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How to Write Faster: Stand Up!

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel AaronA while back, I read Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Better, and More of What You Love and Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter books. I recommend both. (As well as all of their fiction too!) These non-fiction titles each touch on different reasons why you may be writing slowly. One is more about mindset, while the other is more about obstacles you let get in your way.

Now that I’ve been writing 20k words per month recently, I decided to take a look back at how fast I really am writing. Now that we’ve got some data, let’s play with it!

5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris FoxUnfortunately, sometimes I do a terrible job of accounting, and let writing carry me away without glancing at the clock first. So none of those (no doubt fantastic) writing sessions are factored into the data below. I also threw out the first couple weeks of “writing sprints” as Chris calls them, because I consider those more like practice runs.

 

Please note: I am not a data scientist. I used averages in all cases instead of median because I’m lazy and Google Sheets easily gives me the averages.

 

Average overall word counts written per hour

Avg words per hour: 2,448

Avg sprint duration: 23 minutes

If I get interrupted in a sprint, I stop, note how long I’d been going until then, and jot down how many words I wrote by then. (e.g. 23 minutes, 777 words) This means I have plenty of sprints that are under my target of 25 minutes.

However, lately I’ve also been allowing myself to do the opposite—I jot down when I start, and just write until I reach a stopping point or notice myself getting fatigued. I still find my average to be around 25 minutes that way, generally topping out around 30 or 32 minutes.

The other day I was on a roll and wrote for 73 straight minutes before coming up for air, which is about as long as you can concentrate. Since I’m used to working in 25-minute pomodoros, that felt like forever!

 

Writing while standing vs. sitting at a desk

Avg words per hour while sitting: 2,343

Avg sitting sprint duration: 21 minutes

Avg words per hour while standing: 2,610

Avg standing sprint duration: 20 minutes

I use a standing desk, and I find my back hurts much less when I use it. (I’ve been in physical therapy for about a year for back and neck pain.) Unfortunately, I’m also lazy, so the sample sizes are skewed in favor of more sitting sprints (34 sitting vs. 22 standing) and my standing sprints tend to be shorter. (This does not include the 73-minute outlier, which causes the avg standing duration to go up to 23 minutes.) But the data here tells me I need to try standing more often and see if it really does offer better overall speed boosts or if these were biased.

 

Writing in short bursts vs. long pomodoros

Avg wph on short sprints (<20 minutes): 2,468

Avg wph on normal sprints (20-30 minutes): 2,458

Avg wph on longer sprints (30-40 minutes): 2,365

I have decent data sets for the first two, with 21 examples for the first and 27 for the second. I’ve only recorded 8 writing sprints in the third category, and I didn’t factor in the long 73-minute sprint here. It was 2,486 wph by itself.

 

Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for…

Best days of the week to write fiction

Avg wph on Mondays (6 sprints): 2,563
with 21-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Tuesdays (7 sprints): 2,317
with 26-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Wednesdays (2 sprints): 2,787
with 20-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Thursdays (3 sprints): 1,743
with 17-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Wed or Thurs (5 sprints): 2,161
with 18-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Fridays (11 sprints): 2,631
with 10-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Saturdays (14 sprints): 2,477
with 26-min avg sprints

Avg wph on Sundays (13 sprints): 2,388
with 22-min avg sprints

It should be noted that I rarely write on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I tend to spend Wednesdays with my husband and friends, and Thursdays at writers’ groups. So that’s why I’ve combined them into one average as well.

At first glance, Friday seems like a fantastic day to write, but as you can see my durations are extremely short, which means I’m most likely getting interrupted or am unable to focus for long those days. I also notice that I haven’t been recording times on Fridays as much lately, so I’ll have to gather more data. For now, it looks like Saturdays through Tuesdays are my best writing days.

 

Best times of the day to write novels

Avg wph prior to 9 am (6 sprints): 2,840
with 19-min avg sprints

Avg wph around noon (7 sprints): 2,224
with 26-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 1 to 3 pm (5 sprints): 2,349
with 23-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 3 to 4 pm (6 sprints): 2,451
with 21-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 4 to 6 pm (6 sprints): 2,538
with 26-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 6 to 8 pm (8 sprints): 2,716
with 16-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 8 to 9 pm (7 sprints): 2,190
with 26-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 9 to 10 pm (7 sprints): 2,472
with 17-min avg sprints

Avg wph from 10 pm to midnight (5 sprints):  2,395
with 14-min avg sprints

What have we here? Perhaps Chris is right, and writing first thing in the morning is the way to go. Most of the “prior to 9 am” entries are prior to going to the day job, which is motivating in and of itself. I haven’t been doing that lately, so I think it’s time to give that another shot.

6 to 8 pm seems to be another good slot at first glance, but these are also very short sprints. When I look back, they don’t seem to be because I got interrupted necessarily, but more because I tend to finish writing unfinished scenes during this time slot for some reason. Maybe because I get cut off in the morning when it’s time to head to the day job.

Next up is 4 to 6 pm. These are weekend slots, and I’m probably feeling pretty relaxed by this time. 9 to 10 pm (usually weekdays) and 3 to 4 pm (weekends) also look like very reliable times.

Writing after 8 pm or in the dead zone of 11 am to 3 pm may not be the best times to write fast, but they’re better than not writing at all!

 

Conclusions: how to write faster

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel AaronStep 1: Read the books I told you about: Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Better, and More of What You Love and Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter

Step 2: Do what they say. I recommend setting a pomodoro timer so that you know a break is coming—you just have to concentrate for the next 25 minutes, and… go!

The following are more like notes to myself, but you can give them a try and see how they work for you:

  • I plan to continue my pomodoros of 25 minutes, but some experimentation with writing up to 90 minutes would be good.
  • I need to write while standing more often.
  • Gather more data on Fridays!
  • Avoid skipping writing on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays.
  • Write first thing in the morning on weekdays. Write between 3 to 6 pm on weekends, but give first thing in the morning a shot.

Come hang out with me on social media and help keep me motivated!