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A couple of axioms here. Firstly, most people agree that you should write your first draft quickly, without too much care on quality, and get something down on paper first. The real writing begins with the second draft. This is the approach that most writing books try to teach, and I'm taking this as a given for this question.

Secondly writing is more than just typing (no matter what Truman Capote says), so there has to be some level of thought into the first draft. I'm no professional typist, but I can at least manage 40wpm when copy-typing. Clearly though I'm not going to reach 2400 words per hour on the first draft.

So what sort of figure should I be aiming for? At the minute I'm around 250 words/hour which I'm worried is veering into 2nd draft territories for slowness. Are there any de facto guidelines here from the professionals?

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Vote to close as subjective. Everyone writes at their own speed. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 29 '11 at 12:03
@Ralph I think the question is not subjective. Craig Sefton's answer would be the perfect answer for this question, and I think writing speed is something a lot of people worry about, even if everyone writes at their own speed. This question stands well. – Dan Hanly Mar 29 '11 at 12:21
Enough words to convey your message- unfortunately this question does not meet that criteria. You want a number? 500,000. Now since you probably don't like that number pick one of your own that you can meet. BTW, 500,000 bad words is not as good as three good words. If you are an accountant setting an objective goal might work, Are you.? – Joshin Nov 14 '11 at 23:38
at least 10000 words per hour. – user3294 Feb 22 '12 at 16:11
The problem isn't that the question is subjective - it is, clearly - but that's okay. What's missing is "...to achieve [goal]" but that's explained well in Craig's answer. – Neil Fein Feb 22 '12 at 17:00
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Slow and steady wins the race.

Cliché's out the way (although I do think it's true), one of the things I find with writing is that you should always stick to what you're comfortable with, unless you're finding it detrimental to your writing.

So, if you're doing 250 words/hour, and feel that's too slow, then I would suggest you set yourself an easy target. Double it to 500wph, or increase it to 1000wph, and try achieve that.

If you can sustain it, and feel that it's easy, then up the ante again. If you find yourself struggling, then lower it.

The best thing really is to experiment, and find the level that you feel most comfortable with.

Edit: I also wanted to add that, according to this article, author Dean Wesley Smith says:

“Most professional writers can average about one thousand words an hour, when going on a novel. Not in the struggle of the beginnings, but once the novel is underway. So, simple math says that to write a 90,000 word novel, you have about 90 hours of work.”

That would suggest that you should set your own expectations based on where you are in the process of writing your novel, but I still recommend sticking with what you feel comfortable with. With practise, your wph will likely start to increase naturally by itself.

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This answer is quite excellent. The issue isn't how many words per hour you should write, but how many weeks/months it'll take for you to write the book. – Neil Fein Feb 22 '12 at 16:58
I don't know about that. I'm not a professional typist (or writer) but I used to write many fanfiction's; I usually wrote around 6,000 words every 2.5 hours. I wrote each episode of my ff's around that number; and as I hated sloppy plots, said-bookisms, plastic dialogs, etc (you get the gist), I'd say I wrote some very good pieces back then. Then came the day I decided to write something worthy of submitting to a publisher, I fell to ~500wpm with tens of drafts... It all depends on how confident, comfortable, and stressed you are. – Mussri Feb 23 '12 at 18:53

I really wouldn't worry too much about words per hour. I agree with Craig (and Dean Wesley Smith) that 1000 words an hour is a good, sustainable rate, at least for some genres, but I don't think professional writers got there by trying consciously to write faster - I think that the faster writing comes naturally as you get more comfortable with your craft.

In my experience, there are always parts that go smoothly and quickly, and parts that drag a little. Sometimes it's because I've thought things through so much ahead of time that I'm essentially just typing what I've already written in my head, but I think there are other reasons, too. I write romance, and the big dramatic conversations flow out of me as fast as I can type, but sex scenes take me forever. I think it's because there are millions of ways to make dialogue sound fresh and original, but sex -- well, unless I get kinky to the extreme, there are only so many ways to write it. So I have to slow down and really think it through in order to make it original and avoid the cliches.

So, really - I'd pay attention to writing speed as one tool to get feedback about what you're comfortable writing and what you aren't, but I'm wary of making a conscious effort to increase your speed. It takes as long as it takes. Focus on the content, not the extraneous details.

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I write about 350 words an hour and judging from what i've read about famous writers (like Hemingway or Jack london) who typically only write 1,000 words a day while working around 4 hours a day or more, their words rate must be quite slow. fiction is an inefficent business.

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I write around 1k an hour. But have wrote 3, or 4k on word-wars for NaNoWriMo. It depends on how fast you can type, if you are hyper etc and also if you can concentrate. I'm a pro writer but I find myself at low word counts.

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I would recommend you to start with noting down whatever you think caring less about quality while it satisfies you.

I don't think number of words per hour really matters. Coz a paragraph of excellent text might be more appreciated than whole 700 page book. Devote more time on thought, once its clear rest will flow by itself.

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