How much time should writing take? (video)

Viewing time: 3 mins 52 secs 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How much time should writing take? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question. 


How much time should writing take? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Audrey Campos, a writer based in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. Here’s what she’s asked by email….

How do I know when I am giving myself the optimal amount of time for writing? And how do I know when I’m not allowing enough time?”

Thanks for your questions, Audrey. Many writers find the process of budgeting their time to be quite mysterious, so here are some tips.

First, every piece of writing is unique so you can’t expect the time allotment to be the same for each one of them. For example, if you’re writing a highly technical piece for which you’ve had to do a lot of research, it’s going to take you longer than if you’re writing on an easy subject about which you’re already familiar.

Second, when you time yourself — as you should — be sure to account for ALL the steps of the writing process. Researching is different from writing is different from editing. Yes, you need to do all three of those tasks, but you need to do them separately.

This last point is really important because many people — academics in particular — make the writing process take much longer than it should,  because they try to do two things at once. They research WHILE writing or they edit WHILE writing. Mixing jobs like this is always a bad idea and will only slow you down.

Basically, you want to be exceptionally well prepared before you write a word. I suggest spending 40 per cent of your so-called “writing” time preparing. And I suggest earmarking another 40 per cent of your time for editing.

If you’re better at math than I am — and let’s face it, you probably are because I’m hopeless with numbers —  you’ll know that leaves only 20 percent of your time for writing. Perhaps you’re surprised that I’ve suggested such a small amount but, ironically, writing is the least important step of the writing process!

And, writing should be something you do fast. When I work with writers in my Get It Done program, (see link below) I try to help get them to a speed of 20 words per minute — which is 600 words in half an hour. Some of them start with a speed as low as two to five words per minute but when they focus on the quantity of words they write — rather than quality — they are able to increase their speed.

I know this idea might sound crazy and perhaps even a bit frightening but remember, you will have plenty of time to improve that writing when you edit it, later. And, writing quickly will, by definition, leave you with MORE time for editing.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the racing car driver Mario Andretti“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”

Audrey, if you’re writing an essay, a paper or a report, understand that YOU are the person who decides when to submit it. Don’t fret about quality while you are writing. Instead, write so fast that you have plenty of time for vigorous editing later. 


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes. 


Get It Done program 

Your Happy First Draft

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