Note: Since writing this post, I have made additional tweaks that have taken me to 4000+ words/hour on some days. On an average day, I easily write between 2800-3400 words per hour.

One of the best ways to get your book done is to improve the number of words you can write per hour. While this will naturally improve the longer you write, you can also use some of the same techniques I use to average about 1000 words per hour (translation: 4 double-spaced, typed pages). I am one of those people who likes to do work in bursts, so I will sometimes do each of the following three steps on three successive days. This lets me do one day of outlining, one day of massive writing (10,000+ words), and one day of lighter editing + writing (another 3000 or so words added). As you plod along with your manuscript, try a few different combinations of these steps and see what works for you.

Step 1: Outlining

When I outline articles for Prose on Fire, I use sections and headlines to break my writing up into manageable pieces. I often hop around from section to section and quickly jot down points I want to make. Later, I’ll fill those points in with sentences and paragraphs, but for now it’s enough to have decent notes.

For novels, I use Scrivener to outline my plot by scenes. (I typically have 40-60 scenes per novel, around 1500-2000 words each.) Within each scene, I also outline at a paragraph level. These are notes that help me push through a scene quickly because I know where I need to end up. Here’s an example (the details of which probably won’t make sense to anyone but me):

[Preamble convo with Socialpunks before they go]

[Nahum and Ima enter the restaurant, sit down]

[What do the artists do? They create unique homemade meals from fresh ingredients, something that few people can access anymore. Fresh ingredients are expensive and come straight from gardens at the top of the towers (that can access sunlight). They own a restaurant in the upscale part of the capital where they create their food. It’s very expensive to eat there—middle class can only do so on special occasions. “Eat Tower Fresh” is their slogan. “Grown at the rooftops”]

[Ima gets alone with the girl who has figured her out—and she tells Ima not to trust Nasser. The girl is bruised and pale.]

[Nahum and Ima create a distraction, but Ima messes it up somehow. Something goes terribly wrong with the job at the end of this chapter. Ima messes up the job here, almost gets herself and Nahum killed.]

You’ll notice that my notes to myself are in some places extremely vague. Sometimes they refer to an emotion that the reader should feel (“Ima messes up the job here, almost gets herself and Nahum killed.”) and sometimes they refer to world-building that I want to include (“It’s very expensive to eat there—middle class can only do so on special occasions.”). None of this matters though—all of these notes will be deleted once I create the draft.

Step 2: Timed Sessions + Partial Drafts

While this article is titled How I Write 900-1200 Words Per Hour, I rarely ever think about word count. I’ve found that when I set daily or weekly goals in terms of how many words I can crank out, I get stuck.

That’s because when you set word count goals, you’re actually setting performance goals, which you have less control over than you think.

Sometimes you’ll sit for an hour and write 300 words. Sometimes you’ll write in a huge burst and get in 1500 words in an hour. The minute you start focusing on word count though, you’ll hit writer’s block.

Instead, I use timed sessions to get a ton of writing done throughout the week. I’ve found that 45 minutes is the perfect amount of time for me to write without interruption, without going crazy.

10 sessions at 45 minutes each adds up to 7.5 hours a day. This is my typical work day when I’m trying to get a book done. In between sessions, I do things like work out, check my email, watch a TV show, change out the laundry, wash dishes, eat lunch, etc. But as long as I get my 10 sessions in, I’m good for the day.

I don’t keep track of word count as I go. Usually, by the end of a major writing day (and I typically write throughout the whole day, morning through evening, with many breaks), I’ve written over 6,500 words.

You can use this technique to suit your writing schedule needs. For example, if you want to write 1000 words a day and it takes you 90 minutes, you can try to get in 2 45-minute sessions a day. If you need flexibility, you could try 14 45-minute sessions a week.

To be honest, I’ve written so many articles over the last five years that I typically don’t use timed sessions anymore. I just don’t need the same level of concentration I used to need. I’ll often write while watching TV (as I am now) and I’ll turn off the TV during the editing process, right before I need to publish.

When writing a novel, however, timed sessions are my savior. I haven’t written many novels and novels are so much more emotional for me—I definitely need those periods of heavy concentration to move through my drafting quickly.

A partial draft trick:

When writing a novel, it is unlikely that your scenes will come to you fully formed, no matter how well you outline. If you find this happening to you, but you hate pausing in the middle of a writing rush to figure out a paragraph or section of your scene, you can try marking.

