8 Measly Words Per Minute . . . or How To Write A Novel In 2 Hours

Adron J. Smitley
6 min readJun 27, 2020

I’ll make this brief; it’s cold outside and my dog wants to fertilize the lawn.

Aren’t we all the protagonists of our own lives?

Of course we are, sillies.

And to us writers that makes time our constant mortal antagonist striving to bring us down at every opportunity.

Time is life’s most valuable commodity.

We trade ours in exchange for inked paper the government calls money, and we exchange our precious monies for food or we don’t eat and thus we die.

But there exists only 24 hours in a single day, and though I could bore you with figures derived from the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor statistics, instead we’ll split those 24 hours up to average out 8 hours of sleeping, 8 hours of working, and 8 hours of leisure.

Not an exact split, of course and depending on the particular person involved, but math is a sucker anyhow.

So we’ll accept that the average American adult sleeps 8 hours per day and works 8 hours per day, which in turn leaves them 8 hours of leisure to waste away by eating and pooping, showering and shaving, surfing the internet for hot beastie porn, watching television and pirating movies, beating the kids before and after school, washing clothes and scrubbing dishes, mowing the fence and painting the yard . . . yaddah yaddah yaddah.

The stone cold fact is most writers have second jobs because we can’t all be Stephen King and wishes don’t pay the utility bills.

There goes 8 hours out the window right there — whoosh!

Then along comes sleep stealing another 8 hours — whoosh!

And Jack says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” so we’ll heed his advice and split the remaining 8 in half, leaving 4 hours per day for writing while the other 4 we use to play for sanity’s sake.

4 hours.

I’m an unmarried hermit with no children, but I’m also as unique as I am handsome. So for your sake we’ll split the remaining 4 hours in half again because some of you prefer having a thing called Life.

Which leaves 2 hours per day for writing that next great best-seller.

2 hours doesn’t sound like much to some, and it sounds like a lot to others.

The average person types 40 words per minute.

That equates to 2,400 words per hour.

Which makes 4,800 words in 2 hours.

But let’s not kid ourselves because no writer sits for 2 hours straight constantly typing.

We pause in musing ponder while our creative juices stir and rouse. We stalk better descriptive words while restructuring our sentences. We hunt the perfect words of dialogue while sounding them aloud.

So we’ll cut that average of 40 words per minute down to a measly 8.

Well, technically, 8.3 repeating, but let’s not split hairs just yet.

Even a braindead monkey with Alzheimer’s and arthritis can type 8 measly words per minute.

Doesn’t sound like much after paring it down, now does it?

Of course, 8 words per minute equates to 480 words per hour, though now we’ll split those hairs by throwing in that .3 repeating to make it an even 500 words per hour. And that makes 1,000 words accomplished in 2 hours’ time.

Ten years ago I set myself a daily minimum word count goal of 1,000 words. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Most times I fly right by that daily minimum of 1,000 words without even breaking a sweat because writer’s block is only a prancing unicorn myth to devious plotters. Heck, there’s some days I’ll churn out 5,000 or 10,000 or even on rarest occasions when my muse is firing on all caffeinated cylinders 15,000+ words before I’m done. Not all those words are keepers, mind, but that’s not the point. 1,000 words per day is my minimum goal. If I can write at least 1,000 words before stopping then I feel I haven’t wasted my time and can believe one day I just might even amount to something.

And so should you.

Because a goal without a plan is just a wish.

And you know what they say about wishes: “Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up faster.”

Without getting technical by genre, the average adult novel word count is 90,000 words.

If you take 2 hours and write 1,000 words per day, 7 days per week, no excuses and no holidays off (not even Festivus), you’ll have that 90,000 words accomplished in 90 obvious days. Three months ain’t so bad to have written a novel, though you’ll obviously need some time to polish that turd of a first draft for potential publishing so we’ll tack on another 3 months for rewriting and editing — which is all the easier now that those words actually exist.

