingers like they’re on fire when the ideas come fast. When they come slow, it’s one word at a time. It’s all about continuing the stream. Sometimes I skip ahead and come back to the troublesome parts. I don’t like to stop where it gets slow; I jump ahead if I have momentum to keep things moving. The movement is how I finish things. Some projects languish when I lose the steam to keep things on track.

It’s one reason I like NaNoWriMo. Everyone’s about moving and keeping the words spilling onto the page without worry about the inner editors getting in the way with whether it ought to be a separate sentence or hooked together with a semicolon. It seems like a small distinction, but it impacts the finished project.

So instead of recording just how fast I type, I’ve been keeping tabs on how fast I can pour out ideas. It varies on topic and particular day for my energy, but it looks like I could finish a day’s worth of a NaNo requirement between 30 and 90 minutes. Big swing, so I’m working on it to see if I can narrow the gap.

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2 Comments

  1. 14 October 2011 at 22:38

    That’s a clever way to measure writing. After all, typing speed (I hit at 65) itself can’t convey how diligent we are at sitting down or how well we write when we do. I can whip out about 1k of prose in an hour while one of my friends averages 400. On the other hand, hers tends to come out polished, and she knows exactly where she’s going. Her redrafting stage is truckloads lighter than mine.

  2. ransomnoble said,

    2 December 2011 at 21:53

    Thanks! I recently found out I can type 102 wpm for 750 words. I had no idea I was capable of that.

    It might be interesting to also measure rewriting needs from those drafts of fast versus slow, but some writings erupt fully-formed and others need more prodding, no matter the speed they come out at originally. Perhaps I’ll start looking into that, too.


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