This week: Measurable Writing OutputEdited by: Jeff
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"In three words, I can sum up everything
I've learned about life: it goes on."
-- Robert Frost
Trivia of the Week: An average typing speed for non-professionals is somewhere in the 38 to 40 words-per-minute (WPM) range. For professional typists, it's closer to 65 to 75 WPM. The average typist makes approximately 8 typos for every hundred words typed (92% accuracy). When evaluating a typist's speed, most metrics subtract 1 WPM for every typing error, which means that in most cases it's better to fix errors than to blaze through as fast as possible, leaving misspelled words in your wake.
MEASURABLE WRITING OUTPUT
There are a lot of books out there with advice about how to increase your writing output. A couple that I've read and recommend include:
There are a host of others though, with similarly catchy names such as Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed, Write a Book in 24 Hours, Write Fast, Write Well: Velocity Writing Techniques and Tools, and Real Fast Writing, to name a few. While I can really only speak to two linked books above that I've read, there are really two key concepts to the idea of faster writing output.
The first is to plan what you want to write in advance, so you don't spend as much time sitting there wondering what to write about.
The second is to actually measure your writing output so you can measure your improvement.
Getting better at writing, after all, is like getting better at any other learned skill... it takes practice to improve. If your goal is to get in better shape, or learn to play a musical instrument, or earn a professional certification in something, chances are you're going to be spending a lot of time training, learning and practicing the requisite skills over and over again until they become habit. And once they become habit, then you find ways to push yourself to improve even more.
While it's true that you can improve upon a skill without a specific plan in place, it's easier and faster to make improvements when you're measuring and analyzing your results. If your goal is to run a marathon, sure you could just get out there and start running, then rinse and repeat every day. Your running, however, will be dramatically improved if you measure your running output. Keeping track of the times and distances run, and possibly even your caloric and liquid intake makes a huge difference. Over time, that kind of data will tell you how far you run before you become fatigued. It'll tell you how much water you need to stay properly hydrated and avoid unnecessary muscle soreness. It'll even tell you what kind of foods to eat when to keep your energy at an optimal level.
Sure, you could just get out there and pound the pavement every day... but the lack of any kind of measurable output data means you're just going out there and running until you get tired. It's hard to make those small, incremental improvements that accumulate into large gains when you don't have the data to tell you where those improvements are being made.
Writing is much the same way. If you want to increase your words-per-minute (WPM) typing speed, you need to consistently practice typing quickly (and accurately) so that you're slowly, steadily making marked improvements over time. And the only way you know if you're making those improvements is if you keep track of each typing exercise and typing test you attempt.
Similarly, if you want to increase the number of words you write in a given hour (or however long your writing session is), you need to keep track of your past writing sessions so that you have data that informs your decisions.
As you start to measure your results, it's important to establish a baseline and then start to tweak things to see if they work better or worse. Weight trainers will experiment with different weights and number of reps to find a workout structure that results in an optimal amount of weight loss or calories burned. With writing, it's no different.
Let's say you typically write for one hour after work every day, and you're averaging about 1,000 words per session. Some things to consider:
Try writing in the morning for a week and see if the time of day makes a difference in your writing output. If you're averaging 1,000 words per hour session at night and 1,500 words per hour session in the morning, it might be worth considering getting up a little earlier every day to take advantage of a more ideal time to write.
Try writing in two thirty-minute bursts rather than one full hour and see if smaller periods of more intense focus make a difference. If you're averaging 1,000 words per hour session but, say, 750 words per half-hour session, it might be worth considering breaking up your writing time into smaller chunks separated by a break for a walk, a meal, a nap, etc.
Try changing the order of activities in your life. If you get up early enough to write and work out in the mornings, compare writing output of working out first and then writing with writing first and then working out. If working out before you write gets the blood pumping, wakes you up, and gives you more energy to write an additional 500 words in the same amount of time, it's worth making that change to your schedule.