3 months for a finished first draft.

6 months for a finished novel.

I’ve never understood ‘those’ writers (you know who you are) who spend a whole year or even multiple years writing just one novel. I mean, you’re a writer! What the hell are you doing all day if you’re not writing? Heck, at the risk of sounding braggadocious (which I’m about to be, and thank you very much) I’ve written 4 novels over the past 2 years, all of them over 200,000 words, and am currently 100,000 knuckles deep in a fifth.

Because I write at least 1,000 words per day, no exceptions.

So let me repeat: a goal without a plan is just a wish.

And also add: failing to plan is planning to fail.

Quit shitting in your hand while hoping the other fills up faster and promise yourself 1,000 words a day everyday.

Because time is life’s most valuable commodity.

Value yours and stop wishing it away.

What, you think writing 1,000 words a day is too rough a task?

Then find another pursuit in life.

Or scroll up.

Because this sentence ends at exactly 1,000 words.

. . .

Now, let’s finish this (and the 2019 year) with a bit of random trivia fun because even though astrology is total bullshit it really irks the piss out of me that everything said of Virgos actually applies to me. As to writing:

-Writes nonstop but doesn’t share it with anyone: Scorpio, Capricorn, and Leo.

-Writes like five chapters then gives up: Aries, Gemini, and Aquarius.

-Writes likes nine books in ten days: Taurus, Virgo, and Sagittarius.

-In a constant state of writer’s block: Cancer, Libra, and Pisces.

Famous writers, musicians, and serial killers by zodiac sign:

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19)

writer: J. R. R. Tolkien (January 3, 1892)

musician: Elvis Presley (January 8, 1935)

serial killer: Niels Hogel — 100 known victims (December 30, 1976)

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18)

writer: Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905)

musician: Henry Rollins (February 13, 1961)

serial killer: Luis Garavito — 147 known victims (January 25, 1957)

PISCES (February 19 to March 20)

writer: Dr. Seuss (March 2, 1904)

musician: Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967)

serial killer: Mikhail Popkov — 78 known victims (March 7, 1964)

ARIES (March 21 to April 19)

writer: Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928)

musician: Diana Ross (March 26, 1944)

serial killer: Alexander Pichushkin — 49 known victims (April 9, 1974)

TAURUS (April 20 to May 20)

writer: William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564)

musician: Willie Nelson (April 29, 1933)

serial killer: Earle Leonard Nelson — 22 known victims (May 12, 1897)

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20)

writer: Anne Frank (June 12, 1929)

musician: Paul McCartney (June 18, 1942)

serial killer: Pedro Rodrigues Filho — 71 known victims (June 17, 1954)

CANCER (June 21 to July 22)

writer: Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899)

musician: George Michael (June 25, 1963)

serial killer: Donato Bilancia — 17 known victims (July 10, 1951)

LEO (July 23 to August 22)

writer: H. P. Lovecraft (August 20, 1890)

musician: Mick Jagger (July 26, 1943)

serial killer: Elizabeth Bathory — 80 known victims (August 7, 1560)

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22)

writer: Stephen King (September 21, 1947)

musician: Freddie Mercury (September 5, 1946)

serial killer: Serhiy Tkach — 37 known victims (September 15, 1952)

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22)

writer: Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1864)

musician: John Lennon (October 9, 1940)

serial killer: Pedro Lopez — 110 known victims (October 4, 19480

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 21)

writer: Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922)

musician: Neil Young (November 12, 1945)

serial killer: Moses Sithole — 38 known victims (November 17, 1964)

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 to December 21)

writer: Jane Austen (December 16, 1775)

musician: Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942)

serial killer: Ted Bundy — 30 known victims (November 24, 1946)

And on that note . . . happy trails and happy writing!


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Adron J. Smitley

Blog for writers on everything plot, character, and story structure architecture at: adronjsmitley.blogspot.com