Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clocking Writing Time

My first draft of The Lioness is complete at a bit over 50,000 words.  On the first draft, I'm a very sparse writer.  It's mostly dialog and basic movement information.  It's tons of action and very little reaction or internal motivation.  I'll more about that at some other time.

I am a very slow writer during the drafting process.  According to the notes that I have kept, I write at less than 500 words per hour.  That means that this first draft is over 100 hours of just writing time.  That does not count planning or thinking time.

How do I know this?  I track my writing time and my word count increases during that time.  I'm trying to notice patterns in when I am more productive.  Here is my log from September through this weekend.

  • I mostly only write on the weekends.  But, I could tell you this without tracking my time!
  • Sometimes I am very bad and miss almost a month of writing.
  • Word count per hour is slightly higher if I've written within the past few days
  • If I write every day, the count per hour does go down after a few days (I think because I've not spent as much thinking time in between)
  • Some scenes are just easier to write.
  • Dialog is fastest for me.

Do any of you track your writing time?  Do you notice any patterns?  About how many words per hour can you add to your WIP?

8 tidbits:

Shallee said...

Tracking your progress like that is a great idea! I might have to give it a shot.

Lauren said...

Thanks! It has helped me be more honest with myself on my progress.

Angie said...

I've been tracking my writing for a few years now, and starting last year I had a wordcount goal. The ideal is to do at least a little writing every day, but that doesn't happen. Trying makes me write more, though, so I keep trying, even knowing I'm going to fail regularly.

Current goal is 300K for the year (which I did last year, so I'm pretty confident I can do it again) so I need about 6K words per week. If I buckle down and focus, if a story is flowing like a river, I can do about 1200-1500 per hour, but I rarely achieve that. A more usual "good session" is when I write some, think for a minute, write some more, think some more. I'm easily distracted, though, and most often I'll write a few lines, check e-mail, write a paragraph, read some web comics, write a line or two, play solitaire.... :P

A solid deadline can get me producing more words in a day, but that's more because I spent more time TRYING than because I write more words per hour. When I'm figuring time spent, I usually calculate based on 1000/hour, which accounts for some cogitating here and there, but doesn't count e-mail/solitaire/etc. I think that's a pretty good measure of my WORKING time, on a decent day.

So if I write a story and sell it to a minimally pro market, that's about $50/hour of actual working-writing time, which is pretty awesome. Figuring in time spent subbing, writing e-mails, then edits and such, I lop off about $10/hour of whatever I got. So for example my anthology story ("Staying Afloat" in How to Save the World) paid six cents per word, and with edits and all probably was about $50/hour.

Re: your comment to Shallee, I totally agree that tracking keeps you honest. It's easy to think, "Yeah, I've been doing a lot of writing lately," when actually it's no such thing. [wry smile] Having everything down in a file makes you really look at actual work produced.


Lauren said...

@Angie- Wow! 300,000 words for the year is a very impressive goal. It's great that you can track how much you make by the word count, which is important.

I'd like to get up to 1000 words per hour. Right now I'm around 500.

Angie said...

I'll admit one of the reasons I settled on the 1K/hour for a reasonable average is that it makes the math easy. :)

I've heard all kinds of per-hour rates, whenever writers are talking about their pace. A thousand seems common, but a lot of folks do 500, and some do less. Faster is better on a productivity level, making best use of whatever writing time you have, but I think it's more important to write at whatever pace is comfortable. Some people think a high per-year wordcount means you're going "too fast" and can't possibly be good -- writers like Dean Wesley Smith, who regularly does a million+ per year, gets those kinds of sneers. But writers with that kind of wordcount spend more time with their butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard, rather than typing faster. I think it's pushing yourself to type faster than whatever your natural pace is that can bring down quality.

If your per-hour rate goes up by itself, as you practice and get more comfortable composing, that's completely different. :) When I was younger, I certainly wasn't this fast.

500/hour at an hour per day for a year is about 180K per year. That's two good size novels, or whatever combination of novels, novellas, novelettes and shorts you feel like doing. Which is more than most writers produce in a year. :)


Lauren said...

@Angie- It's nice to know that I'm not alone at the 500 words/hour mark. Sometimes it feel very, very slow. I'm positive (by looking at my writing trends) that if I wrote more frequently, my writing clip would improve, so that's on me.

I think the quality of the writing is the most important metric, but I don't think it's mutually exclusive to speed. Dean Wesley Smith sells stuff. He must be doing something right :)

Angie said...

No, definitely not alone. [nod]

I agree about quality -- Dean's sold over a hundred novels to New York publishers, so obviously someone thinks he's doing something right :) -- but I think the ultimate arbiter of quality is the reader. Do the readers like your story or book? I might not care for Twilight, but there are millions of people who love it, so obviously there's some quality in it that reaches into all those people and grabs and hangs on. I can say it's not to my taste, but bad books don't have crowds of fans. Same with Fifty Shades, or whatever the current whipping-boy is for the sneering elitists. [shrug]

As a writer, I want readers to read and like my stuff. That's the bottom line. If reviewers like it too, that's great, but they're just more readers.


Lauren said...

@Angie- Twilight is a great example. I tried to read it but couldn't get past the first five pages. A lot people really enjoy it. She did something right.

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