Try different environmental factors: with or without music, on the couch or at a desk, at home or in a coffee shop, etc. Again, if you can squeeze out another 100 words by using headphones to drown out ambient sound, and another 100 words by sitting at a desk rather than reclining on the couch, and another 50 words by keeping a bottle of water near you rather than running to the kitchen even twenty minutes, it's worth changing those aspects of your process to maximize your benefits.
Imagine that all of those things made a marked difference... if you average 1,000 words per day writing for an hour after work and each of these incremental changes have the desired effect... getting up early enough to hit the gym, then write in two thirty-minute bursts (maybe even hitting the gym between the writing bursts), while listening to headphones at a desk with a bottle of water nearby... you could go from 1,000 words a day to 2,750 words a day. If you write five days a week, that translates into a 2.75x word count... if you used to write one 100,000 word novel a year, the new output means you could now finish a second 100,000 word novel and be three-quarters of the way through a third novel in the same amount of time!
And once you fine-tune the particulars of your physical writing habits, you can get started on your writing process. For example, you might experiment with different levels of detail in your outlining, writing scenes linearly versus writing out of order, developing characters more fully or learning from them as you go, etc.
We gamify everything these days... we compete against one another to see who can get the most steps in a day, we earn badges for visiting and rating restaurants, and we even accumulate loyalty points with company membership programs. Try to gamify your own writing habits and enjoy the challenge of one-upping yourself. If you can write 1,000 words a day, figure out how you can get to 2,000. And if you can get to 2,000, maybe you can get to 3,000...
None of this is possible, though, if you aren't measuring your output and keeping track of your data so that you know exactly what factors impact your writing and how. If you're simply writing every day, maybe you figure out more efficient methods and maybe you don't... but with measurable output and data to analyze, you can pinpoint the factors that make you a stronger, faster writer.
Until next time,
If you're interested in checking out my work:
"What I'm Talkin' 'Bout"
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This month's official Writing.com writing contest is:
I also encourage you to check out the following items:
EXCERPT: What is a budget? Do you budget? Have no idea how to budget? Need to find out about budgets?
EXCERPT: If you had an abundance of free time at your disposal to do whatever you desired, what would you do with all that time?
EXCERPT: They enter uninvited,
The Wraiths of slumber do.
Like thieves who raise a window
and lift their bodies thru.
Who peel back an eyelid...
These oily specters ride
steeds of cosmic plasm
and worm their way inside.
EXCERPT: One perfect word
to complete the rhyme,
to make the metaphor shine
across the dark parsecs of time.
EXCERPT: This item focuses on story openings. It gives the first 200 words (approx.) of various short stories or novels. These are the passages that are designed to launch a story, and are meant to tempt you into reading more.
Sometimes they work beautifully. Sometimes they don't.
This collection reprints the openings of some of the stories and novels I've read, and includes some analysis and discussion of each as I judge whether the openings work, and how they go right -- or wrong.
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Feedback from my last newsletter about writing to market ("For Authors Newsletter (January 18, 2017)" ):
willwilcox writes: "THAT, was an outstanding newsletter!"
Thank you, Bill! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
K.HBey writes: "Someone can write for diverse reasons.Even though writing is an art, nowadays it constitutes most often a luxurious merchandise for writing market.Writing as it is an art, it is supposed to be spontaneous, free and featured.
Market is here with positive and negative aspects on writing.That is why it is wise to situate our writing among others and according to such market. "
I totally agree that there are many, many reasons why people choose to write.
Vaughan Jones - ONE Scribe writes: "Thank you so much for this. I will check it out asap."
Thanks for your feedback!
brom21 writes: "Where should I look to find the popular trend on books? All the books I've been reading are old titles from an author that has written many books over years. Would it suffice to just skim over the books I see on a shelf? Or do I need to research it?"
I'd recommend checking out the Amazon bestsellers. Just click on the Kindle section, select "Kindle Best Sellers" from the left-hand navigation menu, then find the category you're interested in. It's a powerful resource that gives you up-to-the-minute sales data from the world's most popular book sales site.
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