Marking is a part of drafting for a lot of writers. Instead of writing a full draft, a marked draft is a shell of a draft with placeholders that need to be fixed later. You can see an example of marking in the dialog from my novel, Socialpunk, where I haven’t created a character yet:

Ember smirked. “They’ll never pull it off.”

“Sure they will.” “Hey E—can you swipe this for me when you order? Want to grab those RewardMe points while I still can.”

“They still have customer loyalty programs in the future?”

“Hell yeah. I’m saving up for a shepherd’s pie.”

Vaughn grunted. “Like _____ would ever let you claim it.”

“I’ll send Ember to do it. ______ has always had a thing for her.”

It’s likely that I’ll create this character as I finish drafting the scene—hopefully he’ll come to me during the writing, but if he doesn’t, I’ll fill him in later during my editing time.

Here are some cases when you can mark instead of draft:

If you need additional research

There are times when you are writing that you realize you need to check on the facts—the types of swords they used back in the day, or the layout of that city you’ve never actually been to, but that your characters live in. Rather than interrupt your session with the evil internet and risk straying to TMZ to read about Kim Kardashian’s divorce, leave a note for yourself to research later, when you’re out of your writing flow.

If you can’t think of the perfect word or analogy

I do this often—when I’m trying to incorporate a cute little quip or a witty joke into my writing, I often can’t quite think of the right one. I usually put a ______ as a placeholder, which reminds me to come back and be funny later.

If you know something goes there (like a vivid description) but dialogue (or some other part of the story) needs to come out NOW, not later

When I wrote my first book, Silver Smoke, I was TERRIBLE at description. I was also terrible at internal dialog. Well, it turns out that a lot of what you write in a novel can be classified as one of these two things. The main way I got through my first drafts of Silver Smoke was to write something like “[insert description of the church here]” or “[explain the Hallows rituals]”. Write what you already have first, even if it’s out of order… otherwise, you may lose what you have while straining your brain to write something you haven’t created yet.

For me, most of my first drafts in fiction are only partial drafts. When I wrote my first novel, my first drafts of scenes were literally just streams of dialog. That’s what came to me first, because I was terrible at pacing, description, and knowing how to transition just about anything besides a conversation. I didn’t mark, because I basically had no idea that streams of dialog did not make a novel (ahem, that’s a screenplay). But later in subsequent drafts, I added in plenty of pacing and description, and everything turned out okay.

Now, I’ve gotten a bit better at knowing what goes where, how much description or explanation is needed. It makes it easier to write a real draft, and just mark the parts that aren’t fully formed in my mind yet, but definitely need to be there.

Step 3: Fill-In-The-Blanks + Editing

A day later (or sometimes weeks later), I go back and look at my drafts with fresh eyes. It’s extremely important for any writer to create a Chinese wall between the writing process and the editing process. That’s how I’m able to draft extremely quickly compared to most writers—by sectioning off my drafting, not fixing problems, and giving myself time.

I’ve found that with time, two wonderful things happen:

My mind fills in any gaps in the draft almost effortlessly—I barely have to think to finish sentences, and issues that were extremely difficult in the first draft session are quickly solvable.
My mistakes jump out at me—I know what to cut, what to rewrite, and how to rewrite it.
The editing process happens so quickly, typically 30 minutes a scene or article. For novel-writing, I again use timed sessions for concentration purposes. When editing articles for the website, I pause the TV for 10 minutes or so so that I can concentrate on the task at hand.

I typically add 10-30% more words to whatever I’m working on, depending on how much I wrote in the first draft.

Note: Since writing this post, I have made additional tweaks that have taken me to 4000+ words/hour on some days. On an average day, I easily write between 2800-3400 words per hour.

7 thoughts on “How To Consistently Write 900-1200 Words Per Hour

  1. Thank your for this article. I’m been wanting to write and read more in my life and your page has really helped me put things in perspective. You know it’s what we tell ourselves that is worse than real life but this article keeps it all in perspective. May your prose be awesome!
    Bill, St. Louis, MO USA

  2. How did you go from 900 to over 3000 an hour? I’ve just done 1300 and I’d love to improve. What shifted for you?

  3. Thanks for the great article. Can you let us know how you would figure out what to charge a client for a 1200 word blog post and how long you would typically charge to write it?

    thanks!

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