The Speed of Type

Peter Muraszewski writes:

I know you’re extremely busy with writing books and designing games, so I’ll try not to take up too much of your time. I loved your novel Marked for Death, and I eagerly await The Road to Death. I would love to become a writer too. I read on your site’s FAQ that you try to write 5,000 words a day. I have two questions. Is this a reasonable and attainable goal for a beginner? My other question would be what’s the average number of words you write in total for a book. (I read that 50, 000 words is a novel.) Any feedback would be appreciated, and thank you very much for your time!

Honestly, 5,000 words a day is a lot for most writers. On some days, it’s a lot for me. Helping care for my kids cuts into a lot of my time now, so I usually shoot for 3,000 a day. At the moment, I’m under a hard deadline, and I’m working for 7,000 a day.

Remember, though, that I write full time. I treat this like a job and work at it at least eight hours a day, five days a week—although I sometimes do more.

As a beginner, I’d try to set a reasonable goal and see how long it takes you to hit it. Most beginners can’t devote a full day to writing, so you might only want to go for 1,000 words a day or even 500. The trick is to find what a good daily pace for you is, something you’re comfortable working with, that keeps you on track for your long-term goals without burning you out. This word count differs for every writer and can change with the circumstances in your life.

Once you find that range in which you’re comfortable, see if you can better it. Try to hit your goal early and keep going. If you manage to do that consistently, move your target up again. Keep doing that until you hit a wall, and then keep at it.

It’s important to know what your average rate of writing is, as it lets you know if you can hit a deadline your editor proposes. If you know it’s going to take you six months to write a novel, there’s no point in agreeing to a deadline only three months away.

As for a novel’s length, they can vary a lot. Some of the genre awards define a novel as any work over 40,000 words, although that doesn’t always reflect the writer or publisher’s intentions.

For instance, my Knights of the Silver Dragon novels run 40,000 to 45,000 words. Of course, these are intended for a younger audience and so need to be shorter. My Blood Bowl novels run about 95,000 words, and my Eberron novels are around 100,000 words.